The Last of Us- HBO Finds Its Ellie & Joel

 As I’m getting older I’m finding that it’s more and more difficult for me to stay up late during the week. There was a time where if I wasn’t up until 11:30 something was wrong. Of course, at the time I was working two jobs and didn’t get home until 9:30 at night. That only gave me like two hours to decompress before I started to do the whole thing over again the next day. When I look back on those days it’s kind of amazing that I survived. I don’t understand how my body didn’t just turn to ash like Thanos had snapped me out of existence. Yet here I am… like Elton John said, I’m still standing.

Yet, this whole getting older and working one job is really starting to take its toll on me. My new bedtime as of late is 10:30 and all of that was thrown out of whack because of COVID, but things are finally starting to settle down now. I may have become a little dependent on CBD gummies to help get me sleepy faced buuuuuut who among us hasn’t relied on some form of bear to get us ready for bed? So last night, after some Chinese food, some kitten snuggles, and the first episode of Netflix’s Cecil Hotel documentary, it was time for sleep.

Well, time to read in bed at least. I was reading an infuriating short story that I needed to end because there was no conceivable way that I could take that story into another day. Just couldn’t do it. Even writing about this story now is starting to agitate me like that itch that’s right below your shoulder blade and you can’t reach so you rub up against a doorway like a bear? No? No one else does this? I’m not here to be judged but I’m judging all of you for reminding me of this story that I now remember that I have to look up because I need closure and understanding. Ugh, look at what you guys are doing to me. This isn’t the point of this column. The point I’m trying to make is I went to bed early last night. That’s it. Now I’m rambling. Are you happy? Are you not entertained?! 

Now, if I had stayed up a couple of minutes later or turned to Twitter to purge the above mentioned short story from my mind, then I would have been privy to some pretty exciting news concerning HBO Max’s upcoming The Last of US television series. News that probably would have made me all types of giddy thus keeping me up a little longer while I talked to my buddy about how excellent the news was. It’s all a vicious cycle.

You know from spending your free time here at I Am Geek that I am very much a Last of Us stan…

[Author’s Note- That is the first time I’ve used the term “stan”… not sure if I liked it.]

… those two games might be some of the greatest video game storytelling I have ever experienced. Ever. In life. No bull. Hell, they might be some of the best storytelling in any medium I’ve ever experienced. The story of Ellie and Joel has resonated with me and stuck with me for so long. The Last of Us Part II was well worth the wait and introduced me to new depths of video game storytelling. The type of depths where you don’t want to play what’s in front of you but you need to play it in order to know how the story ends. The Last of Us could care less if you feel comfortable, kind of like your mother when she calls out your name in the supermarket. All The Last of Us cares about is the narrative and these characters and being loyal to both. That’s what makes these games such an achievement. I’ve cried. I’ve laughed. I’ve gasped. I’ve had my soul crushed. And I can’t, nor do I want to, shake this story.

Waxing poetic aside, I’m very protective over Ellie and Joel and a Last of Us television series, while super exciting, is a bit nerve-wracking. I don’t know if you know this but video game properties don’t exactly have the best track record when they transition from console to big screen… or medium screen… any screen that isn’t a video game screen. I’d hate to see that happen to something I cherish as much as The Last of Us but this is the world we live in. There will always be attempts to transition successful IP to different platforms because that’s how you make that chedda cheese. And while games like Super Mario Bros, Assassins Creed, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, Silent Hill, and Resident Evil have all tried to transcend from the console, all of them have failed in one way or another. The Witcher seems to be doing pretty well as a television series, I couldn’t get into it though, which gives hope that maybe television is the platform for video games to focus on.

Television makes the most sense when you think about it. The majority of video games are long. Try and think of the countless hours you’ve put into gaming and how studios try and put all of that into two hours. It just doesn’t work. Too much fat is cut and everything falls apart because of it. It’s like taking The Lord of The Rings trilogy and condensing it into one movie. Could you imagine? It would be the hobbits leave the Shire, fight a fire demon, end up at Mount Doom, and birds. That would be the whole movie and it would totally miss the point. Television allows for slower more paced storytelling, much like video games themselves, and really allows the creators to tap into what makes the game so great in the first place.

With The Last of Us being turned into a television series, I’ve been kind of optimistic. It helps that the showrunner is Craig Mazin who gave us Chernobyl and he’s being assisted by game creator Neil Druckmann on writing duties. These are very capable hands. Hands I trust to do this story justice especially considering one of them originally wrote the story. Now all that matters is the casting which like I said before, I’m very protective over these characters so this aspect would kind of make or break how I felt about the show. I hate to put it that way but, come on, if they flop on the casting there’s no denying that it will affect how one views the project.

Yesterday evening it was announced that Belle Ramsey was cast to play Ellie. Now for those of you who are scratching your heads and saying “who”, I’d like to remind you that Ramsey played the very badass/very awesome/scene-stealing Lady Mormont in Game of Thrones. There is no denying that she certainly has the fire to play Ellie but I’ll be honest, I haven’t seen Ramsey in anything post Game of Thrones. Ellie will be the character I have the most difficulty adjusting to live-action because I live in a world where Ashley Johnson will forever be my Ellie. But I like this casting. I’m excited about it. I think she can bring the heat. I keep revisiting that scene in the first game where Ellie’s being held captive and bites that dude’s finger off. I think Belle Ramsey can handle doing that in fantastic fashion. Although, one thing we didn’t see in Game of Thrones was a softer side to Ramsey. Ellie, through all that tough exterior, is pretty fragile and I’ll be interested to see Ramsey find that balance. But I’m here for it.

Now of course, you can’t have Ellie without Joel and that brings us full circle to me going to sleep last night because if I had stayed up just a little bit longer, I would have discovered that The Mandalorian himself, Pedro Pascal was cast as Joel and I’m freaking over the moon about it. This is perfect casting and has me all types of hyped for this Last of Us television series. Joel’s arc is the wounded grizzled man who learns to love again. I mean, that’s kind of it in a nutshell and doesn’t do any justice to the character arc but I’ve already written more words than I thought I was going to and I don’t want to chase you guys away talking about Joel and how beautiful/heartbreaking his transformation is. The point I’m trying to make though is we already know that Pascal is capable of doing this because he did it in two seasons of The Mandalorian. Now we just have to replace Little Baby Yods, uh, Grogu with a teenage girl. And throw in some plant-like zombies and horrible humans and you’ve got the perfect casting for The Last of Us.

See, getting older is prolonging my pop culture excitement but I woke up to a pleasant surprise this morning that I haven’t stopped thinking about. The Last of Us now has its leads. This thing is real now. And with Pedro now attached… yeah, excitement levels are high. What about you Geeklings? What do you think of the casting for the two leads for The Last of Us? Are you happy? Who is your perfect casting? Be sure to sound off in the comments below or throw me a line over on Twitter @iamgeek32. We’ve still got some time before The Last of Us starts shooting, and it thankfully won’t be taking Pascal away from Mando, so maybe it’s time to boot up those games one more time. I think I’m willing to get hurt again. Maybe that’ll keep me up later…

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