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Is ‘The Last of Us’ the First Great Video Game Adaptation?

March 21, 2023
Notes
Transcript
On this week’s episode, Sonny Bunch (The Bulwark), Alyssa Rosenberg (The Washington Post), and Peter Suderman (Reason) talk about departing NYT film critic A.O. Scott’s thoughts on fandom and its effect on the way we talk about movies. Then they review HBO’s hit show The Last of Us and ask a very important question: Was Joel right? Make sure to swing by Bulwark+ this weekend for a bonus episode on the late, great Lance Reddick. And if you enjoyed this episode, share it with a friend!
This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:11

    Welcome back to across the movie. I’ll present it by Bulwark Plus. I am your host, Sunny Bunch Culture Editor of The Bulwark. I’m joined as always by Elizabeth of The Washington Post and Peter Suderman of Reason magazine. Alyssa Peter, how are you today?
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:22

    I am Peachy.
  • Speaker 3
    0:00:24

    I am happy to be talking about movies with friends.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:28

    First up, Anne controversy. Anne non traversy’s longtime New York Times critic, A. O. Scott, is giving up his gig and returning to the world of literary criticism from whence he came. In his exit interview, Scott talked about his viewing habits.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:40

    He sees around three hundred movies a year, which is a lot for a normal person. But he feels as an inadequate number to really get the full breadth of the movie calendar. And he launched a very specific complaint against the rise of fandom. I’m gonna there’s kind of a long quote here. I’m gonna read the whole thing, so just bear with me.
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:56

    Quote, I’m not a fan of modern fandom. This isn’t only because I’ve been swarmed on Twitter by angry devotees of Marvel and DC and more recently, Top Gun Maverick and everything everywhere all at once. It’s more that the behavior of these social media hordes represents an anti democratic, anti intellectual mindset that is harmful to the cause of art and antithetical to the spirit of movies. Fan culture is rooted in conformity, obedience, group identity, and mob behavior. And it’s rise mirrors and models the spread of intolerant, authoritarian aggressive tendencies in our politics and our communal life.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:31

    End quote, as anyone who has been a film critic for any length, the time will happily tell modern fandoms are a genuine problem. You don’t wanna be one of the first critics to give a beloved property a splat on rotten tomatoes. Trust me on giving a thumbs down to a Marvel movie means you’re in the pocket of DC and vice versa. Don’t love the fast and furious movies. Well, that means you’re just a knob.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:51

    We can’t turn his brain off and enjoy something silly because as we know that’s the role of the critic is to shut off your brain and enjoy the silly things. What is wrong with us? The the swarms can definitely get a little vicious as someone who is shall we say fond of the release the snider cut movement for instance that rose up in the wake of Zach Snyder’s demiss dismissal from justice league. I will admit to wincing every now and then when some of the more strident members of that organization go a little nuts. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:18

    It’s it’s not good. It’s not great. You you don’t win friends that way. But I think what Scott is most tired of, at least from this cohort, is the perversion of criticism from a way to help people understand why they like or dislike Bulwark of art into a tool, a bludgeon, a data point that proves their franchise superior to all other franchises. Rotten Tomatoes.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:43

    It’s less an audience guide at this point than a weapon to be deployed in the death struggle between fans. It’s like a dumber version of the advanced step that you see in in in sports arguments when people are trying to figure out who’s better, Mike Trotter, show hey, Otani. Right? The lesson as always is to simply ignore ignore the masses and continue on with your aft. That’s the Sunday bunch guarantee.
  • Speaker 1
    0:03:08

    I don’t really care what any of you people think unless you agree with me, and then you’re probably doing something right. Peter is fanned I’m burning out the best minds of our generation.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:17

    Well, let’s start by by I I I will start by saying that I really like a o Scott as a critic. I I’ve never met him. I don’t have any kind of personal connection with him, but there aren’t many critics who I have read more. In fact, he may be the the single credit critic who I have read most often since he started in believe, nineteen ninety nine and and has been writing continuously since then and that is pretty much my adult life reading movie reviews. And and he’s at The New York Times, but he’s also just really good and really perceptive, and I have learned a lot from him.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:51

    But I do find this attitude at least a little bit vexing here and he has become kind of increasingly cranky over the years in particular after his review of the Avengers, which has actually has a a a bunch of smart things to say and in many ways was pressured about fandom and about the nature of movies. But he has become a little bit cranky since then. And I I sense some of his crankiness, you know, sort of some of that that cranky spirit on display here in that he just sort of seems to think, like, he he finds it. He he finds fandom too oppressive. And I guess I would say, it’s oppressive if you let it be.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:29

