Review: ‘The Last of Us’ has a disappointing season finale

Sticking the touchdown of the yr’s hottest drama isn’t an enviable job, and “The Last of Us” set its personal excessive bar heading into Sunday evening’s finale. The zombie drama confirmed itself to be the uncommon online game adaptation, on the massive or small display screen, that honored its supply materials whereas taking its personal detours for added depth and style.

One of the extra spectacular facets of the present is the way it’s dared to maneuver slowly in opposition to the urgency of a plot during which time is working out for humanity, taking care to construct a fancy emotional bond between essential characters Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) whereas laying waste to zombies, FEDRA, Fireflies and different opposing forces in post-apocalyptic America.

Though dangerous, the considerate, spacious storytelling paid off: “The Last of Us” has been The Television Conversation of the yr, from its gorgeous premiere (HBO’s hottest in a decade behind the “Game of Thrones” prequel, “House of the Dragon”) to the shifting love story in Episode 3 starring Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman to final week’s hellish escape from a cannibal compound.

But on Sunday, that underlying urgency lastly contaminated the present’s pacing. “Look for the Light” felt harried and rushed, as if it was scurrying to get the job finished earlier than the closing credit. Across a comparatively quick 43 minutes (versus 85 minutes for the premiere), Joel and Ellie lastly made it to that hospital in Salt Lake City, the place medical doctors had been ready to check and replicate her immunity to the cordyceps fungal plague, saving what’s left of civilization. And boy do they should do one thing quick. It’s a grotesque pandemic, with fuzzy tendrils crawling from host to host by way of a ghoulish moist kiss, turning the brand new sufferer’s head into one thing that resembles a cauliflower filled with angel hair pasta. Is it too late to warn people to not watch this present whereas consuming?

Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in “The Last of Us.”

(Liane Hentscher / HBO)

The sequence had taken its time constructing the bond between protector Joel and his ward, Ellie, however there nonetheless wasn’t sufficient groundwork to help the finale’s abrupt change of their dynamic. Stoic killing-machine Joel is uncharacteristically heat and upbeat in the beginning of Episode 9, initiating mild banter with Ellie about enjoying Boggle and consuming Beefaroni. The hardened survivor is even planning for his or her future collectively: “Maybe I’ll teach you to play guitar.” The often smart-mouthed, sarcastic Ellie is oddly quiet and pensive, presumably as a result of she simply hacked a person to dying again on the creepy cult lodge.

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It’s a sudden leap for each these characters, even in any case they’ve been by way of, and it’s jammed between Ellie’s dramatic origin story and an infuriating ending drawn from the sport. As Joel mentioned to Ellie earlier than they entered the hospital the place a crew secretly deliberate to dissect her: “Maybe there’s nothing bad out there, but so far, there’s always been something bad out there… We don’t have to do this. I want you to know that.” She solutions, “After everything I’ve done. It can’t be for nothing.” Oh, however it will likely be, Ellie.

A pregnant woman in a green jacket and long yellow dress standing in a forest

Original “The Last of Us” actor Ashley Johnson appeared within the HBO sequence’ season finale.

(Liane Hentscher / HBO)

The conclusion of PlayStation’s “The Last of Us” — Joel opting to avoid wasting Ellie’s life, negating the aim of their arduous journey and killing off dozens of people that had been making an attempt to avoid wasting the human race — was a controversial nearer again in 2013, and it’s simply as unsatisfying now. It’s the primary time through the run of this sequence from “Chernobyl’s” Craig Mazin and sport co-creator Neil Druckmann that the HBO drama’s integrity suffered by sticking to the unique narrative. It might have been simpler to digest if “Look for the Light” had been damaged up into one or two extra episodes. This might sound ridiculous given the propensity of streamers to stretch a two-hour story right into a 10-part saga, however “The Last of Us” is the distinctive manufacturing that wanted extra room to land.

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As is, the finale seems to have been pressured to wrap earlier than it was prepared. It’s tense and manic however quick on suspense and nuance, and the giraffes bought quick shrift. Directed by Ali Abbasi, it flashes again to the start of Ellie. Her mom was alone and trapped in an previous home, giving delivery when a snarling, contaminated factor attacked. She killed it, however not earlier than it bit her — with the umbilical wire nonetheless connected. That early, partial publicity probably explains why Ellie is proof against an infection. Firefly Marlene (Merle Dandridge) arrives in time to avoid wasting the newborn and kill her pal earlier than she morphs right into a monster. It’s a backstory unexplored within the sport, however the sequence may have spent a whole hour unpacking the occasion and its ramifications quite than a couple of minutes earlier than the present mentioned goodbye for a yr, or three, or nevertheless lengthy it takes between seasons.

A young brunette girl wearing a jacket and sitting in front of a tree trunk in a forest

Bella Ramsey in “The Last of Us.”

(Liane Hentscher / HBO)

HBO introduced the renewal of “The Last of US” simply two weeks into the present’s run. It’s one among many indicators that the cable large has confidence on this high-end zombie drama. They pitted it in opposition to the Oscars, in any case, which says as a lot in regards to the energy of their latest hit because it does about how little the Oscars issue into programming selections nowadays. But it’s uncertain the disappointing finale will harm the way forward for a sequence constructed on a status online game, together with eight fantastically crafted episodes.

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