One of the quotes that stuck out to me while watching the television adaptation of The Last of Us was in “Please Hold to My Hand” when Joel and Ellie talked after the ambush as they got to Kansas City. He says to her, ”You’re just a kid. You shouldn’t know what it means to. It’s not like you killed him, but shooting.” Ellie had to think fast to save Joel because his hearing prevented him from picking up on an ambush. But sadly, she had to shoot another kid named Brian. Given Joel’s life experience, he’s able to kill Brian indiscriminately. Life has muddled those emotional waters for him. But when you think about it, it’s messed up that Ellie and Brian are in this position in the first place.
When we look at media that chronicles an apocalyptic ending of the world, the after-effects are generally confined to adults. You’re resolved that “Ok, these things are tough to see. However, these people lived a full life before the world ended as they knew it.” In The Last of Us, the show makes sure to put it across that nobody has gone untouched by this viral outbreak. It makes it feel like even more of a tragedy that kids can’t be kids.
They should be playing games, going to dances, developing crushes, or doing dumb things that young people do. In this world, they have to decide if they will join a rebel movement or fend off some psychotic religious sect of people. From the beginning, the show sets a grim tone for young people. Joel’s daughter Sarah gets killed by errant gunfire from a soldier, and a young, infected kid walks extremely disheveled to the FEDRA camp (and later gets killed and thrown into a heap of bodies).
The moments of reprieve and happiness are interrupted by the realization that the outside world is anything but. Ellie and Sam play and talk about comic book characters briefly in “Endure and Survive,” only to be stripped by him getting infected. A little earlier in the episode, a fully infected child attacks Ellie in the car. Ellie and Riley have a great moment in the mall in their own world because getting attacked by a stalker. It feels as though if you show this place happiness, there is something to tear it away from you at a moment’s notice.
This is how you get more people who are worn down and think like Joel. It’s almost impossible not to feel jaded when you aren’t even able to trust the adults around you. The complete personification of this theme occurs in Ellie’s character. When we meet her, she has a sense of humor about her – mainly because there’s a lot of the world she doesn’t know. Even with the hurt Ellie is experiencing, she can mask it all under the usage of puns and wisecracks at people around her. It’s even more interesting that the pun book is one that Riley gave her – thus, she keeps her memory alive by sharing it with Joel.
As we go into more episodes, the light in Ellie’s eyes starts to dim – the accumulation happens at the end of “When We Are In Need” after she brutally kills David. She’s wholly shell-shocked and devoid of any happiness. Not to mention the fate of the world itself falls squarely on her shoulders with a potential cure. Is that fair for a young girl to have as a weight to carry? No. Not at all.
Going into the finale, this aspect makes the audience invest in this show heavily as we do. There might be a light at the end of the tunnel, but damn, we wish the road was easier getting there.