Adapting something to a new medium requires a delicate balance. On the one hand, you have to understand what made that work good in the first instance, and on the other, you need to have the courage to change what is necessary to turn it into something, not so much better, as to take advantage of the new narrative tools.
I am a firm defender of the licenses taken in The Last of Us, starting with that third episode that takes Amour de Haneke to a fungal post-apocalypse, and ending with the background extra certain characters. But there was something that could not be altered in this series.
Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel
If there is something perfect in The Last of Us that could not be changed in the HBO adaptation, it is just the ending. if something are mazin and Druckmann it’s smart, and they’ve made the right decision to keep intact that chat between Ellie and Joel a few hours’ drive from the Wyoming settlement.
What differentiated the video game from its contemporaries is summed up in that “I swear” and in that final “voucher”. Everything is accessory, and at the same time everything is useful to reach the slopes of that hill when two human beings share a lie to try to be happy.
Joel is not a hero, in fact he is the biggest villain ever for that surgeon’s family, for example. He is someone dangerous, but not because of how he wields firearms or how he is capable of killing people. He is a walking danger because he loves more strongly than the rest and, as he has repeated ad nauseam Mazin, misguided love is irrational, harmful and amoral.
The character played by Pedro Pascal constantly faces the problem of the train and the detour: on one lane he will run over Ellie, on the other all of humanity. And he makes the most humane decision… and at the same time the least ethical. Because ethics studies good, evil and their relationships with morality; but morality isn’t usually what someone in Joel’s situation clings to.
The Last of Us says goodbye, at least temporarily. A second season is confirmed and everything is ready to adapt Part II. But, as with the first game, this season is round and has value on its own. Pedro’s Joel and Bella’s Ellie have earned the right to claim those tears shed in the last scene