    And it’s it’s unpleasant at times, for sure. And there absolutely people online and on on Twitter in particular who act like total jackasses who are just jerk who are completely inappropriate don’t seem to be very smart either. At the same time, discussion of film and the sort of the the the opportunities we have to talk about movies in smart and intelligent ways. In in Nuance ways that don’t have anything to do with fandom, that are not just sort of about Team DC and Team Marvel, that are not just about either this sort of all most politically partisan way of approaching movies. I I feel like there are there are more opportunities than ever if you go and you find them and that is In large part, thanks to the same sorts of tools that have enabled jerk fates.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:21

    And so I’m I’m really glad that that Scott’s gonna continue writing. He’s gonna write more about culture and and books and he started, you know, he was a a book critic, I believe, for the nation before he wrote for the about movies for The New York Times. He’s done a bunch of great work on books for The New York Times, so I’m very glad that I will still be able to write, you know, read him and read his writing. I do just sort of wonder if if he has somewhat over invested in and over indexed, like, the negativity on Twitter, which is again so easy to do and I get it. Man, there’s times where I’m just like, boy, why do I feel rotten today?
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:58

    And the reason is because spend all day on Twitter. But maybe the maybe the the thing to do is is not to quit writing about something that you’re so good at writing about. But instead, to say, I’m gonna spend some less I’m gonna spend less time on Twitter and and value the Jackass’ on Twitter much less. And right? And this is I think there is a there is almost a sense here in which I think Scott is letting the bad fans win by saying, they have ruined this thing.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:29

    They have they have made it impossible to have a a good and nuanced and an interesting discourse about movies. And I I guess I just don’t think that that’s true. I think that they are jerks. I think that there are ugly and unpleasant people online. But I also think that there are places where you can have have a discussion about movies.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:51

    They’re frankly, they’re put they’re places online and they’re places offline. You can go out for your with your friends. After a movie. I talk about movies. It’s great.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:00

    I do it every now and then. And then and then sometimes we have a podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:05

    Interesting theory, meeting people outside of the Internet. I don’t know how I feel about that. The the it’s interesting to pinpoint that Avengers review because I remember I remember some of that. And it it it’s it’s interesting for two reasons. One, that’s like right in the middle of oh, Scott’s tenure almost.
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:21

    It’s almost it’s almost smack dab in the middle of his — Yep. — twenty twenty four year run or whatever. At the at the New York Times, It is it is also the moment when Twitter really did kind of take over as the locust of conversation for for all of this stuff. And it is also, again, the moment where comic book franchises became the truly dominant force. I mean, you can point back to thousand eight with with the dark knight, and there
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:51

    was no It’s it’s the exception of that. And I think and but I think and Scott saw it coming in that review. And he he argued that it was a kind of imperialism. Right? That it was just sort of gonna take over the whole movie world.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:03

    And he wasn’t really wrong. I mean, he was he was certainly more right than wrong. Although, at the same time, the other thing that I will say and I know a listening to get in here is that there’s a a pretty startling number in this piece that that you read from Sonny, where he talks about starting as a critic when four hundred films a year would open in New York. And now there’s over a thousand opening in New York on theaters plus all these streaming movies. So and in some ways, he is painting a picture of an art form that has never been in better health.
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:31

    And I think that’s important to recognize that they’re that we aren’t seeing in the decline of movies. We are seeing a a profusion of them, maybe too many movies.
  • Speaker 2
    0:08:41

    Yeah. And that’s I mean, that’s something that has been on my mind a lot. I’ve written a lot about through cultural fragmentation as an issue. And I probably share a little bit more of Scott’s grotiness, maybe than either of you. Just in the sense that I’ve written a lot, both about sort of the simultaneous sort of concentration and atomization of pop culture and, you know, how kind of despair of the low expectations that I think a lot of franchise fans set for themselves and for the properties from which they drive their identities.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:19

    And so I see sort of two things going on here. Right? I mean, you know, I came up in some ways as the kind of fan that Scott decries. Like, I was huge into Star Wars. I’ve talked about, like, writing Star Wars fan fiction on this podcast.
  • Speaker 2
    0:09:37

    You know, that franchise and liking it and thinking about it was a meaningful source of identity for me sort of in my early teens. And has informed my pop cultural life going forward in some ways. Right? I mean, like, the one of the biggest disappointments for me as an adult has been you know, Disney is just total failure to do something interesting and sort of forward looking with Star Wars until I think, really until Andor, which we talked about earlier this year. Or was it late last year?
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:09

    Time is time is a flat circle, guys. I’m not keep in track of things well. And I’ve been sort of befuddled by the fact that, you know, Marvel and DTC fans rather than sort of asking for more and better from their franchises have instead sort of defended them to the death regardless of the actual quality of the output, and that’s been sort of frustrating. But I guess the question I have for both of you is, do you feel like pop cultural conversations have changed. Because, I mean, this podcast focused mostly on movies.
  • Speaker 2
    0:10:43

