The Last of Us, Episode 6: Mediocrity is the Spice of Life (But Not Really)

If you asked me whether or not The Last of Us TV show was a masterpiece, or even if it was good, I continue to be a bumbling mass of contradictions. I’ll tell you that it’s a faithful adaptation of a favorite video game, I’ll tell you that it’s a malicious manipulation of a beloved IP for personal gain, I’ll tell you that the roles are well-casted and acted, and at the same time Ill tell you that everyone on set is a bumbling idiot who has no idea where they’re going or what they’re doing.

But as for this episode…I can’t say the same of this show, but I can at least call a spade a spade when it comes to this week’s installment of The Last of Us. This is the only episode so far that is weak when it comes to writing and characterization, and–no surprise–it’s another deviation from the source material.

It seems the farther this show strays from the source material, the further it goes under. So far, most of the iconic scenes have been replicated to a fault, giving us familiar but just as compelling scenes from the video game. It possessed much of the emotional weight so that people who’d never played the game can feel the same about its plot and characters.

This episode was properly mediocre and dull, and it’s really a shame: there should have been so much emotional payoff in this episode that was scrapped for no reason I can discern. If they go the direction I think they’re going to go, the plot’s basically down the crapper already. I feel only a vague sense of remorse, but I’m more excited to speak of the show’s flaws. Don’t judge me; it’s been a bit since I was able to fault this show with poor writing.

First of all: the way Joel’s character has been written is consistent up until this point, until he uncharacteristically breaks down and goes on a monologue about how he’s weak and needs his little brother to bring a little girl through a few hundred deserted miles to a university. He’s been a tough, no-questions-asked badass, certifiably capable of destroying anyone within shooting range.

But all of a sudden, he’s a weak crybaby who suffers from panic attacks and emotional breakdown. It seems someone accidentally let a feminist studies graduate loose in the writing room while everyone else was out on a coffee break: she noticed that there was a strong, stalwart, emotionally stable white male in a leading role of a TV show coming out in 2023 without a scene to establish him as a weak loser. So she obliged, and now I retain my right to get pissed about it.

Not only is this different from what we find in the games, it’s different from the version of Joel we’ve been given in part episodes. Joel never had these moments of weakness: the Joel we know is callous and competent, but his growing soft spot for Ellie forces him to sacrifice more and more of himself to keep her safe.

Once she’s wormed her way into his heart, he will literally stop at nothing to see her safe. What he wouldn’t do is half-bully his little brother into taking his responsibility from him. This wasn’t a character assassination: more like a slap in the face. No real harm done as everything’s literally all set right in the morning, but the fact that it’s there bodes no good for the show.

And as for the plot, it’s a bit of a mess. Crybaby Joel wants Tommy to take Ellie to the Fireflies for him, ignoring the fact that his brother’s wife is expecting. You want me to believe that Joel is any kind of a compassionate person when he wants to send his brother on a dangerous mission because he had a emotional breakdown? Give me a break.

Anyway, he goes up to Ellie to tell her that he’s sending her with Tommy, and she gets angry. They fight, and that’s when we get the “and I sure as hell ain’t your dad” line. But when they wake up in the morning, Joel goes back on what he said and decides to give Ellie a choice: she can go with Tommy or Joel, depending on whichever she wants. of course she chooses Joel, and the plot of the past 20 minutes of the episode his effectively rendered moot.

This is a huge mess of characterization, and real human beings don’t act like this. The real Joel would never have complained about being weak (because he isn’t), the real Tommy would have gotten furious that his brother would send him on such a mission (like he does in the game), and the real Ellie would be more hurt that Joel would abandon her. It was just a clause in the story where the laws of logic ceased to function for twenty minutes until they were back on the road again.

Plus, Joel suffering a serious injury from the base of a broken baseball bat really stretched my suspension of disbelief. He’d have to be really infirm to suffer fatal injury from that. In the game, it’s a metal bar through his kidney, and he fell at least twenty-feet onto it, landing on his back. That’s much more believable than a splintered wooden bat stabbed into his stomach which he succumbs to in under two minutes.

And…Maria was race-swapped. I had that waiting in the back of my mind: she was either going to be black or a SFC (strong female character), and looks like they opted for the former. I’m not mad, I’m not even disappointed. I just want to know…why? I’m going to have a hard time knowing this woman for the same person if she looks nothing like I remember. How would I be able to recognize Sam and Henry if they were white? I can’t really fault the show, and I’m kind of past caring, but it’s just one more way the producers are trying to tell us: “Hey, in case you were checking, Diversity ‘n Inclusion is still a thing!”

Also, no one cares for a lecture about the goods of communism. Why even mention it? Just that you can annoy Tommy and Joel, the two strong, straight white men who are naturally against it? Look at you, just havin’ a Girl Power moment! You go, girl! Show those nasty white men how great communism is!

Fine. Fine, whatever. It’s not like I even have the capacity to care anymore. I’ve lost all nuance at this point, so this episode is pretty bad, and if they keep up the trend it’ll be in the crapper with the rest of the notably bad video game remakes. I’m also hungry, so I’m stopping the article right here.

That’s all.


Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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