Making sense of The Final of Us’s thrilling, affecting season finale

The view is pretty great...

Enlarge / The view is fairly nice… (credit score: HBO)

New episodes of The Final of Us are premiering on HBO each Sunday evening, and Ars’ Kyle Orland (who’s performed the video games) and Andrew Cunningham (who hasn’t) will likely be speaking about them right here each Sunday night. Whereas these recaps do not delve into each single plot level of the episode, there are clearly heavy spoilers contained inside, so go watch the episode first if you wish to go in contemporary.

Kyle: We made it to the final of The Final of Us season one! Which suggests I get to ask you the primary query I requested myself after enjoying the primary recreation—the one I have been ready weeks to ask you and possibly crucial and lingering query of the entire season:

Does Ellie consider Joel?

Andrew: OK, I undoubtedly got here away from this with a wholly totally different lingering query! However like many episodes of The Final of Us, possibly we must always minimize away from the motion in order that we will leap again in time after which work our manner again as much as these questions?

On this episode, Joel and Ellie make it! They’re in Reno, and so they discover the medical doctors they have been looking for this entire time. They only have to let the medical doctors run a number of exams, after which they’ll trip off into the sundown collectively, their surrogate father/daughter bond intact and wholesome and completely nice. Proper?

Kyle: There are many different questions, to make sure, however I wished to begin with the one which lingers most after that gripping remaining shot.

However sure, backing up a bit, I like how this episode will get again to some quiet time between Joel and Ellie, who get to joke round and feed giraffes and be typically wistful about their journey collectively. They’ve clearly and totally change into a surrogate father/daughter pair to one another, which is saying one thing, given how reluctant they have been to even be in the identical area again in the beginning of the collection.

Andrew: There are good moments. However now that Joel is totally open to letting Ellie occupy the position of his lifeless daughter, there is a type of manic, virtually determined observe to his relationship together with her on the episode’s outset. Joel’s stolid, monosyllabic veneer is gone, and now that it’s, he is speaking an excessive amount of; he is all of a sudden too keen to attach.
Kyle: You may additionally argue he is all of a sudden too keen to guard his surrogate daughter on the expense of humanity…
What did you do, Joel, and why did you do it?

What did you do, Joel, and why did you do it? (credit score: HBO)

Andrew: Sure! Sure. That is the factor.

Not like nearly each different group of individuals we have run into in The Final of Us universe, there does not appear to be something particularly sinister concerning the Reno Fireflies. Sure, they resolve fairly shortly that the one approach to research and transmit Ellie’s immunity is to take away her mind. (That is defined considerably in yet one more episode-opening flashback the place we meet Ellie’s mom and do in truth study the unbelievable true story of how Ellie received her knife, a joke I made a number of recaps in the past that ended up coming true.)

However they don’t seem to be, so far as we all know, a group of sadistic evangelical vigilante brain-removers. They’re, to borrow a phrase, placing the wants of the various forward of the wants of the few. And it isn’t that I do not really feel deeply for Joel, who’s clearly not prepared or keen or in a position to lose one other daughter. However his response to the state of affairs…

It leads me to my query: Is Joel the unhealthy man? Have we, the viewers, been hoodwinked by Pedro Pascal’s dadly charms into rooting for a monster?

Kyle: To me, this isn’t, in the long run, a really attention-grabbing or tough query. Any goal have a look at the state of affairs would conclude that Joel clearly made the incorrect selection right here. Saving humanity from cordyceps is strikingly extra helpful than defending Ellie’s life.

The one approach to come to the alternative conclusion is by being hopelessly sentimental about the entire thing. And Joel’s actions are made even worse as a result of, as Marlene factors out, Ellie would fairly clearly be keen to sacrifice herself for that better good.

That stated, I believe each the sport and the present do a very good job of threading the needle between not defending Joel’s actions however nonetheless explaining them. By the point we get to those remaining scenes, we perceive how and why a really damaged Joel would primarily sacrifice the human race for this woman he met comparatively lately. You do not have to agree with it to grasp it from Joel’s perspective, and I believe that is an incredible narrative feat.