    But I really came up writing a lot about television sort of more even more so than movies. I, you know, I recap game of Thrones for, you know, eight years. I know, I spent a lot of time at the television critics association. And, you know, I sort of had this weird experience in my professional life where television viewership fragmented, the conversation about television got really atomized. There were not sort of rich deep, you know, mass discussions about some of these shows in a way that there had been earlier in my career.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:18

    And it felt harder to write about TV. It felt harder to sort of do my job as a cultural critic when that conversation changed. And I do wonder if that’s some of what Scott is responding to in movies in the sense that there are many more movies being released in New York and on streaming forums than they were when he started. But the audience has concentrated in a few of those releases and the conversation about those releases. Is in a lot of ways not terribly rich or interesting.
  • Speaker 2
    0:11:47

    And so I I am sympathetic to his sense that you know, but things have changed and it’s maybe not as much fun. And look, you know, I I spent a lot less time on Twitter than either of you or apparently A. O. Scott, judging from that exit interview. And I, you know, we do have this space that for me is really fun to discuss all of this stuff, but I don’t know.
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:16

    I mean, do you do you feel like there have been sort of some vibe shifts in a way that are recognizable in Scott’s portrait of the Internet? I don’t know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:27

    I would say so here’s here’s how I would respond to that. I I I think that one of the most interesting and frankly bad qualities of the discussion around movies over the last few years, the last real ten years like, starting back when you were at the progress, Alyssa, is the shift from discussing the work Bulwark and the move toward discussing the work as a measure of trying to figure out if it is good for society or not. Right? If it is if it is a if it is like, even setting aside the morality of a piece of work, which I think would be at least kind of interesting. It gets in we get into these ridiculous never ending fights about representation.
  • Speaker 1
    0:13:16

    And is this, you know, does this have their correct number of people? Is the right sort of person making this story about this group of people? And that that that sort of talk is so incredibly stultifying and annoying and frankly meaningless to me that I I find it I find it deeply unpleasant and I tend to just ignore most of it, which then gets people yelling at me like you know, I I I tweeted something yesterday or the day before about this awful looking little mermaid remake. And just just how how how much I’m dreading the constant the the constant drumbeat of idiot culture war fights we’re going to be subjected to about this. Movie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:01

    And almost immediately, I had somebody in my my quote tweet saying, you know, maybe you should just celebrate the progress this represents. And then, like, minutes later, I had somebody saying, yeah, this shows you what happens when Disney goes, whoa, they go broke, and I’m just like, I can’t I can’t fucking handle it. Yeah. I cannot I cannot I I, like, I cannot do I I I feel like a o, Scott, man. If I have to do another thirteen years of this, I’m gonna blow my brains out.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:26

    Because
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:26

    I just Yeah. I can’t I can’t do it. And look, I struggle with this because to a certain extent, this is this is gonna sound like sort of paradoxically hubristically. Like, you’re fine. I feel a little bit responsible.
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:38

    You did this and was
  • Speaker 2
    0:14:39

    a turn in some ways. In part, because I think you know, look, I came into criticism as someone who found all of this stuff kind of strange and didn’t serve take any of it for granted and was curious about what this stuff was saying about, you know, pop culture was saying about the world and our assumptions about this sort of weird default mirror society that it created. And I you know, I’ve written a lot about questions representation and power in the industry over the years. And I think there was an extent to which my blog, I think, progressed my early years of the Washington Post, proved that there was a real audience for political criticism. But I don’t think I hope, you know, and I I trust you guys would keep me honest about this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:15:23

    I hope that over the years, you know, I mean, I think back to, for example, the debate about Zero Dark Thirty. Like, I think I was I hope I was always interested in reading this stuff. You know, as text as opposed to merely sort of through a quota system. And, you know, I think I for the I think my best writing has continued to look for what’s sort of idiosyncratic and you know, for what a piece of art is saying and it can’t necessarily be spoken out loud in the political discourse. So I I worry sometimes, like, it it feels so obnoxious.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:02

    Be like, oh, yes. I’m responsible for I’m responsible for all of this. And by all of this, I mean, like, the decline of our cultural conversation. But it is something that I struggle with a little bit. Well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:14

    there was there was that moment there was that moment in the, like, late thoughts, right, where it be it suddenly became very profitable is the wrong word because none of us has ever been profitable. But it it suddenly became very click friendly to — Yeah. — right pieces like of this sort. And it it I I do think I mean, look, I I I I obviously, you know, liked your reading enough to be friends with you. So, like, it worked.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:43

    It it but I but I do think that there there was a you if we could use the the, you know, the the French revolution here, you know, you you built the GEA teams and then you got you got led up to it. Alyssa, No. No.
  • Speaker 2
    0:16:57

    That I ever felt specifically guarantined, but I think yeah. I mean I think you’re more
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:01

    like Robert Oppenheimer. Like, this is you you built an amazing technology. Right? That just might destroy the world. Snow, I’m kidding.
  • Speaker 3
    0:17:13

