For all of its esteem and awards, Naughty Canine’s The Final of Us has all the time been at odds with itself. It’s a sport about many issues — love, survival, household — however above all else it’s an awfully enjoyable and violent sport concerning the futility of revenge. For his or her HBO adaptation, sport creator Neil Druckmann and Chernobyl‘s Craig Mazin alleviate that disconnect, delivering a nine-episode sequence that efficiently makes the argument that vengeance can be our downfall. It’s only a disgrace that the enjoyment of the unique sport is sacrificed in pursuit of this extra easy arc.
For the uninitiated, The Final of Us follows Joel (Pedro Pascal), a smuggler who has managed to outlive within the midst of a world-ending Cordyceps (an aggressive kind of fungus) pandemic. Survival is the important thing phrase for Joel, a damaged man who’s barely a husk of his former self. That every one modifications as soon as he’s requested to escort a 14-year-old woman named Ellie (Bella Ramsey), the one one who could also be proof against this illness, throughout the nation. Ellie could also be mankind’s final hope. However earlier than she will be able to save anybody, they’ll must battle off the zombie-like contaminated, murderous raiders, unhinged cults, rebelling cities, and the Federal Catastrophe Response Company (FEDRA), one of many final remnants of presidency in the USA.
Regardless of the entire homicide and torture, Neil Druckmann’s universe has all the time been hopeful. It’s a narrative that sincerely believes humankind’s solely hope is thru our perception in each other. That underlying message stands hand-in-hand with the sport’s warnings concerning the poisonous cycle of vengeance. And on the subject of making this argument, The Final of Us sequence is superior to its predecessor. Practically each main character, from the lovable brother pair Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) to the maddeningly advanced Marlene (Merle Dandridge), is given an in-show enlargement that makes all of them the extra difficult. It’s a story selection that additional underlines the purpose that violence solely begets extra violence and that there aren’t any good or evil individuals. There are merely harm individuals making an attempt their greatest.
That concept has all the time existed within the video games, however — and there isn’t a fragile strategy to put this — killing individuals has all the time been an excessive amount of enjoyable to take it very critically. The rationale why The Final of Us retains being remade in online game kind isn’t simply because it’s a story triumph. From a gameplay and degree design standpoint, it’s additionally phenomenal. It’s all the time been a bit laborious to truthfully ponder our collective morality and what we owe each other whenever you simply shot an arrow by a dude’s head for the hell of it. The motion scenes in The Final of Us TV sequence could typically appear to be online game cutscenes, however they largely don’t glorify this story’s violence in the identical means as the sport.
Equally, as a result of the TV sequence is much less violent than the sport, it’s simpler to take these philosophical concepts concerning the worth of life extra critically. With out revealing an excessive amount of, late within the sequence, Ellie is shocked when she witnesses Joel choking out and murdering a person in entrance of her. For the present, this can be a pretty main second, proof of how far Joel is keen to go to guard Ellie. However by the identical level within the sport, Joel has stabbed, shivved, and molotov-ed so many random individuals, Ellie doesn’t do greater than curse.
However whereas The Final of Us TV sequence higher communicates these ethical grey areas, god, is it bleak. The sport is commonly a downer; that comes with the apocalypse territory. But between trying to find keys and pushing handy rafts throughout our bodies of water, there have been moments of peace. As Joel labored, Ellie would ask him annoying questions or inform him horrible jokes. Each the questions and Ellie’s favourite ebook, No Pun Meant, are nonetheless current; however within the confines of a TV sequence they really feel extra determined than two individuals organically rising to respect and love each other. There’s actually no means round this downside. No HBO subscriber needs to look at Pedro Pascal grumpily transfer round a ladder for 40 minutes as Bella Ramsey tries to whistle, regardless of how charming they each are. And but it’s nonetheless unhappy to see the this beautiful father-daughter relationship compressed.
The sport has endured as a result of it permits its characters to breathe. A few of the most iconic moments from the unique aren’t boss fights or sneak assaults. They’re quiet strolls that finish in you studying one thing new about Ellie, discovered notes that recontextualize key relationships, and peaceable moments between Joel and Ellie that solely finish when the participant is prepared. Within the crevices of those quiet gems is the place Joel and Ellie rework from smuggler and package deal to surrogate father and daughter. As laborious because the sequence tries to copy that magic, this central all-important relationship all the time feels a tad too pressured.
This isn’t to criticize Pascal, Ramsey, or actually any actor’s efficiency. The expertise in each of those leads is just staggering. Each Pascal and Ramsey are in a position to talk years of ache, hope, and worry in a single look. In some way the remainder of the solid is ready to stay as much as their excessive bar. Melanie Lynskey as authentic character Kathleen provides a efficiency so depraved, it’s additional proof that she must be solid in every little thing. And Nick Offerman’s portrayal of Invoice the survivalist very nicely could also be one of the best of his profession.
But for all that’s so clearly great about this present, it’s a sequence that may by no means escape its roots. The Final of Us is hands-down one of many best and most impressed online game diversifications delivered to display screen. However that’s the issue, isn’t it? Irrespective of how sharp the writing, how impressed the visuals, how awards-worthy the performances, this may all the time be an interactive story pressured right into a passive medium. I’m keen to wager that The Final of Us can be top-of-the-line reveals of 2023. However I can’t say it totally surpasses the unique masterpiece.
The primary episode of The Final of Us premieres on HBO Sunday, January 15 at 9/8c p.m.