The final installment of the HBO Series The Last of Us aired last night. Recall this series is based on a video game of the same name. There are two primary characters: Joel, the protector, and Ellie, the 14 year old allegedly immune to the fungus turning people into zombies. They’d spent eight previous episodes enduring all manner of misery in order to reach Salt Lake City and the ‘fireflies’ who can use something in Ellie to create a vaccine. At least that was the story they believed.
But alas, that wasn’t the entire story. For humanity to live, Ellie must die – via brain surgery. Oh, and there are no guarantees that this can save humanity. “The Surgeon thinks” this might work. Well, that’s not good enough for Joel the protector. He says ‘no dice’, then proceeds to shoot everyone who stands between him and Ellie, his substitute daughter. Perfectly logical reaction, right?
OK, first the overtones. Salt Lake City – Mormon Central, that sect not known for lionizing women. Ellie, the Christ-like sacrificial lamb. Not a 33 year old Nazarene this time: a 14 year old girl is the savior of humanity. Through flashback, we get a glimpse of why Ellie is immune. Just after her birth, Ellie’s mother is bitten by a zombie. She cuts the umbilical cord and the idea is the fungus is in the newborn’s brain, and somehow that makes her ‘one of them’ without being ‘one of them’. Yeah, whatever.
The NY Times reviewer for this episode included a link to a review of the video game from ten years ago. A guy named Chris Suellentrop wrote about its shortcomings and the industry as a whole back then. Apparently it was difficult for the player to assume the role of Ellie for much of The Last of Us. Another link to a 2014 review suggests that episode 7 of the HBO series was a subsequent, separate game. Finally, the review of The Last of Us Part II makes it clear that the HBO series ends with that game’s beginning. Before Joel dies. At the hands of a vengeful woman called Abby. But undoubtedly that’s the stuff of the second series which HBO has already approved.
There is so much to be said about it all, but the episode that really got me wasn’t this final one, it was its predecessor, Episode 8. That was the first time we saw Ellie as something very different: a killer. She was a kid before meeting a cult-like leader who also happened to rationalize and indulge in cannibalism. Normal kind of behavior right? It was inevitable in this landscape. That changed her virtually overnight; she effectively grew up because of her exposure to this man and his followers. Sounds very similar to my plot in the first five books of Suffer the Children. But oh man was I ever naïve in writing that series. There’s this whole world out there – the video game world, its players, reviewers – a virtual industry previously unknown to me. It pushes the limits of everything that is terrifying and hopeless. I’m not entire sure I want to know more about it. Emily and I discussed what I perceive to be a nihilistic bent for her generation. But when we watched Episode 9 together, even she said it was, in her words, ‘really dark’. These are, indeed, times of transition for all of us. We should all just hold onto our hats..it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.
New topic: the recent failure of several banks, some affiliated with crypto, others primary money suppliers to startups. All ‘iffy’ banks. Silicon Valley (SVB) and Signature Bank both went under in the last few days, the result of bad managerial anticipation of the impact of interest rate hikes and skittish depositors. Over the weekend, the Fed tried to find a buyer for SVB with only partial success. The answer? Make all depositors whole, using an alleged ‘one year’ loan to staunch the outflow of cash. Will that be sufficient? According to Marketwatch, there are nine other ‘iffy’ banks out there. If you were a depositor at any one of those, would you leave your money in? Not likely. There will undoubtedly be more fallout to come. Stay tuned, and I’ll write more as it manifests itself.
It’s a fascinating world we live in, eh? Tomorrow we’ll talk about the Saudis making nice with the Iranians and what MBS wants from the US in exchange for God knows what. Can you say nook you lar? George W. Bush did, once upon a time. Later!