What wouldn't you do to protect this face?

What would not you do to guard this face? (credit score: HBO)

Andrew: Yeah, it’s telling that the most important downside I’ve with what occurs will get again to your query. It’s objectively not nice that Joel goes on a rampage on the expense of what could possibly be a society-salvaging vaccine, and objectively not nice that he kills not simply armed Fireflies however unarmed civilians.

However getting again to your preliminary query, I believe probably the most monstrous, egocentric factor he does is lie about it to a woman who has large belief points and who depends on him for every little thing. Possibly you possibly can perceive why Joel is doing what he’s doing, however it’s an unfathomable betrayal of this one who he claims to care about.

Kyle: Joel is aware of what he did is unforgivable and that Ellie would by no means forgive him if he advised her the reality at that second. And sure, that alone makes him fairly irredeemable in my eyes (although there are many sentimental folks on the market who assume Joel did the proper factor).

However then there’s these previous couple of seconds of the season—that tight close-up on Ellie’s face—the place you possibly can virtually see the gears handing over her head. Does she simply belief Joel a lot that she simply places any doubts apart? Is she convincing herself to consider Joel for the sake of her personal sanity? Or does she know Joel is mendacity and is simply pretending to simply accept his story to guard their relationship?

Andrew: Whether or not she believes him or simply buys into the lie to guard their relationship may have huge implications for subsequent season as a result of it is arduous to think about this not catching up with them. If that’s the query the present is wrestling with, I believe that is a complete lot extra attention-grabbing than saying, “Effectively, Joel did what he did for comprehensible causes, so in the end it is OK that he did it.”

I used to be desirous about how this recreation got here out in 2013 and the way a decade in the past we have been nonetheless very a lot in the course of an anti-hero period in motion pictures and TV. I am principally pondering of The Sopranos, Mad Males, Breaking Dangerous, and their many imitators. These reveals requested viewers to discover the psyches of (principally) white (principally) males who have been doing unhealthy issues, however who might nonetheless elicit sympathy and understanding due to some mixture of fine writing and nice, charismatic performances.

The issue was that typically these reveals have been too good at what they have been doing, and no less than some viewers went from understanding and sympathizing with these characters to rooting for them in ways in which could possibly be uncomfortable. Walter White was in the end a manipulative drug kingpin, a assassin, a serial liar, and a megalomaniac hooked on energy and its train. A non-trivial portion of the present’s fanbase spent a lot of the collection upset at his spouse for being “an annoying bitch” who was insufficiently supportive of his legal enterprise.

I actually favored what The Final of Us finale completed insofar because it subverted my expectations. I went in prepared for a principally heartwarming story of discovered household in an apocalyptic setting, and the season does ship that. However this episode’s haunted, determined Joel, too desperate to mission his lifeless daughter onto Ellie and too keen to go on a killing spree within the curiosity of “defending” her, provides an uncomfortable layer on prime of their dynamic.

How I really feel about season two will rely upon whether or not the present needs to acknowledge and discover that discomfort or whether or not it needs us to assume that Joel is a flawed badass who was “proper” to do what he did simply because he did it for sympathetic causes.

In order that’s my season-ending mini-essay. As a recreation participant who has some concept of what is coming subsequent, how did the finale go away you? How are you feeling about this season as a recreation adaptation?

Mother, victim, knife donor...

Mom, sufferer, knife donor… (credit score: HBO)

Kyle: I do not need to spoil an excessive amount of about Half 2 (and presumably season two of the present) by speaking about the place this plot thread goes. I’ll say that I believed the paradox of the ending within the first recreation/season was so nicely completed that I felt persevering with Joel and Ellie’s story might solely reduce it, which I believe is what ended up taking place.

Half 2 apart, I really feel like Half 1 has one of many best-presented endings in gaming, which carries over fairly nicely right here. These remaining scenes paper over a variety of the narrative’s weaker moments. And that close-up on Ellie’s face—with all of the vagaries in each slight twitch of her eyes and chin—was much more spectacular in a 2013 recreation, the place motion-captured performances tended to be a lot broader and extra over-the-top.

