Hey! Hallie here!
Every time I think I might put off a review for this series, it winds up giving me an amazing episode that I want to talk about as soon as possible. This episode was no exception. While it isn’t exactly action heavy, it has some of the moments I was most anticipating from the game. Beyond that, it also has some of the best character work I’ve seen from this series so far. It cuts almost seamlessly between scenes exactly from the game and entirely new segments that add much needed depth to the characters. This was one of those episodes where the story, while staying true to the game, deviated from it in a lot of major ways. And as usual, the changes not only fit the narrative, but improved it. This was an excellent episode and I can’t wait to talk about it, so SPOILERS AHEAD! Let’s get to the review!
Joel: The main thing that hooked me in this episode was the changes made to Joel. At this point in the story Joel is much different in the video game than he is in the series. In the game he refuses to talk about Henry and Sam even when Ellie asks to talk through the trauma. In the series he acknowledges that what they both witnessed is much more likely to have a negative impact on a young girl. That selflessness, and his softness towards Ellie as a result, really helps sell Joel as a father and as a sympathetic character. We also have a major change to Joel’s motivations when he runs into Tommy. In the game he’s eager to shove Ellie off on Tommy. He almost immediately reveals to him that Ellie’s immune, and is somewhat manipulative in his attempts to get Tommy to take Ellie to the Fireflies. This is because, after so much tragedy, in the game Joel turns back to apathy. He tries to emotionally disconnect from everything and put it behind him. The series does so much more to make us actually understand where Joel is coming from, and part of that is changing that entire motivation. In the series his closeness to Ellie has brought up memories of his daughter Sarah. He has nightmares of failing to keep Ellie safe, believes he sees Sarah everywhere he looks, and is now suffering from panic attacks. When he first comes across Tommy and his group he’s terrified for Ellie. When they bring out a dog to sniff out whether the two are infected, Joel is visibly frightened, more so than we’ve ever seen him before. Joel only reveals the truth of Ellie’s condition to Tommy after his panic attacks worsen, at which point he breaks down in tears over his fear that he won’t be able to protect Ellie. I felt so much for Joel that I cried with him. These changes made a huge difference for me. I honestly don’t think Joel has ever been more sympathetic of a character thanks to both the writing and Pedro Pascal’s heart-wrenching acting.
Ellie: It’s easy to get used to Ellie being the source of sunshine and happiness in the game. You kind of need it with the general grumpiness of Joel. But because of that, Ellie doesn’t really get to experience many of her own personal lows until later on in the story. I was happy to see that the show decided to give her more emotional exploration. Not only is her trauma related to Henry and Sam more fully explored, but we now have an extra element of Ellie’s character that promises to be interesting. Because the show had Ellie learn of Sam’s infection and attempt to cure him with her blood before he turned, Ellie’s now having doubts. She didn’t succeed at curing one person with her blood and now she’s skeptical that anyone would be able to use her blood to create a cure. All of this is a great way of showing that Ellie has her own problems and concerns. Which transitions seamlessly into the infamous argument between Ellie and Joel. Ellie wants to keep going but she’s tired of losing people. Joel’s so tired of losing people that he doesn’t trust himself to keep going. Ellie accuses Joel of wanting to get rid of her the minute he took the job and reminds him that she’s also suffered with loss. Joel becomes angered when Ellie brings up Sarah and stands firm on his belief that Tommy would be able to better protect Ellie. The argument is even more excellently crafted in the series than it was in the game though the scene is exactly the same. The pure genius in adding more depth to these characters to add even more gravity to these moments is unparalleled in any adaptation I’ve ever seen.
Tommy and Maria: I wouldn’t say either of these characters took any particular spotlight in this episode, but I do think the series did them justice. I think it’s an interesting choice to have Tommy not leave Joel after a blow-up argument, but instead stumble on a place to settle down and decide that he would rather stick around than go back to Joel. On the one hand it’s a bit messed up. While he explains that the town he and Maria are part of avoid the use of radios to keep their location secretive, it’s still hard to fully agree with him leaving Joel to wonder if he was even still alive. On the other hand, they do add on an extra attachment for Tommy. Maria’s pregnant. In the game the fact that Tommy’s married to Maria is the only big reveal. This time Tommy’s grappling with what it means to be a father-to-be, which is something that sets off Joel’s trauma even more as he continues to struggle with Sarah’s death. Other than this, they don’t give us a whole lot of new information on Tommy and Maria. Instead of running this safe haven they seem a bit more like they’re part of a community, which makes the town feel somehow safer than it did in the game. We also learn of Maria’s child, who she lost at the beginning of the outbreak. But these small details only serve as background to the dramatic moments we get between Ellie and Joel, as enjoyable as they are.
The Native Couple: We only got these two for a scene towards the beginning, where Joel and Ellie hold them at gunpoint in order to get some supplies and directions. But damn did they make an impression. This scene was probably the most hilarious scene in the entire series. This old couple were complete badasses who barely even blinked at the guns and had no problem making sure Joel and Ellie could continue their trip. I couldn’t help but laugh at the old woman’s amusement over Joel and Ellie’s attempts to appear intimidating. I don’t know who these characters are, but I love them.
Joel and Ellie’s Relationship: I love how their relationship is developing. That said, we’re already most of the way through this series and I feel like Joel and Ellie are still getting used to each other. In the game it’s an easy fix. Throughout all the hours and hours of gameplay there’s constant Joel and Ellie banter, and even if there wasn’t, you as Joel feel closer to Ellie because she’s your only companion through the scary and more difficult parts of the game. That connection isn’t something you can easily recreate in a series and it has to be done in a completely different way. I don’t think what they’ve done so far has completely failed at recreating that connection, but it certainly isn’t as strong as it was in the game. At least not yet. The argument between Joel and Ellie in this episode for example, while excellent, lacked a little bit of its bite. Specifically at the moment where Joel coldly tells Ellie he isn’t her dad. In the game that feels harsher, because at that point you feel like he already is her dad. In the show, he doesn’t feel like that yet. He’s getting there. But he’s not there yet. It’s a small gripe, but I hope that by the end of the series I feel like their relationship is as close as it was in the game.
And that’s it for now! Next episode is Ellie on her own. We’re going to get her backstory with Riley next, which makes sense given the fact that the DLC that revealed that storyline took place while Ellie was attempting to care for an injured and unconscious Joel. But that means we’re also probably getting David next episode. The David storyline really solidifies how much Joel cares for Ellie, and is unfortunately the most traumatic moment for Ellie in the entire story. I’m both excited and terrified to see how it all plays out. But for now, this episode was amazing and I’m sad we’re most of the way through the series now!
Don’t do anything fun until I get back!