    I I obviously, we’re Sonny and I are both fans of your criticism. You know this. So, like, we’re not gonna come to be like, Alyssa, what did you do? I this is a I I genuinely appreciate this self reflection though, and that’s it’s it’s fascinating to hear all of this.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:28

    Yeah. You know, and I think, look, I think there is room to be to say, like, you know, this is weird. This, you know I mean, I did a big series on the police and pop culture. Six or seven years ago at this point. God time was fast.
  • Speaker 2
    0:17:43

    And I think there was genuine value to be like, yeah, you know, this is there is a real world collaboration between, you know, police departments in Hollywood that’s been going on here for a century. These are the images that it produces. Like, they’re kinda weird. And but there’s a difference between that and saying, like and therefore, none of the stuff is valid or interesting storytelling. But yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:05

    No. Look, I think the conversation has changed a lot. I can’t entirely blame Scott for wanting to do something different. And I’ll be really curious to see what he does with books. But I think that in, you know, the fact that he is leaving this particular stage is a little bit of a bummer just because his astringency and sense of humor and toughness are really valuable.
  • Speaker 2
    0:18:31

    And I hope that even folks who felt stung by that, I mean, that guy can write a kicker, the sort of the last line in a reviewer column for people who are not journalism nerds. Just like nobody else in the business. And I hope that people who felt stung by that retained some of the memory of that and maybe get more open to the insights in his writing over time because, you know, I don’t think AOS got ever, you know, I always felt like he wanted movies to be their best selves. And I I hope that we all want that. And I hope that even the fans who feel compelled to defend stuff, you know, feel like they’re allowed to want a little bit better because of because of Scott’s work?
  • Speaker 3
    0:19:16

    Howard Bauchner:
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:18

    Let’s let’s do a slightly different exit question here because I I remember reading once a a a film critic for a daily saying that film critic should have specific ten years and then move on to do thing else because you there’s only if you were if you’re writing about every big release or, you know, some percentage of big releases every week, you are going to eventually burn out because there’s only so many things you have to say. And I do I get a sense that part of that at least is is one of the reasons why Scott is stepping down. So if you if you were if you’re king, you’re king of critics, you’re king of the movie critics, and you’re handing down ten year lengths. What would your ideal ten year length be? Like you fourteen years, you gotta get out and get a get a real job in the world.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:08

    Peter. Oh, I think it’s eleven years because
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:10

    I really do think that there are decade long cycles in the movies. And there’s a reason that we go back and we will rank the the best movies, the odds and best movies of the tens. Because even though though those are obviously totally artificial distinctions, you can tell a difference between movies made in the ATS and movies made in the TENS and movies made in the nineties. And it’s it’s real and if you’ve watched enough movies, you can just serve like you can start to eyeball films even there aren’t period films, even there aren’t set in the nineteen nineties. And you can just say that was made obviously sometime around within a year or two of nineteen eighty six.
  • Speaker 3
    0:20:42

    Right? And it there are just there are visual tonal stylistic distinction. So I think critics should get one decade and one year, and so you should be able to sort of either right. You’re you’re starting in in a previous period and then you you go through a full decade after that or, you know, we we can think of this as a decade plus one more year to reflect back on the decade that you that you wrote on. I but I I think it’s an eleven year, ten year is the right one if we’re gonna do ten year.
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:07

    But I also think that it’s useful to have people who have been writing about movies for forty years. And have seen everything, you know, over that time and have reflected on it professionally. So I don’t think there should be movie critic tenure.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:19

    Alyssa.
  • Speaker 2
    0:21:20

    I’d say if I had you imposed ten year, I’d expand on Peter’s idea and say fifteen years, but you have to begin in sort of a five year mark. So you can actually observe the VIBE shifts coming in and going out with the tides?
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:34

    I will I will is destroying my own question by saying no tenure. I mean, you should cranks should get older and crankier and keep keep young people in their letterbox feeds for as long as possible. No no real jobs for young people. We’re gonna take these forever.
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:53

    Stanley Kaufman wrote movie reviews for the New Republic from nineteen fifty eight through twenty thirteen. Yeah. Love it. I love it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:03

    Like, this is this I I love I love picking through my collections of John Simon reviews, which stretch from, like, the the you know, late sixties, I think, or maybe early seventies up through two thousand and ten or so. Like, it just it’s it’s there is something there I I agree. I think there’s something to be said for having real continuity of thought. But that said, I do think I I think any any tenure should be self imposed. When you when you get to the point where you’re feeling like, I can’t watch another one of these.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:35

    This specific type of movie, that’s it. That’s when you’ve gotta you gotta set aside. And I do think that there are a lot of critics who have kind of that with the current cycle of superhero movies. If we saw a wave of retirements might not be the worst thing in the world. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:49

