It’s that time of year again! Time to celebrate the Resurrection with a weeklong plunge into all things zombie! Here’s the history: In 2008, Dr. Girlfriend and I decided to spend a week or so each year marathoning through zombie films that we’d never seen before, and I would blog short reviews. And simple as that, the Easter Zombie Movie Marathon was born.

For the curious, here are links to 20082009 (a bad year), 201020112012 (when we left the blog behind), 20132014201520162017201820192020, 2021 and 2022.

Here there be spoilers!

Episode 7 of The Last of Us was written by the game’s writer and creative director, Neil Druckmann, and it has a different kind of energy than the majority of the series so far, which has mainly been written by Craig Mazin – the creator of the mind-boggling great Chernobyl. Given how fantastic Chernobyl was, I’m gobsmacked as to how weak Mazin’s writing has been. Not bad, but weak.

I think the problem has been that with Chernobyl, Mazin was able to float around the events of the meltdown, providing episodes that shined a light on a variety of different characters from various walks of life, without being saddled with an ongoing narrative that had specific plot points that had to be hit. The Last of Us is only about moving that narrative from one plot point to the next. That’s why, I guess, “Long, Long Time” stands out as so superior to the rest of the series. That’s where Mazin’s writing strengths lie and I wish he were given more freedom to write the stories that he excels at.

The fact that Druckmann stepped in to script this vital piece of Ellie’s backstory says something about his connection to the character and the game as a whole. Druckmann only has two other co-writing credits on the series – the premiere and the finale – so I was very curious to see how this one would turn out.

And it turned out fantastic.

Paying attention to the night when Ellie (Bella Ramsey) realized that she was immune to the infection, which is also the night that she loses the love of her life, Riley (Storm Reid), is genius. It not only allows the story to actually explore what life is like in the QZ, but it also gives some insight into the attitudes about and the conflict between the Fireflies and FEDRA.

Again, we’re mostly just told things rather than seeing them, but at least it’s being done as a means of developing Ellie and Riley as characters, and as friends.

We already knew that something happened in the old, boarded up mall, thanks to dialogue earlier in the series and we already knew that Ellie had lost someone close to her, and we knew that Ellie had shot someone before. We don’t get the shot, here, but we can assume the rest.

Everything about “Left Behind” was just about perfect. The pacing, the cinematography – particularly the way the light played in the mall – the plotting and the building of tension once we see that one of the infected is in the mall, and most importantly, the acting. Ramsey and Reid put on a clinic of nuance and letting body language say the things that they don’t say out loud.

And once their true feelings for each other are revealed, there’s an innocent hopefulness that washes over both of them. The fact that it is almost immediately replaced with fear as they are attacked by a monster is a letdown, but we already knew that there was no happy ending. Nobody gets a happy ending in The Last of Us, from what we’ve seen.

Well, nobody but Graham Greene and Elaine Miles. Where’s that TV show, people? Reservation Dogs in the post-apocalypse? I’d watch that forever.

The best thing that the show does, maybe, is allowing the flashback to serve as motivation for Ellie’s return to a dying Joel (Pedro Pascal). He told her to leave him during the opening of the episode, and she almost did. But the flashback lets us know what happened the last time she couldn’t do anything to save someone she cared about. I don’t know if just sewing up his stab wound will be enough (in reality), but we can see that she’s not going to abandon him.

It was great to slow down a moment and really dig into Ellie as a character, and I wish there was more of that with this show. But with just two episodes left in the season, this story is going to have to pick up the pace to bring some sort of closure.

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