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Sunday, February 19, 2023

[The Last of SQUAWKS: E5] Endure and Survive |The Last Of Us

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The second half of The Kansas City post-revolution drama unfolds to plug-in the missing gaps in the first half. In doing so, the audience is confronted with the question that plagues all characters: how far are you willing to go to save the ones you love?
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David Cameo:
Rachael Burt:
Sherrandy Swift:

  • Along with being a well thought-out and executed show, it doesn't hurt that we're not having to consistently follow as many character storylines - mainly because, predominantly, new characters almost immediately die not too long after they're introduced.
  • Focusing on our main protagonists' story arc allows us to appreciate the major contributions other characters deliver to support it: Both Henry Burrell & Kathleen show us the good, the bad, and the ugly of what it means to sacrifice everything and everyone for one person.
  • They're both bad guys doing bad guy things. Sherrandy compares this to what's often said in Station Eleven (both the book and TV Series on HBO Max), To the monsters, we're the monster.
  • But going back to Kathleen, had Henry not informed on her brother, Michael, the Kansas City revolutionaries would not have overthrown FEDRA; however, as monsters beating the monster, they did worse things to FEDRA soldiers and collaborators than FEDRA ever did to them. Had Michael lived, maybe they could've reached a peaceful transition of power?
  • The Chucky-esque contortionist little-girl clicker that went after Ellie Williams and ultimately takes down Kathleen is played by Skye Cowton.
  • Walking Dead Eternal compares the bloater at the end to The Hulk, but we think it looks more like Thing from Fantastic 4.
  • Speaking of, for so many who complained about the lack of infected these last few episodes...
    ...also The Mummy was played by Arnold Vosloo, comparing the infected emerging from the ground to when The Mummy has his arms outstretched and unleashes the sandstorm.
  • You'd think Rachael would be used to seeing characters she cared about be taken away from us too soon, based on our experience watching The Walking Dead Universe. Then we find out, she means Perry, then we're super confused because - as you may or may not know/understand - Rachael is into the unavailable/dead type. And speaking of Perry, what a way to go...
  • Yeah, yeah, and Rachael also mentions Sam & Henry, but more on Henry's end of things: totally out of his mind with grief over having to put down his infected brother, whom he fought so hard to save. Dave compares Henry's love for both Sam & Michael to Joel Miller doing everything he could to protect his brother, Tommy Miller, and Ellie.
  • Sherrandy says the theme of this episode is futility: everyone fought so hard to save Sam and it was all for nothing, which was similar to how Rick Grimes fought so hard to protect Carl Grimes, but he died, anyway.
  • It does lead us to Kathleen's comment about it being Sam's fate to die, which ultimately makes her right. It's sort of amazing - yet ultimately unsurprising (given the revolutionaries' monstrous behavior) - how Kathleen doesn't need to convince everyone around her to drop everything for days to hunt down The Burrell brothers to avenge her own brother. It's almost Macbethian. It also makes her death, by way of infected child, poetic.
  • After the audience cheers on the fact that they didn't see the infected coming, it allows us to talk about the caught-on-set photos from the Daryl Dixon spin-off, Raise the (Walking) Dead. Most people don't want to see them because it has that spoiler twinge and dulls the (movie?) magic, but for those who do, follow this fella:
  • But if you want actual production stills from the spin-off:
  • Takeerah says after all this time evading the monster, in the end Henry has to put down his brother who turned into a monster. Sherrandy uses this opportunity to remind us when Joel warned Ellie how people won't hesitate shooting her if they see her pseudo-infected arm.
  • Rachael feels that had Sam presented his infection to Henry, initially, he might not have shot so quickly: but Joel would have, which is probably why Henry fires a few warning shots at him amidst Infected Sam's attack on Ellie. Reminds us of Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kublek's admission to her daughter, Jennifer "Huck" Mallick: if anyone is going to be the one to punish you, it's going to be me [not verbatim].
  • After selling out Michael - whom he admired and trusted - to save Sam's life, Henry was not about to let Joel be the one to take out his infected brother Sam after everything he's done for them.
  • We flip back to the Daryl Dixon spinoff and how we're already hearing unsubstantiated rumors that Melissa McBride will be in the 2nd season. This might've been a result of something Angela Kang had said semi-recently about her story continuing on in TWDU.
  • For those who criticized Melanie Lynskey's portrayal of Kathleen in the last episode, this episode was vindicating. She was told to imagine what it must be like to be Jesus' sister, then having to take the mantle after he disappears. You can read more about that, here:
  • Sherrandy says that Melanie's performance of Kathleen was typical of someone who was unsure of herself, being suddenly thrust into a leadership position. Dave slightly disagrees: she placed herself into the eye of the hurricane and was absolutely certain of every decision she made - not because she had to be sure (or else Michael's death was all for nothing), but because she was certain she was the perfect monster to defeat the monsters.
  • Taking a step back from Kathleen's shadow, we look to the lighthearted, unexpectedly humorous lines she had throughout both episodes: this series does such a great job of injecting the right amount of humor in the most tense situations, not too dissimilar from the Blair/Gina episode of Tales of The Walking Dead.
  • Rachael continues this thread by way of her physical acting when Kathleen is found in her childhood bedroom. We take a moment to talk about what that must've felt for her: being back "home", but never being able to come home. Sherrandy uses this as a spring board to describe Kathleen's path to the dark side: fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. Or Michonne, Anger makes you stupid, stupid gets you killed.
  • Thomas regales us with punny jokes.
  • Rachael wonders what the age difference is between Kathleen and Michael. Regardless, it seems like Kathleen would've been in at least her early 20s during the fall: she probably had to grow up real quick - not too dissimilar from having to conduct a revolution so suddenly.
  • Sherrandy discusses what and who (Adam Basile, who was also in Game of Thrones) went into the bloater suit, why it weighed so much, and the jelly they had to coat it in to make it shine in the firelight. You can read more about that, here:
  • As we talk about what the bloater looks like (a nuclear irradiated Groot) and why it's strength is enhanced (mycelial strands wrapped around muscle tissue and mushroom armor), we take a minute to discuss the difference between real-life cordyceps and their possible behavior on the show (compared to the game): the difference between hijacking the brain and the muscles.