    Make sure to swing by Bulwark plus for our bonus episode this week on the Great Lance Reddick who died at the sadly young age of sixty last week. We’re gonna have a little tribute to him this week on the bonus episode. Now on to the main event. The last of us, HBO’s hit series based on the video game of the same name concluded last week. When I say a hit, I do mean it’s a hit.
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:09

    According to HBO, the first six episodes were watched by more than thirty million viewers each on average, which is better than the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon. The premier has been watched by around forty million people across all platforms according to HBO, of course, all of these stats are kind of with a grain of salt because they’re measuring HBO Max, they have to be a linear, you know, HBO Go. And now if those are still the thing, I don’t even though. But is it any good? It’s a hit, but is it any good?
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:35

    After all the Walking Dead routinely put up huge numbers with audiences despite being pretty Mediaoker, a very good laundry folding show. And the last of us plays in some way like a fancier, more expensive version of The Walking Dead. You can see the difference between an HBO budget and an AMC budget up there on the screen both in terms of the settings. You know, we go across the country. In the show from the ruins of Boston to burnout Kansas City to the mountain west.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:01

    And in terms of the acting talent that Pedro Pascal, he can really do it wince. He wince is very convincingly. Spoiler’s coming up for this first season. So if you haven’t finished season one yet, sign off. Just hit that hit that pause button.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:15

    We’ll be here till you get when you get back, we’ll be I’m just giving I’m rambling, letting giving people a little time. Alright? Pascal plays Joel. He’s a grieving father who lost his daughter early in the days of the rise of the cordyceps, which is kind of like a mushroom like infection that turns humans into murderous savages who want nothing more than to spread their fungi to all corners of the globe. Joel is tasked with delivering Ellie who’s played by Bella Ramsay to a group of rebel scientists who think they can use her immunity to the cordyceps to help keep humanity safe from the mushroom and to monsters.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:49

    But who will keep humans safe from the humans? That’s right. This is a zombie show. Which means that the real danger isn’t the zombies, but the people who are not yet zombies, from the tyrannical federer to the Varonic fireflies to the cannibalistic creatures to the wandering raiders, the real danger in the zombie apocalypse is man. This is why the key theme throughout the show’s first season, the lesson that has literally stated out loud in the third episode, which mostly concerns itself.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:20

    With a flashback in which Nick Ofrman who’s playing kind of a gay, Ron DeSantis, finds love over the course of twenty years, is that saving the world is probably impossible, but protecting your own your own corner of it is something that can be accomplished. What we see over and over again in the show is people fight to protect and against their loved ones even if it means bringing ruin to everyone else. This brings us to the big moral quandary the season finale, again, spoilers, etcetera. But when Joel and Nally finally get to the firefly doctors who think they can devise a cure from her infected body. Joel learns that they wanna cut Ellie’s brain out, wanna cut her brain out of her head, make a serum that might perhaps possibly make people who have not yet been infected by the cordyceps and visible to the cordyceps.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:08

    Joel objects to this plan by murdering every everyone in the hospital just about almost everyone. And then he lies to Ally about what happened to protect her and make her not worry about, you know, all the the murdering. Now, obviously, Joel did nothing wrong here. Joel is Joel was totally right in his it is actions. But that’s only obvious apparently because I have kids, interesting anecdotes shared by game creator and co showrunner, Neil Druckman, in the campaign Secret Podcast.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:34

    When they tested the game, half of the players had kids and half were childless. The childless half split fifty fifty on whether or not Joel was the hero or the villain of that sequence and really the whole game. You know, fifty fifty said fifty percent said hero, fifty percent said villain. Of the half of the players who had children, every single player. Every single player said Joel was right.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:58

    Alyssa, we’ve talked in the past about how parenting changes the experience of art. Do you think that Joel did nothing wrong in that sequence? Or are you gonna go against the hundred percent? Now,
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:11

    I find Joel’s decision making pretty explicable in that moment. And I say this as a parent whose kids are actually enrolled in a Pfizer clinical trial for the code vaccine for young kids. Right? Like, I’m willing to do a certain amount of medical experimentation on my children obviously, but it doesn’t involve cutting their brains out and also like we know it we’re like we’re pretty sure it’s gonna work and be useful. And the combination of like, we’re gonna cut your brain out without like adequate informed consent.
  • Speaker 2
    0:27:45

    Like, Ellie can’t consent to having her brain cut out. First off, she’s fourteen years old. And also, like, just in general, there’s no, like, moral way to, like, consent to having your brain cut out for the good of society. And also, we have no idea if this is gonna work. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:00

    Like, it’s not even a cure. It’s not even like a back scene. It’s like maybe this makes you invisible to the fungus monsters who wander our landscape. And so I mean, it and in a way the fact that Joel seems so obviously right illustrates the extent to which the show seems stacked and therefore less interesting to me. Right?
  • Speaker 2
    0:28:22

