Scott D. Parker
I never thought I’d watch The Last of Us, the popular show by HBO based on a video game of the same name. In fact the closest I’d gotten to the show was the hilarious Saturday Night Live spoof of MarioKart done in the same, post-apocalyptic style. I’m not a huge fan of the genre and I was completely fine with skipping out on all the excitement.
In fact I was so okay with missing out on everything that when one of the recent episodes of the Fatman Beyond podcasts dropped and co-host Marc Bernardin began talking up the ending, I didn’t skip ahead. I just listened. Bernardin is a gamer, he played the original game and watched the series. He enjoyed the show, which can come as a surprise if you know Bernardin.
When my wife suggested we give episode 1 a try, I was reluctant. She knows my aversion to the genre, but it her turn to pick a show—I selected Apple TV’s Shrinking—I opted to give episode 1 a look. I fully expected to have my usual complicated feelings about a world after everything goes to hell and bow out.
But I didn’t. In fact, I rather enjoyed it. And, knowing the ending, the major events of episode 1 were still hard to watch, but I had already been conditioned to understand that these events in the premiere episode had to happen if what we see in all the trailers and online ads is true: Pablo Pascal’s Joel has to get Bella Ramsey’s Ellie across the devastated country to a place where they can use her immune blood to create a cure.
Here is the crucial fact about this show and knowing the ending: the characters, the choices they make, and the ramifications they inflict on others is immensely compelling. I found myself eagerly waiting to watch the next episode (we staggered the show, usually one per night, over the entire 9-episode run.
The two leads are stellar. There was one particular scene in which Joel gave a monologue and, afterwards, I told my wife that’ll be the clip they play at the Emmy ceremony. Because Pascal and Ramsey should both earn nominations for their acting. Unlike a typical show with this kind of content, these two actors ground their characters in real life. Side note: the pandemic-like event takes place in 2003 and the show occurs in 2023 so all the stuff we’ve come to know in the past twenty years never happened.
If I characterize the ending in any way, that might be a spoiler for you, so I’m not even going to try. But evening knowing the ending before I started, I was still deeply invested.
Maybe it’s because The Last of Us isn’t a franchise I know and love well, like Star Wars or Star Trek. I stayed away from most of my usual sites on Thursday so I could go into the series finale of Picard fresh. I often wonder what it’s like for younger folks to, say, watch the original Star Wars trilogy knowing in advance Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father or that Leia is his sister. I may get around to HBO’s other popular TV show, Succession, but I’ll go in knowing what happened in last week’s episode.
Are we too fixated on spoilers?
I mean, all we really have to do is stay away from the internet on the day of a release if you want to view something without knowing anything. That’s not a big deal. It’s not like Lester Holt is going to spoil the ending of The Last of Us on his nightly broadcast.
Back in the 1970s, my parents and I would just go to a theater and walk in, sometimes in the middle of a movie. We’d watch the ending, wait for the show to start again, watch until we got to the spot where we came in, and then leave. As a storyteller, I can’t imagine the thinking, but that was a real thing. I know I’m not alone.
I like a movie or show or book to capture me with its content. I barely ever read movie reviews ahead of time (I read them after I’ve watched the show and made my own conclusions. Ditto for TV, music, and, of course, books.) The trailer has me or it doesn’t. Or an actor and a role has me or it doesn’t, like Nicholas Cage as Dracula. That was all I needed to know I wanted to see Renfield.
Still, even if you are spoiled, the quality of the show can give you a deeper appreciation of the story, like The Last of Us did for me. It’s a quality program and one I’d certainly recommend.