In the penultimate episode of The Last of Us TV show, we're beginning to see whether HBO's ambitious adaptation can hold a light to the PlayStation classic. Through its faithful recreations and daring diversions, The Last of Us is in the pay-off stages of its slow-burn post-apocalypse, and we're not entirely sure if it's working out.
After last week's flashback episode, we're thrust back to an injured Joel and a panicking Ellie who desperately tries to keep her protector alive. However, an encounter with a new survivor group led by the ominous David may decide the fate of this father/daughter duo.
Before we get into our issues with this latest episode, here's what we did like. While by no means has HBO's take on this series been all sunshine and rainbows, episode eight is a great reminder of just how brutal this world can be. And we're not talking about its violent tendencies — although more on that later. No, we're talking about a world that makes survival tough, one that calls into question whether it's worth going on. Seeing the red noses and worn faces among David's deflated congregation showed a new cold and barren side to this post-apocalypse, one that feels grounded and real.
On the surface, and likely to newcomers to the series, it's a great, pulpy apocalyptic narrative filled with disturbing realities and brutal spats of violence. We suspect that, for those that have been let down by the lack of violence on display in HBO's adaptation, this latest episode will appease that appetite for blood somewhat.
Without Ellie's brutal guardian, there's a level of anxiety building throughout the episode. That knife's edge tension is delicately balanced thanks to the performances on display from Ramsey's Ellie, Scott Shepard's David, and Troy Baker's James — the original voice actor for Joel making a fun appearance.
However, here's the issue: as we're getting to the huge emotional beats of this story, we're struggling not to look to the video game for comparison. And the truth of the matter is that the video game just did it all better. We'll not go into specifics here — you can check out our video review over on the Push Square YouTube channel for that — but whether it be a moment of tension or the climax of the episode, we couldn't help but feel like this pivotal act in the story of The Last of Us just isn't hitting the same.
Previous weeks have showcased how to streamline the bulkier video game narrative while holding onto those precious moments that made us fall in love with the series in the first place. Episode eight, however, is an example on how it can hollow out those moments. There's nothing particularly bad about this latest episode, and for the most part it comes across as a brilliantly crafted and faithful retelling. But when you get to those big story moments, you begin to realise that one missing scene from the games actually propped up another that we got in the show. Like a house of cards, without one the whole structure begins to fall.
It's a worrying predicament to be in with just one episode to go, but the show has attained varying levels of quality across its streamlined adaptation, so we're holding out hope yet. And let's be real, the latest episode isn't bad by any stretch of the imagination. As we've said, it looks nice, it's performed well, it's got a good pace, and we reckon without the context of the game you'd have a great time with episode eight. But as fans of the game, episode eight felt like a fantastic jigsaw puzzle with just a few pieces missing.
To find out when you can tune in for the next episode, click through to our Where to Watch The Last of Us TV Show guide. Additionally, our Full Cast List provides more details about the actors and characters. And of course, be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.