Back to “The Last of Us”: did the series need more gore?

The last of us took on the daunting challenge of adapting a live video game, and delivered exceptionally, with one of the best first seasons we’ve ever seen. Every decision the show makes – whether reproduce exact scenes from the game Or featuring the actors of the game in new roles – included careful curation of the storytelling based on respecting the source material while introducing us to a new Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). And the show’s bolder decisions to stray from the game’s canon and reimagine particular (fan-favorite) scenes have actually made things even better, despite everyone’s initial apprehension.

While The last of us changed some scenarios, including Bill and Frank and even the cause of cordycepsa unique way the series formed its own character was to minimize the violence and gore of the game. Yes, the show had its fair share of violence, but it was considerably less bloody than The last of us‘ gameplay. It may have been disappointing to some, but it was an incredibly smart move that made the show’s teases of violence and gore all the more meaningful.

Scriptwriter Craig Mazin explained(Opens in a new tab) that he worried that incessant gore scenes would become numbing to an audience. If it were to replicate every ounce of the original gameplay, including having to repeatedly fight its way through NPCs (non-playable characters), violence in the series would become expected. The intentional decision to reduce the violence made scenes like Joel’s more animalistic displays of aggression are all the more surprising and important.

Seeing Ellie’s sporadic violent moments made her a little (well, a lot) scarier.
Credit: HBO

The reason Joel’s torture scene in episode 8 was so heartbreaking and shocking was partly because the show Never introduced us to that side of him earlier, giving us room to expect better from him. If we were to have seen all the bloody violence Joel was capable of from the start, let alone every episode, the torture scene wouldn’t have been so impactful or teased (in the right amount) who Joel was. to become in the final. Recognizing the hostility of The last of us and its characters, but keeping it isolated was ultimately a saving grace for the show – maintaining a level of gaming excitement without the risk of compassion fatigue.


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Even downplaying the game’s gore by changing scenes like Joel’s stabbing, which in the game is the result of him fall from a platform and land on a metal spike(Opens in a new tab), did not detract from any expected shock factor. We all felt the same “oh no” when Joel turned around to reveal he had been stabbed. And other scenes, like Ellie finding a human ear under a table in David’s (Scott Shepherd’s) estate, also teased the right amount of gore without sacrificing her (or our) fear. We didn’t need to see David dismember a body, like in the game(Opens in a new tab), to figure out what Ellie was about to go through and who she was dealing with. Ultimately, the wild card decision for a dystopian, post-apocalyptic show to not reveling in blood and guts kept the focus on our characters.

A man and a young girl smile at each other while standing on a leaf-covered balcony.

It’s all about these two.
Credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO

The last of us is not about blow up bloating, it’s about Joel and Ellie. Downplaying Joel’s violence until an extreme scene of tunnel vision assault gave us a meaningful insight into the scope of his character and what he can become for the people he loves – something which wouldn’t have been so shocking if we had seen it in every episode. Likewise, limiting the show’s bloody violence meant we could understand Ellie better, too. We’re allowed to see his reactions to Joel’s hostility through standout moments instead of a continuous, forgettable drag. We remember his initial attraction in the pilot episode, where his violent side was almost activated, and then his anger towards him by the finale, when she realizes that Joel has let her down. Keeping the violence contained meant we could really see Ellie and identify the exact moments that influenced her.

Although this may have been disappointing for some, The last of usThe decision to make his violence a rarity rather than a spectacle was the right one. We all love a good, tricky fight scene, but that wasn’t the point this season. The real attraction was watching Joel and Ellie become something newsomething they both could be if they wanted – and what it all finally means for them next season.

The last of us is now streaming on HBO Max(opens in a new tab).


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