I’m not a gamer, so watching The Last of Us on TV is a real test. Have they really made a good series out of this title, or are all the positive reviews filtering the perceptions of people who loved the game? Actually, I am quite enjoying it. I do think they were trying a little too hard to tug at my heartstrings with the much-praised third episode, and I think the cast is a little bit too boy-heavy. You see Anna Torv, and you think, oh, cool, but then: oh.
The action sequences do feel very game-like. That sense of having to do this and this and go here and here and the onrushing, neverending, hard-to-kill fungus people. Hard to kill, but also easy to kill. And if they were always that easy to kill, why are there still so many of them after 20 years? Questions like that. Plot logic! And how are they nourished?
They’ve hand-waved the petrol problem (unconvincingly – and that goes too for the gasoline fire in episode 5), but what about the bullets? Everybody seems to have loads of ammo still, after 20 years. Who’s making all the bullets? In my own half-finished post-apocalypse writing, I wrestled with the petrol problem especially. Of course, if Americans weren’t so anti-diesel, they could have written-in some bio-diesel operation, be turning vegetable oil into fuel. As to the gasoline they presumably are using, well.
I guess these are the kind of questions you don’t ask when you’re playing a computer game. Which is not to say this TV show is terrible – it is quite good. One thing I always think of with stuff like this: it’s good, and there’s a decent storyline, and per-episode storyline; there’s no shortage of creativity in the television industry. So why can’t anyone write a decent Doctor Who storyline? The eternal question.
But most of all, and the title to this blog post is the giveaway, like too many contemporary TV shows, The Last of Us is dark. Dark, dark, dark. It’s a puzzle right up there with the why-can’t-they-write-a-decent-Doctor-Who-storyline question: why does everything have to be so fucking dark? Perhaps they save money on costumes and CGI.
Also dark, and a couple of years old now, is Raised by Wolves, which I finally got around to finishing. I watched season 1 when it was first on, thought it was all right, but then I only just caught up with season 2. Five minutes of the first episode and I knew I didn’t remember anything, so I had to rewatch season 1 in its entirety before picking up season 2 again. Also dark.
This is partly because we’re supposed to be on an alien planet under an alien sun. Well, Kim Stanley Robinson would have a lot to say about the chances of human life from this earth surviving on a planet with completely the wrong kind of light. Nevertheless, they persisted.
Raised by Wolves has any number of plot logic issues, but mainly it is just too dark. Cancelled, too, so I doubt I’m heading towards a proper ending. It’s already showing signs of a lost cause. People being captured and escaping over and over again, and surviving in the wilderness on what? Using what for food and water? Which is not to mention being killed but not killed killed, if you know what I mean.
Most of all, I’m put in mind of a terrible Nicolas Cage film from a few years ago, Know1ng. In this film, something something apocalypse, but some children hear whispering and are rescued by space aliens with arks, and they end up on a new planet with a Tree of Life. Their parents can’t go with them because they don’t hear the whispering (hopelessly cleaved to the old ways). The strong suspicion is: this film was made by scientologists. Dump your parents, kids!
It’s like when you watch Battlestar Galactica for the second time. The first time, you were gripped by the production design and the tense scenes and the great acting and the who-is-really-a-robot plotlines. The second time, you notice all the religion (in this case Mormonism). With Raised by Wolves there are arks, and children who have left their parents, and people who hear whispering, and – oh look – a Tree of Life. There’s also a little bit of the who-is-the-real-robot theme. Humans can be programmed and reprogrammed, just like us robots. And, oh fuck, it’s dianetics, isn’t it?
What I don’t know is, was this meant to be propaganda for the tax-dodging NRM, or is it just lazy screenwriting, in search of a mythology. I mean, I know they got a lot of it from the Roman Mithraic cult, but c’mon. The Romans didn’t talk about overwriting your programming, did they?
Anyway, it’s too fucking dark, is what I’m saying.