The present finale contains virtually shot-for-shot remakes of most of the key scenes on the finish of the sport, proper all the way down to the music cues in lots of situations. However there may be one delicate however essential narrative change I seen, which fits all the best way again to the primary episode.

Keep in mind when that ’60s speak present panelist steered {that a} fungal outbreak would not simply be society-destroying however that a treatment would not even be attainable?

Within the recreation, whereas it isn’t 100 % clear that the medical doctors will achieve turning Ellie’s mind right into a vaccine, there’s nothing explicitly suggesting it is a silly effort. Within the present, that one line on the very starting of the primary episode sort of modifications your complete calculus.

If that panelist was proper, then possibly Joel was (by chance) proper to save lots of Ellie? Was that line an effort to melt Joel’s choice in the long run and make his actions extra forgivable?

Andrew: Effectively, there’s “not attainable,” and “we don’t consider it to be attainable.” Ellie’s immunity within the first place is “inconceivable”; if something I believe that “inconceivable” line is supposed to make Ellie’s immunity really feel extra extraordinary.

This is without doubt one of the issues about this season that feels too rushed. We all know that “smearing Ellie’s blood on an open wound” doesn’t repair something, however that’s additionally not how drugs works until you’re a child who doesn’t know something about drugs. So the present’s quick leap to “the one approach to get a treatment is by harvesting Ellie’s mind!” feels a bit quick, even by the requirements of post-apocalypse frontier drugs.

Regardless, I’m unsure the speak present does a lot to redeem Joel as a result of it appears fairly unlikely that he could be pondering of 1 throwaway line from one speak present that will’ve aired when he was a child. And if we’re going off that line, are we alleged to be shouting, “This entire mission is silly! A treatment is inconceivable!” at our screens this entire time?

Sitting and waiting for season two...

Sitting and ready for season two… (credit score: HBO)

Kyle: Figuring out the place the season was going to finish up, yeah, I used to be sort of questioning about that one line and internally screaming about it for your complete season.

I am not attempting to recommend Joel had arcane medical data driving his choice. However within the context of a TV present, it is arduous to see why the creators would throw in a line like that for any motive apart from including a little bit of “possibly Ellie’s demise would have been in useless”-type doubt 9 episodes later…

Andrew: All we all know is that they made it to the Firefly medical doctors, and so they determined inside a few hours that they wanted to scoop her mind out. I’m simply saying that if the present goes to attempt to make us really feel higher about what Joel did, it wanted to/might want to do a bit extra lifting on the “nicely, the treatment is inconceivable anyway, so it’s tremendous” entrance.

My final query for you: As a online game adaptation, do you assume The Final of Us is healthier or worse than the present finest online game adaptation, Tremendous Mario Bros. (1993)?

Kyle: The SMB film had the higher use of fungus, maybe…

Joking apart, this adaptation made me assume a variety of the 2009 Watchmen film, which I believe suffered from being manner too devoted to the supply materials. Right here we had simply the correct quantity of faithfulness with (principally) helpful additions/modifications for the brand new medium.

The supply materials supplied a very good start line, but when that they had simply ended with that start line, I believe the conversion would not have labored practically as nicely.

Andrew: That’s a helpful comparability level for any adaptation. “How devoted is that this to the supply materials, on a scale from the Watchmen film to the Watchmen HBO miniseries?”

I’m wanting ahead to season two, however I want to fireplace up a change dot org petition to get us again to 13 episode seasons, please and thanks.

Kyle: The newest studies recommend they’re trying to adapt the second recreation into a couple of season, which ought to assist the pacing a bit.
Andrew: Huh, OK. That could be too far within the different route, however we’ll see…

And that, I believe, is “the final of us” speaking about this season!! Ha ha ha!

Kyle: Ha ha ha ha! (freezeframe on Kyle and Andrew laughing and slapping backs. Roll credit.)

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