    Like, the fireflies don’t come across as like a particularly compelling or competent organization. I mean, there is Yeah. Like, they’re, you know, they they seem sort of ramshackle and immoral and without sort of a larger program or scientific operation, it’s not clear that it’s going Bulwark. And so in a way, you know, the sort of obviousness of Joel’s decision. Again, if you’re a parent, I think reflects a pretty strong weakness in the show, which is that there is not, you know, sort of a strong set of moral alternatives posed against each other.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:02

    Right? I mean, your society is either like, you know, we’re a peaceful commune in the mountain west or, like, we’re an, like, an adorable weird gay couple in our, like, own private island or, like, your cannibals. Eating people in the woods or fathered us. Right? And there’s just There is not sort of a plausible class of ideas happening in the show in a way that made it just sort of only intermittently interesting to me.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:32

    I like, all the performances in this, you know, Pedro Pascal is good. Bella Ramsey is good. Like, I I am enjoying the Game of Thrones reunion. But I just did not find the show terribly engaging. And that may also be that I’m just like burned out on kids in danger and apocalypse stuff.
  • Speaker 2
    0:29:50

    But it it feels like it did not feel sort of terribly intellectually engaging to me. And the road trip nature of it, I think prevents it from getting deeper in a
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:04

    way that would be more interesting.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:06

    I will Peter, before we have to you real quick, will say that my that was also kind of my overall sense of the show is that there there were moments that were pretty pretty be good. I really like the the episodes four and five, the the episodes with Henry, the the two brothers. In Kansas City, I thought that was that was pretty compelling. I I liked I really I actually did really like finally, but everything else was kind of like I was kind of like, okay. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:35

    Let’s I get it. The zombie apocalypse is bad because of the people. This is this is the thing we see at all of the zombie shows. It’s all of them. Right?
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:44

    From dawn of the dead to twenty eight days later, all of them. That’s that’s the problem. Peter, what what did you make of the last of us? Well,
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:50

    after the zombie apocalypse, you’re not gonna have Twitter. So all the bad fans are gonna end up becoming, you know, raiders and cannibals and
  • Speaker 1
    0:30:57

    Come literal zombies. So it’s gonna be a literal zombies. And federer
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:01

    employees and you know, stupid firefly radicals who you think are the heroes, but no, they think they’re the heroes who are rebelling against the authority, but now they’re just they’re just a bunch of disorganized kinda quasi half terrorists. Right? Like, that’s this is just a show about where the bad fans go as far as I can tell.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:18

    I I really
  • Speaker 2
    0:31:19

    Are we pro are we pro the cordyceps then? Like
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:22

    Do Are we pro the volume up? No. Not pro cordyceps. I’m
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:27

    pro I’m pro Joel murdering people who who cross him. That’s what I’m pro. So that’s that’s the only that’s the only righteousness in a world that has fallen. The ability to murder your release.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:36

    I I talked about this show with a a large number of people over the past week at some events that I was at in part because I’ve about it in part because people were just interested. It’s a hit. People have have seen it, and because I also have played the game. Sunny, I believe you played the twenty
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:52

    nineteen
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:52

    game. Played it. No. Okay. So I’m the only one here who has played the source mister the the the source game.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:57

    And this the the show follows the story of that game pretty closely with some some notable diversions. In particular, the Nick Offerman episode is really blown up from what you see in the game. And then the the arcade sort of backstory about Ellie. That sequence is not in the original game, though it is in a sort of spin off game. But if you just played the twenty thirteen game straight through, you wouldn’t have seen it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:32:23

    So I I was just impressed by the translation. I think this is certainly one of the better, maybe the single best video game adaptation I have ever watched myself and the game is one of my favorite games of all time. So I found I found Joel’s choice, I think, a little more interesting than you guys. Because to me, it was a kind of inversion of of what you see so often in very in in in genre stories or sort of popular storytelling, where the hero survives, where the heroes survive by by doing their duty to the collective, by engaging in a kind of heroic self sacrifice. And the easy example here, the the go to, is at the end of Star Trek two, the wrath of Khan.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:11

    Right? SPOC. SPOC allows himself he he gives up his own life so that the rest of the crew of the enterprise can survive. He says, I’m I’m gonna butcher this quote, but it’s, you know, the the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one or the the fewer the one. Right?
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:27

    And and we’re supposed to understand that his moral code and his logical, you know, sort of approach to this is it’s reasonable. It makes sense and it’s and it is a it is through that code that everybody lives. And this show inverts that. And that is something that you don’t see very often in popular storytelling. You almost never see a show that says, actually, you’re not a monster if you don’t sacrifice yourself to save society.
  • Speaker 3
    0:33:55

