Episode 5 Reminds Us: Sadly, The Last of Us is STILL Based on a Dumb Video Game
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: HBO’s “The Last of Us” is an excellent, excellent television program.
Unfortunately, the 5th Episode, “Endure and Survive” reminds us that, as good as it has been so far, “The Last of Us” is still based on a dumb video game. And, it looks like they’re really going to lean into those roots.
Specifically, I’m talking about the now-famous “bloater” scene. In the middle of an episode that featured fine acting, dynamic pacing, and a compelling narrative…suddenly, the ground bursts open with mushroom zombies issuing forth.
Worst, a giant zombie who looks like Oogie-Boogie from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” lumbers out of the inexplicable hole (more like a “plot hole” right?) and just starts ripping people’s heads off, completely impervious to all weapons.
“Oh, crap”, I remember thinking. “This must be some ‘level’ in the dumb game that the player has to ‘clear’ before moving on to the next thing.”
As the Bloater (that’s what they call it, seriously) is rampaging, I can almost imagine the gameplay: players have to shoot the baddie extra hard and in specific areas. I can hear an NPC say something like, “Concentrate all your fire on the HEAD! It’s the only way we can stop this thing!”
It's just…what you do in video games. I’m just not convinced that “boss-level” monsters translate well to prestige television.
I even picked this up in earlier episodes, though nothing quite so obvious. The wonderful episode 3 with survivalist Bill, played by the great Ron Swanson, was clearly based on a level where
“We’ve got to go get provisions from this guy. BUT, he’s booby-trapped the whole place so it’s a good thing we can respawn as many times as we need to”.
They handled that episode, “Long, Long Time”, in a truly beautiful way, by concentrating on the human story with minimal video-game baggage.
Again, even in the Bloater episode, once all THAT was over, the series went right back to its real strength: the HUMAN story. The fate of Sam and Henry is heartbreaking and the last conversation between Ellie and Sam ratchets up the emotional impact of their situation “to eleven”.
I just wish the show concentrated more on THAT and less on…bloaters and clickers and whatever dumb video game thing they have coming up next.
I’m sure fans of the game LOVE all of these scenes. I can even picture them rage-reading this article. As a fan of the show, I’m just worried that too many “Bloater” scenes are going to be to the detriment of an otherwise excellent program.