Now Streaming: THE LAST OF US, Keep Moving

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey star in the series, now streaming in its entirety on HBO Max.

Managing Editor; Dallas, Texas, US (@peteramartin)
Now Streaming: THE LAST OF US, Keep Moving

What is a video-game series, exactly?

The Last of Us
The nine-episode series is now streaming on HBO Max. I've seen all the episodes.

Full disclosure: I am not now a video-game player, though I played my share of games in the early 80s, and then again in the mid-90s.

My own scant personal knowledge of the video games that have inspired -- directly or indirectly -- countless movies over the past two decades led me to skip over any breathless anticipation for the latest on HBO Max, which also led me to a series of false expectations about the series.

The first episode, however, suffused with quickly-developing dread and death, all superbly captured by director Craig Mazin, galvanized my attention immediately. The succeeding episodes, however, wandered off the narrative track that I expected the show to follow, with a dispiriting trend toward glorifying violence as the only acceptable means to an end.

It felt overwhelmingly negative and pessimistic, not qualities that I look for in a weekly television show, not even a limited series. Why bother watching if everyone's going to die anyway, and nobody's really likable, except maybe a 14-year-old girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), whose head will probably get crushed, or something else horrible will happen to her? I can get that in real life, thank you very much.

The penultimate episode gave me a glimmer of hope. Joel (Pedro Pascal) may have wrongly killed a good person and may be killed as retribution. That raised a moral question that has rarely been addressed in commercial television: what if the antiheroic protagonist mistakenly kills someone who does not deserve that fate?

Of course, the episode waffles and shows instead that Joel is fully justified in his actions. I shook my head in disbelief and disappointment that the moral quandary had been abandoned in a hail of gunfire. But now, after watching the final episode, I realize I have been misreading the series all along.

Once again, the ninth episode dips back into the past to fill in the backstory of the characters. Once again, Joel ends up killing countless people who may be innocent, all to protect Ellie. Once again, he is killing those who, arguably, do not deserve to die. What kind of antihero is this?

And that's the point, of course, as more perceptive viewers have known all along. The intention of game creator Neil Druckmann, who co-created the series with Craig Mazin, has been more about exploring the moral shades of gray, the edges of evil intent that can creep into the kindest of intentions and fester, the extent to which loving people will go in order to protect their loved ones.

It's not about answering questions, but raising them. Your mileage may vary.

Now Streaming covers international and indie genre films and TV shows that are available on legal streaming services.

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Bella RamseyCraig MazinHBO MaxNeil DruckmannPedro Pascal

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