    Actually, it it is at least understandable. And I think the show doesn’t quite offer up a full fledged argument or defensive Joel. Right? It sort of allows you to to consider his actions at the same time what it it doesn’t what it doesn’t do is it doesn’t sort of simply and black and whitely portray him as a month, as obviously a monster. And, you know, Sonny thinks he’s obviously the hero here.
  • Speaker 3
    0:34:18

    So this is more or less on on his side or at least thinks it’s it’s reasonable. But this is this is to me, I think, a pretty unusual kind of examination of the morality of what in what individuals owe to the people they love, and then what individuals owe to people they don’t know, and who are, you know, and and to people who are sort of to to the rest of society. And you see this all throughout the show. You see this in particular in the the Kansas City sequence. You also see this, you know, to some extent, this is you you see a a a sort of a world in which the in which the collective as as understood through federer, right, is is just sort of like that’s a that’s the the Ron DeSantis of the government and basically it’s it’s oppressive and totalitarian.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:03

    Right? And, like, you just gotta take care of yourself. That’s the only thing you can do. Take care of yourself and the people that you know and that you care about. And it’s a to me, that’s a that is a a rarely explored moral territory in popular storytelling.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:20

    And I saw the show that pulled it off really well. I was actually surprised by how many people I talked to over the past week who thought that Joel was was actually was kind of a villain here that they could both understand how he had become this way. And also that they thought, man, killing everybody? That seems real bad. Maybe you’re trying to, like, sneak off with Ellie Maybe right like, but you should go in and shoot the doctor and what’s I mean and again, what’s interesting here is in the game.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:46

    In the game, you watch in and, you know, you’ve got you’ve you’ve been through this big firefight where you’re making a bunch of, like, tactical shooting choices in a video game style way. And if you go in to the room with the doctor and Ellie, you can’t not shoot the doctor. The game won’t let you. It is you have to make the choice yourself in some sense, but you have to pull the trigger or press the button. But the game won’t let you avoid shooting him even though he’s not, like, rushing to kill you.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:11

    He’s not there with a scalpel trying to get great. He’s just, like, they the game is just like, nope. Joel’s real mad. You’re playing it real mad, and you’re not gonna shoot that guy. And so this isn’t it is in in the game, In some ways, it’s even more powerful because it forces you to inhabit that choice and forces you to make it yourself.
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:28

    And I thought the show did as good a job as you can do on television where you’re where it’s a little more removed and you’re just telling a story of Putting people in Joel’s shoes and helping them understand that choice and making it seem like, if not a correct one, at least a reasonable one, at least one that you can understand. And that’s
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:51

    I
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:51

    think that’s there’s something there’s something unusual and powerful about that. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:57

    Again, I was I was just struck by the I was struck by that anecdote from Druckman — Yeah. — about the testing. And I’m I’m frankly not surprised. I mean, I, like, I literally I watched that episode and I I tweeted something like, you know, the the only way that you could be conflicted about this is if you don’t have kids without having listened to that podcast, without, you know and, like, twenty people immediately were, like, ah, yeah, Druckman said the same thing. It’s, like, this is a this is an actual phenomenon on.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:24

    And I do think it I think it it really does change things. I mean, I I it’s interesting you mentioned choice and the kind of illusion of choice in the video game, Peter. Because it it it it does feel like I this is this has always been my complaint about games that kind of prize this idea of choice, oh, the player’s making choices, or is he actually just being being played? Right? You get some of this in the bioshock games.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:50

    Right.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:50

    There are games about this question.
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:53

    And I like, I’ve always thought it was kinda silly because you’re playing a game and the game can only really unfold one way. I mean, it is very much like a movie in that sense unless you’re playing a, like, a purely open ended world without any any sort of I I like, I don’t even know what a game would look like without without choice. Or I’m sorry. That that that didn’t, like, curtail your choices. That didn’t didn’t say you have to go this way.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:20

    So I don’t know. I like, there are games that are extremely
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:23

    open ended, but the last of us, both of the these those games are are quite linear. Yeah. Yeah.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:31

    It’s interesting also that we’re making so much of Joel’s choice and not talking about the way that the show. And I again, I don’t know how the game handles this. Treats Ellie’s choice. Right? Because, I mean, she’s presented with this situation.
  • Speaker 2
    0:38:44

    It’s like, oh, you know, it’s like, there there is no explanation of, like, any consequences for her to her at any point. You know, she’s had this experience in Kansas City where you know, she hopes that her blood is going to be this cure and it’s not. But you know, the the show is much more interested, I think, in Joel’s Choice than in Ellie’s Choice Ron DeSantis. And I think that’s again sort of challenging for the show given that the final moments are supposed to draw their significant emotional power from the sense that her consent may have been isolated in some meaningful way.
  • Speaker 3
    0:39:23

    I think that’s fair. Well, this I would also just say though that I have played the second game as well and the second season is we’re to understand it’s gonna be closely based on the second game. And there will be there will be more focus on Ellie and there will be some consequences. Yeah.
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:40

