The Last of Us, Episode 9 Review: Thanks, I’m Out Before Season 2

We interrupt the Second Pillar of a Great Writer to give you this important news:

It’s…complicated. If you want to know how this episode went, it was overall pretty good (with minor complaints I’ll get into in a second), but, as is my wont, I have to give a critique on the whole of the series…and that’s what’s complicated. I want to lean towards “mostly good”, but…

Well, first off, I’d just like to say that this episode included the only relevant intro to-date, setting up two things at once. The others accomplished basically nothing and stood only to fill the empty air. As I said, you need to give the show a reason to have it where the game does not. And most of the time, it’s just there to show us something that we could live without. In short, the show is at least 25% (probably more) fluff, or purely superfluous material to the story.

So keeping in mind that 25% of the show is essentially dead weight, let’s address my main gripes with the actual substance of the story: first of all, the way Ellie’s written is both inconsistent with her character in the video game and weak overall. She’s far more commandeering and willful in the show without apparent reason, and is at times really creepy and annoying.

This problem is only exacerbated by the fact that in rare moments she’s written perfectly. For every twelve or so moments she’s treating Joel like her equal, acting narcissistic or needlessly sarcastic, or being a girlboss, there’s one where she’s genuinely vulnerable or realistically poetic. But most of the time, she’s far too assertive and annoying to be the vulnerable yet cocky Ellie we loved from the games.

The main problem here is that the writers mistake a cocky attitude for actual confidence. Ellie isn’t actually confident: she’s scared and lonely. But she puts up a veneer of confidence in the form of attitude and cockiness, just to give off that persona. She would learn real confidence throughout the course of the story–which is, of course, exactly what they don’t do here.

Then there’s the casting. Combining the writing indiscrepancies with an actor that’s a total plank of wood in addition to looking nothing like Ellie from the games is a surefire recipe for disaster. Bella Ramsey is the worst offender by far in this regard: I’m willing to make exceptions for other characters, even Joel. But Ellie was what made The Last of Us work. They bungled her character pretty badly, and it definitely shows.

I have less of a problem with how Joel is written, but it’s a problem nonetheless: this version of Joel is quieter, less assertive, and overall more tame. While I wouldn’t normally object to this change if we had an on-point Ellie, it’s clear that Bella Ramsey’s Ellie and Pedro Pascal’s Joel do not mix. Ellie’s new confidence combined with Joel’s quiet and unassertive nature makes Ellie seem controlling and Joel more weak…which is not a vibe we should be getting from Joel.

He’s also seriously whiney in some parts. I feel like him complaining that he’s weak to Tommy is just the obligatory “must make straight white man look pitiful” trope we’ve been seeing in a lot of modern media recently. Like Ellie, his script is written a bit spotty and inconsistently, but his quiet nature in the show doesn’t leave much to critique. He’s fine for the most part, and Pedro Pascal does a sufficient job. But again, this character carries so much of the show. He needs to be better than just mid.

The rest of the cast is mostly inconsequential. There are a few obligatory race swaps (wearin’ your heart on your sleeve again, modern Hollywood) that has been hammered home into oblivion by now, and so we’ve been mostly desensitized to it. The casting, acting, and lines are pretty well-done throughout the show.

Another thing that pisses me off is the pretense of addressing moral issues. The show pretends to play with ideas like the moral culpability of pure survival, the moral quandaries between the Fireflies and FEDRA, and whether or not people like David and Kathleen are really right. They don’t actually explore these complex ideas: they make it look like they’re going to do it, then pull a bait ‘n switch and slap the black-or-white card on it instead. Where the show didn’t hesitate to explore deep issues of love, survival, the justifiability of violence, and living with a stained soul, the show just flirts with the ideas but doesn’t explore them in any kind of meaningful way.

Anyway, the video’s coming sometime soon, so stay tuned for a full video essay review. Thanks for tuning in to my reviews of this show, which I ended up enjoying less than Rings of Power. Whoops, I said it. Do I get canceled for that? Well…see ya tomorrow, I guess.

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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