Forum reporters click on 'The Last of Us' finale

HBO's post-apocalyptic drama shows the monsters aren't just the fungus-infected zombies

The Last of Us.jpg
Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal star in HBO's "The Last of Us".
Contributed / HBO

FARGO — HBO's "The Last of Us" has gotten a lot of buzz since premiering earlier this year. The drama, adapted from a video game of the same name, wrapped up its first season and Forum reporters John Lamb and Tammy Swift tuned in.

John - "The Last of Us" has been a real heartbreaker to watch. Are you ready to talk about last week's finale?

Tammy - I just couldn’t miss “The Last of Us” finale. I've been obsessed all season. And if you told me a few months ago that I would grow to love a show about a dystopian world of flesh-eating mushroom zombies, I would not have believed you.

John - It has been a compelling show, even for those of us who aren't big into horror movies or video games. Well, maybe I'm just speaking for myself.

Tammy - Absolutely not. It’s been so well done — from the perfect casting, incredible cinematography and special effects to the captivating storyline, which especially captivates those of us not remotely familiar with the 2013 game.


John - Indeed! Pedro Pascal is great as Joel, the lone wolf tasked with transporting a mysterious young girl across post-apocalyptic America. It’s almost like he played a similar part in a galaxy far, far away. I really believed he didn't shower for days. Still, he made eating Chef Boyardee over a campfire look appealing.

Tammy - He's HAWT! I'd eat 12-year-old Beefaroni next to him any day. I also loved Bella Ramsey as Ellie, the young girl who could save humanity from a virus that's nearly destroyed the world. OK, so she occasionally reveals her British roots by pronouncing her "t's" too precisely, but she is otherwise flawless — tough and heroic, yet so vulnerable and damaged beneath it all. The supporting staff is great too. I was especially impressed by Nick Offerman — best known as Ron Swanson, the conservative bureaucrat from “Parks and Recreation” — portraying a completely different type of character during one episode. Well, he was still outwardly “Ron Swanson,” but his character reveals a surprising twist. For years, he’s been so typecast in these “tough guy” roles and he showed such a genuine depth and tenderness here.

John - Plus, you got to hear that great Nick Offerman squealing laugh. That episode was both uplifting and heartbreaking. Did you notice when Bill and Frank were outdoors during the day, it was always sunny? Not gloomy like wherever Joel and Ellie go. That showed that there is hope when you find someone you can open up to, trust, someone who gives you a reason to live. Their storyline was so hopeful. And then the next episode we’re back under the clouds in Kansas City where a rebel leader played by Melanie Lynskey is so hell-bent on avenging her brother’s death, she’s leading her followers to certain doom. The person she’s looking for turned in her brother so he could save the life of his own brother. Just as it seems like they escape, viewers suffer another gut punch. There’s this theme about how loving someone so intensely can be so fulfilling and yet so costly. Everyone is so damaged in this show and it’s ultimately about dealing with trauma.

Tammy - Yes, definitely! That may be why this is so compelling. While I covered my eyes during the grisly scenes — and there were plenty of them — the storyline really seemed to be more about the human interactions.

John - As much as the monsters are a threat, the bigger evil is people, whether that be the raiders, the government, the rebels and even religion. In this way “The Last of Us” reminded me of the first few good years of “The Walking Dead.”

Tammy - I've never really watched "The Walking Dead" — probably because I can't even cut up a chicken carcass without getting squeamish — but I would compare my fixation with “The Last of Us” to how I felt about "Stranger Things.” Despite all the gore and violence, I have been much more drawn to the themes of how humans react when everything around them breaks down. TLOU's second-to-the-last episode — in which Ellie runs into a strange religious group — was so ominous and quietly terrifying that I couldn't stop thinking about it.

John - There are certainly similarities between the two shows. The central relationship in both is a grizzled father figure who lost a daughter and now is caring for a young teen with mysterious powers named a variation of Elle. Plus, there are great shopping mall scenes in both. The big difference is that "Stranger Things" is about finding your tribe and always uplifting, "The Last of Us" delivers a gut-punch each episode in which a crucial character is killed, leaving only Joel and Ellie. The title seems to refer only to them, not to the rest of the world. It's a bit more bleak.

Tammy - Ooh, I like this game: Find all the similarities between "The Last of Us" and "Stranger Things!" Like the fact the two young female protagonists are played by gifted Brits. Or instead of power ballads by Kate Bush, you get power ballads by Linda Ronstadt. TLOU could definitely use a little more "Stranger Things"-style comic relief though. Maybe they need to bring in a wacky clicker with a heart of gold or something — something guaranteed to enrage all the purists.


John - I don't know about the wacky clicker. That may be going into Jar Jar Binks territory. I actually thought Ellie added a lot of comic relief, especially with her Will Livingstone book of puns. It underscores that she's a little kid and that Joel isn't immune to dad jokes.

Tammy - Oh come on, John. A teen-age clicker named "Clicky," who wears rainbow suspenders, loves skateboarding and is allergic to mushrooms? I mean, that would have really lightened things up at the cannibal colony. All I can say is: Bring on Season 2! I think I'm going to love it for a long, long time.

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For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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