    I mean, I, like, I I understand the same thing. I haven’t actually played the game, but I I understand the same thing. My my I mean, my my my only problem with that is again, like, fourteen year old child can’t consent to to surgery on her own that involves the removal of major organs, like say, brains, like can’t that that’s just not a thing. So I don’t really have a problem with violating her, you know, her her consent there or even lying to her about it afterward. I, like, I’m I’m okay with the lie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:12

    Like, you lied to children all the time. Oh, I
  • Speaker 2
    0:40:14

    don’t have a problem with it. I don’t have a problem with it either. And I think, like, even in that sense, like, if Ellie had known what was gonna happen and Joel overwrote it, that would have been the correct decision, but the the show is just not that interested in sort of what Ellie understands is going to happen to her versus their reality. And, you know, in in general, that’s not sort of a thru line that the show sort of foreshadows or explores very well, which, again, to me, just kind of dilute some of what it ends up doing?
  • Speaker 1
    0:40:50

    Exit question here. Do we do we think that we are hitting the I feel like we’re hitting an inflection point in terms of video game adaptations. The same inflection point we hit with comic book movies around the time of the, I don’t know, the first Sam Ramey Spider Man, where we’re we’re about to get a bunch of things that are pretty good or at least confident, and we’ll be oversold as, like, genuinely great because we’ve been waiting for, like, a decent adaptation of something from the video game world for so long. And partly, I think that’s unfair because it ignores the great resident evil movies. We, you know, we’ve had good comic book adaptations.
  • Speaker 1
    0:41:29

    But I do like between this, between the last of us being a huge hit, between the Super Mario Bros. Movie, potentially being the highest grossing film of the year, which I think is very much play, judging by some of the tracking numbers we’ve seen. I I really feel like we are we are about to get inundated with video games that you can make real movies out of them. Now, style arguments.
  • Speaker 2
    0:41:53

    I also think it’s interesting I mean, you’re also seeing more pop culture about video games. Right? I mean, we’re seeing, like, mythic quest Sunny and I like quite a bit. You know, Gabriel’s Evans tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, which was one of the big literary hits of last year and is quite good at if either of you have read it yet, but I really enjoyed it. But it’s interesting that, you know, there is this sense that cultural affirmation doesn’t quite arrive until you’ve been adapted into, you know, a truly outstanding movie or television Joe, which says something interesting to me about the place of video games in mass culture even though they’re so ascended arguably sort of the dominant art form.
  • Speaker 2
    0:42:36

    They’re still this kind of lingering need for validation by other media that I find kind of fascinating. Oh,
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:41

    so you mean it’s exactly like comic book and comic comic books and comic book fans then? Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:42:47

    I I I think that that’s a a fair comparison in a lot of ways and what happened with comic books in particular was that you finally had a generation of, you know, creators in their forties or even fifties who had grown up reading comic books, but were themselves pretty smart and sophisticated folks who were able to sort of take those kind of four color, you know, goofy comic book experiences and make them something more. Right? And and figure out ways to adapt them that weren’t just sort of like let that didn’t treat them as kinda as junk. And that’s Craig Mason. And there’s a New Yorker piece about how he ended up working with Neil Druckman on on this on the show and and it was a combined frustration from the two of them, both who are both of whom are, you know, high level storytellers who have been doing you know, who’ve been working for a couple decades at this point.
  • Speaker 3
    0:43:41

    And both of them were, like, it’s like, the people who have adapted video games have, for the most part, not understood, like, what the differences between film and video games and how to and how to make that translation in a way that’s gonna actually produce something that’s that’s quite good. And Craig Mason has at least one more coming up very soon. He is the writer on Eli Roth’s adaptation of Borderlands, which is a great big open world kind of comic shooter game or game franchise. There’s no release date on that yet, but it stars of all people Kate Blanchett. Lydia Tarr is gonna be an Eli Ross, video game adaptation, folks.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:22

    Alright. So what do we think? Thumbs up for thumbs down on the last of us, Peter.
  • Speaker 3
    0:44:25

    It’s very good. Thumbs up.
  • Speaker 2
    0:44:27

    Alyssa, Lukewarm thumbs up?
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:30

    Thumbs up. But I I’m I’m with with a list a little more a little more Lukewarm. It’s it it really did feel a lot like the Walking Dead just kind of slower and also prettier. So, you know. Alright.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:43

    That is it for this week’s show. Make sure to head over to Board plus our bonus episode on Friday, make sure to tell your friends a stronger recommendation from a friend is basically the only way to grow podcast audiences. If you don’t grow, we’ll die. Did not love today’s episode. Please complain to me on Twitter at sunnningham and show them and show that it is.
  • Speaker 1
    0:44:58

    In fact, the best show in Secret Podcast feed. See you guys next week.
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