the enemy has a familiar face

Ellie has a gun. It may seem like an irrelevant detail in a world in rubble. But, in the fourth chapter of The Last of Us, it is a reflection of the reality that she must face and the forms that fear takes. The girl looks in the mirror and she doesn’t look so young anymore. With the casualness of the survivor, she points to her reflection. She doesn’t think about killing or being killed, not yet.

However, that he assumes it is necessary to have to defend himself is a small and painful nuance in the reality that he lives. The Last of Us, which this time focuses on the first stretch of the characters’ journey to the west, also does something else. Analyze the desolate landscape left behind by the fall of civilization.

So far, Joel and the little girl have been dealing with the last signs of the world succumbing to the infection caused by the Cordyceps fungus. The argument also covered the stories of some survivors and their injuries. From the human past behind each creepy Clicker, to the apocalyptic love story of Bill and Frank.

The new episode, however, leaves the limits of the remains of cities and towns to go, for a while, beyond.

The Last of Us is the premiere of the year and you can only see it on HBO Max

Following the trail of the dead world in The Last of Us

Craig Mazin’s plot decision allows the tragedy to be left behind in The Last of Us. Or, at least, that it becomes part of the landscape, which recalls the transience of life and the power of the wild.

Rusty ruins, battered by two decades of neglect, are used as symbols of a layer of the past that is unimaginable at the time. Despite this, it is a vast expanse of beautiful fields, valleys full of tangled and hostile flora, and huge, endless trees.

The girl, who never left the quarantine zones until her escape, contemplates all of this in astonishment. It’s that innocence of the newly discovered that allows The Last of Us to bring to mind the best of Naughty Dog’s material.

Who are the generation born of tragedy? The one who never heard a plane fly or drank a cup of coffee in the morning? Craig Mazin’s script reminds us that the loss of everything known is much more than bombed buildings or empty towns. It’s also about the cracked roads, with a weed rising through the concrete.

A story that begins with an old melody

In the classic Chevy S10 pickup truck, Joel and Ellie roll along. Not just looking for Tommy, but how to understand each other. In the same way, The Last of Us begins to delve into the thread, for now subtle, that unites both characters.

Between conversations in low voices and while the song Alone And Forsaken by Hank Williams is heard, both describe their perspective on what surrounds them. The contrast is evident. What for her is amazing and new, for him are sour memories. But somehow, that parallel perspective allows us to understand the totality of the emotional experience of the story.

In the source material, The Last of Us’s premise bases its effectiveness on the believable closeness of its protagonists. So his adaptation seeks a way to explore the emotional world of both without seeming artificial. The series draws their bond as forced accomplices and, at the same time, traces the first signs of mutual affection.

However, the plot takes special care to avoid making it seem like Ellie needs to replace Sarah Miller. For the moment, the girl is a “burden”, as the man comments pragmatically. A job to do, a promise to keep.

The wild world that awaits beyond the walls

But Ellie is also someone who can feel. A fragile life, lost in the huge and hostile world that surrounds her. Gradually, Joel allows himself the possibility of feeling excitement, concern, and even joy in listening to another human being.

The forests seem endless, but the stories between the two protagonists of The Last of Us become more personal. “How was it before?” the girl asks, awed by the rutted roads that wind through blooming fields that no one has cultivated again. “What happened when there were people?” she says. But there is no concrete answer to a question that covers twenty years of suffering and the death of millions of human beings. Joel doesn’t, at least.

The Last of Us

The sensation is disturbing, not because the plot of The Last of Us is intended to terrify, but because of the delicacy of the message that underlies the images. There were men and women, among the hills covered with tall grass. Stories, past and the possibility of the future. “I can’t tell you how it was, everything, before,” Joel says as they enter Kansas.

Violence with a familiar face

Perhaps that’s why it’s puzzling that the immediate danger facing Ellie and Joel isn’t Clickers. Suddenly, they suffer a violent attack, sudden and without questions. The aggression is human, organized and appears in the middle of the street.

Both flee, but the threat is inevitable. The city around him is a wreck of gray walls, deceptively empty roofs, and boarded-up doors. But also shots and anonymous figures ready to kill.

The Last of Us, on HBO Max, starring Pedro Pascal.

Director Jeremy Webb, who previously used endless landscapes to chronicle loneliness and uprooting in The Last of Us, turns post-apocalyptic Kansas into a prison. The gray streets darken and become a maze of lurking shadows. Time and time again, Joel and Ellie must hide, not from the infected, but from a kind of fearsome cruelty with a human face.

Finally, Ellie uses the gun she took from Bill’s empty house. The girl remains standing as she gazes at the corpse of the man she killed and who earlier attacked Joel. The tension turns into a meaningful silence. Not only because the little girl lost the last traces of innocence. Joel suddenly realizes that this is not a burden. He is a human being, who accompanies him and who will try to protect him in the same way that he does.

Craig Mazin’s decision to turn violence into a bridge that unites the main figures of The Last of Us is curious. However, perhaps there is no other way to show the complicity that is beginning to unite them.

At the same time, it highlights the incipient affection that is born from the need to find an equal. Both one and the other are alone and abandoned, lost in the pieces of a world that is cracking. Surrounded by monsters with human faces.

The enemies that wait in the shadows in The Last of Us

In Kansas night falls slowly. A woman emerges from the gloom to order what to do next. “They are a girl and a man,” explains a silhouette clad in military clothing to Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), the first character created for the adaptation of The Last of Us. Craig Mazin’s script makes the intelligent decision to summarize the rebellion of those who do not obey any order through a gloomy figure.

The Last of Us

Between the authoritarian protection of the forty zones and the subversive idealism of the Fireflies, there are groups determined to kill. The reason is not clear and the chapter does not lavish on explanations. But one thing is clear: danger is hidden everywhere and those infected are not always embodied.

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Kathleen listens, enraged and with a gun in her hands. “You have to find them, no one can kill here without my allowing it,” she says. The city is not just a dangerous point on the map. It is, at the same time, the place where the most violent survivors define a sinister region. A haven, perhaps, as forlorn of all hope as the wide, nameless territory Joel and Ellie traversed to get there.

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