In hindsight, HBO’s opinion on the The last of us was going to end with one of the best moments of the source material. Back episode threeJoel and Ellie find an extinct Mortal Kombat II arcade, prompting the young woman to excitedly tell her grumpy guardian about Mileena’s iconic fatality, in which she eats her enemy and vomits up his bones. In the game, it’s a fictional arcade game called The turn she talks about Joel, and for those of us familiar with the game and its DLC chapter, Left backthis served as a very strong indication that The turnHBO’s iconic moment in adapting that DLC would also be changed. Sure enough, it was. While the feeling is still fun, the use of Mortal combat instead of The turn both exude corporate synergy between PlayStation Productions and Warner Bros. Discovery and miss a moment of tragic wonder that was a standout segment in the original. Left back DLC.
The last of us games are filled with in-universe media. As Joel and Ellie traverse Naughty Dog’s version of a post-apocalyptic America, the two frequently come across remnants of the world before the cordyceps fungus destroyed polite society and talk about them in quite extensive detail. Wild Starlighta series of comics that works as a collectible in The Last of Us Part I, is a personal favorite of Ellie’s. It is a science fiction series that follows a character named Dr. Daniela Star who lives adventures across the galaxy. By collecting these comics throughout the game, you get bits of the story in the blurbs at the end of each volume, but their real value is in the way they expand on Ellie’s character in both games. She develops a fascination with space and wishes she could have been an astronaut in a world unscathed by an infection, and Dr. Star from “to the edge of the universe and back, resist and survive” is a thematic touchstone.
In another moment, Joel and Ellie find an advertisement for a movie called dawn of the wolf is clearly a tribute to Twilight series, which Joel mentions seeing with his daughter Sarah shortly before the outbreak. Both Wild Starlight It is dawn of the wolf make appearances in the show’s seventh episode, which act as knowing nods to longtime fans and talking points about how characters like Ellie and her best friend and first love Riley, who were born after the apocalypse, lack much cultural context for what the world was like before.
However, the show also incorporates a few more real-world brands to illustrate these concepts. During Ellie and Riley’s mall date in episode seven, they walk by a Victoria’s Secret and comment on how ridiculous and impractical lingerie looks in a world where they live in military boarding schools and leave to join revolutionary groups like the Fireflies. It’s a good scene, and it allows Ellie and Riley to have a little banter as they continue to explore the abandoned mall, but it also highlights the reality that TV shows are more likely than games to make product placement deals with real brands, resulting in a divergence from the source material in an episode that reproduces its adaptation in a pretty straightforward way (heh).
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But while the Victoria’s Secret scene is yet another fleeting moment added to the original Left back story, one of the show’s biggest divergences from gambling in this episode occurs when Ellie and Riley go to an arcade on the top floor of the mall. When they arrive, Riley opens a chip machine, so the girls can play some of those games that no one has been able to play in decades. That includes Mortal Kombat IIand while Riley teaches Ellie quite a bit early on, we see our girl bounce back and win a match at the end.
In a vacuum, the scene is very cute. We love a comeback story, and Ellie is clearly a quick study in a stick fight. But, in contrast to the original game scene, something is missing. Due to some key differences in how this scene plays out, it serves as a most poignant case study in how much of humanity’s culture, art, and tradition has been lost, and how people who were born after the outbreak could only imagine what these things are. happened. things were like.
instead of playing Mortal Kombat II in the game, Ellie and Riley find an unusable arcade cabinet for a fighting game called The turn. At first Ellie is upset that she can’t play, but Riley tells her that she still can, she just needs to close her eyes and listen to her narration. The camera zooms in on Ellie’s face as she closes her eyes and hears Riley retell a fight between characters named Angel Knives and Blackfang, with the player making fighting game entries that evoke real-world fighting games like Street Fighter and yes, same Mortal combat, as it ends with a fatality-style finisher complete with complicated button prompts. While Ellie imagines the fight, the light from the game screen illuminates her face and we hear what she thinks the fight would be like. Despite the fact that she has never played video games before, the recreation in her mind, reinforced by Riley’s descriptions, seems pretty accurate. But after Ellie wins the imaginary battle, the two must return to the real world, where they can’t play a real match. The turn.
Left back it’s full of these kinds of moments where Ellie and Riley are walking through stores in the mall where they’re not quite sure what the practical use of the merchandise they’re playing with would be. The show combines two scenes from the game together, having Ellie and Riley dance in game-accurate Halloween masks just before things start to go bad for the pair, but in the game, the girls spend an extended period choosing a Halloween store and wondering why people were buying masks of scary clowns and ferocious werewolves. This is a reason throughout the series of younger characters wondering what the world was like before the outbreak, only able to imagine what it would be like to live in a place where an infection didn’t destroy everything. Around them. That’s why Ellie imagining playing The turn hits differently than watching her actually play Mortal combat.
But even outside of the world-building and thematic color that the original scene brings, the use of Mortal combat specifically, it looks like corporate shit that doesn’t sit well with me. Mortal combat is owned by Warner Bros. and HBO Max is a streaming service owned by Warner Bros. The next game in the series was unceremoniously announced during an earnings call on Thursday, and now you’ve put the fighting game series in front of millions of people to pique their interest. It is convenient that The last of us would have a scene that Warner Bros. could easily turn into a bit of product placement, and while it’s a fun reference for much of the audience who will have their own memories of playing it Mortal combat in an arcade to draw while watching Ellie and Riley bond during the game, it feels like it pushes what made the original arcade scene great to the sidelines for a little cheap promotion.
We’re almost done The last of us‘ first season, and while the show has been pretty consistent in quality, it’s been dealing with a lot of back and forth between be faithful to the source material and come up with new ideas. if the changes are big or small, I found myself examining the show through this lens and theorizing about why each change was made. Some feel determined, like having what feels like a dina cameo in the Jackson segment as a way to plant seeds for second seasonor completely reinventing the story of bill and frank to lead more directly to the questions the show will ask at its end. Others felt petty, like the changes to Tess’ final scene in episode two. But that? He just turns one of the Left backyour best moments in an ad. At the very least, when Joel tries to give Ellie a similar museum experience in Season 2, it will likely feel that much more special to viewers and to Ellie.