    I hate people who say “actuallyπŸ€“”… but cmon this is cray

    ♬ original sound - Your Best Casey-nario
  • This horrifying fact takes us back to the Danny and Ish: Our Protectors storyline in the games and how it connects to the TV Series. It's a foil for this episode: destroying it all for one, versus ones who sacrifice themselves for all. The bottom line is that the infected Ish and Susan seal in their safe haven are the same infected that suddenly burst out of the ground after the truck - that had been previously chasing down Ellie and The Burrells - sinks into the ground. You can read more about that, here:
  • Had the show not initially framed it properly so that we side with Henry & Sam, we might've sided with Kathleen: Henry did sign Matthew's literal death warrant and her desire for satisfaction is something we'd all sympathize with. At many points along the way, Kathleen and her compatriots-at-the-ready shirk (not only their humanity, but) everything (else) - including the freedom the fought so hard to achieve - to destroy children who just wanted a chance at living. This activates our disgust sensitivity which causes us to reject any sympathy we might have.
    @t3medias The Last of Us debate. Was Kathleen right or wrong? #thelastofus #podcast #t3mediastudios ♬ original sound - T3Media Studios
  • Sherrandy compares the different ways each of these main characters can't move on from their grief: Kathleen's vengeance overtakes the need to establish order, Henry kills himself after he's forced to put down his infected brother, and Joel is only now starting to live and find purpose after 20 years since his daughter, Sarah Miller, was brutally gunned down by a soldier. All of this serves as a cautionary tale for Joel, in so many ways, since he's the only one of the three who survives.
  • This brings us to the revelation of Ellie's fear of being alone and the way she behaves towards Joel at the very end of the episode: why attach yourself to this old guy whose days are numbered and just wants to get rid of you? This is especially heartbreaking after her earnest, yet predictably futile attempt at saving Sam after discovering he had been bitten. At least she offered him some form of comfort at the end.
  • We take a moment to discuss the stages of infected, after going through the pity-party of what an infected Sam would look like had he not been put down. This video does a great job of summarizing the different stages:
  • Sherrandy goes through this to reveal the backstory the show gave Theresa "Tess" Servopoulos: Her husband and son become infected after the outbreak and though she is able to put down her husband, she can't seem to end the life of her infected son and, instead, seals him behind a door. After 20 years, her son most likely reached the bloater stage of infection.
  • We take a brief moment to mourn the loss of the actor who played Tess in the video game, Annie Wersching, who tragically had her life cut short at the age of 45. She had received a cancer diagnosis in 2020 and, on top of her performance in the video games, she was also in The Rookie and Star Trek: Picard.
  • We enjoyed both Sam & Ellie getting a chance at playing and being kids. It's interesting to note the way Ellie's development is marked by those she's lost along the way (Tess & Sam) and what they wanted for her (to save the world, but also play). Given her stoic behavior at the end of the episode, we are concerned over what further deaths will mark her development. Tommy?
  • On the note of saving the world, is the cost of losing a beautiful soul worth saving an inhumane humanity? After seeing the beastly behavior of those who blew-up a system of government that at least pretended to have a system of juris prudence, we're not sure. It really screws up what we thought was the obvious answer to The Trolly Problem. Rachael has a hard time answering this problem even if it means removing her son's pinky: the things we do for the ones we love.
  • We compare Dr. Edelman - a collaborator Kathleen shoots in the prior episode - to the story of Anne Frank, after we see him giving The Burrell Brothers shelter in the attic of a multi-unit dwelling during the 11 day flashback. It also draws a dark comparison to the abhorrent lengths both the Nazis and Kathleen was willing to go to hunt down collaborators and extrajudicially kill them. Here's the podcast - Anne Frank's Life After Her Arrest - Sherrandy referenced:
  • The title of this episode is derived from the Savage Starlight (fabricated) comic book, where the title character/protagonist cites the catch-phrase, to the edge of the universe and back, endure and survive. But is life just about enduring survival? Seems redundant... it's not great, is it?
  • Seeing Joel & Henry laugh in this moment of levity got us to see them bonding as (not quite) fathers. Ellie's act of vulnerability & kindness towards the end of Sam's life made him feel that he wasn't alone in being afraid all the time. This takes us right to the end of the episode again, upon Ellie's failure in saving Sam, distancing herself from Joel the way he's been distancing himself from her this whole time.
  • One day, we'll get Sherrandy & Thomas to rock Joke Boat (Jackbox Games) for charity.
  • There were many shot-for-shot moments in the game: in particular, the sniper in the mansion after they finally emerge from the tunnels under the city. We appreciated the ways in which they departed from the video games: turning the vulgar sniper into a quiet old man who happens to work for the resistance. Joel making his way there (much like the video game) and bumping into him offered some a slightly humorous moment that had a dark foreshadowing and relatable undertone to it.
  • This all reminds us that, rather than establishing law & order and a system of truth & reconciliation, everyone in the resistance cast their lot in Kathleen's quest for vengeance, no questions asked. Undoubtedly, this probably lead to the demise of untold innocent people. Even Nazis received a trial to assuage citizens of the world that justice, not revenge, was the order of a new day.

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