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In WIRED offices, I’m not always the “I told you so” type. Frankly, in such a smart workplace, I’m more of a “no-no, you’re right” type of team player. But on a Monday morning when my colleagues jumped into Slack to talk about last Sunday’s episode Last of usall I could think was, “I warned you.”
Of course, I only warned a couple. But as one of the editors of Will Bedingfield’s brilliant article on porting the video game Naughty Dog to HBO and Hemal Javeri’s excellent Q&A said The last of us with star Pedro Pascal, I managed to watch the show in advance, and when anyone asked, I said: “Episode 3 made me cry.”
The series’ third episode, a love story between survivalist Bill (Nick Offerman) and a man stranded in his own turf (Murray Bartlett) named Frank, is a departure from both the main plot of the HBO series and the game it’s in. based. Bill is a game character, but not a game character, and Frank is only mentioned in passing. Expanding their story was one of the many ways that show creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann (also the game’s creator) sought to change the world. The last of us play in The last of us prestigious TV show. “I said, “Neil, I have a crazy idea,” Mazin. said Vanity Fair. “And he’s like, ‘Do it. Let’s see how it goes.”
The gambit worked. Sunday broadcast “Long-long” garnered 6.4 million viewers, which is 12 percent more than the previous episode and 1.8 million more than the series premiere. (This beat is of great importance, considering The last of us‘ network brother, Dragon Housewas already losing viewers by the third episode.) Streams of Linda Ronstadt’s song, from which the episode got its name grew by 4900 percent on Spotify. Jimmy Kimmel invited Offerman to his nightly program to show him tiktoks tearful fan reaction to the episode. And Twitter couldn’t stop talking about it. Personal favorite: “Last of us the writers were like, “Hey, Joel needs a car. What if we write the world’s most touching and heartbreaking TV hour?”
It was that rare episode on television that spawned thousands of ideas. The vulture announced the episode rosetta stone which “discovered adaptation”. rolling stone called it “painfully beautiful love story“. Inverse asked director Peter Hoare decode the last frame. More than one outlet called it A masterpiece.
As with all discourses, there was a backlash. Druckmann himself predicted this, speaking New Yorker prior to the series’ launch, that “as amazing as this episode is, there will be fans who will be upset by it.” Druckmann’s creation was often criticized for its odd characters, and he rightly knew some fans wouldn’t like what his show had done to Bill’s story. Some called it “A blatant reversal under the guise of positive representation.” Others called it “empty feeling“. The episode was rumored to be an example of the “bury your gays” trope; further critics have argued that it undermining this trail. (The latter is closer to the truth.) And so on and on.