Jan 25Liked by Justin Myers

I think you might have made a mistake in posting this article before watching the second episode - especially when it came out in the UK on Monday, and you've only just posted this. Joel and Ellie's character development is very much at the hart of the show, and there ain't much time for that in the first hour. I don't think I'm going to be alone in my opinion. Apparently the first episode is the worst in the series. There's a scene in the second episode that had me absolutely frozen by how tense it was. If you fear you'll never go near a chanterelle again now, you have no idea what's coming.

I thought your review was really funny, and I enjoyed seeing some balance since everyone else is talking about it as if it's the best thing since sliced bread. RE fungus, apparently the idea of cordyceps infecting humans is possible, but not plausible since there's no way it could evolve to infect humans this quickly (which the creators have acknowledged). Still, as far as I'm aware it's the most plausible 'zombie' show ever made.

Ellie is a fantastic character, and totally goes against the trope of 'lackadaisical youth who follows instructions like a clumsy child with ADHD'. In fact, in the second episode it's Joel who doesn't follow his own advice, and she does everything right. She's adequately scared, and reads like a very lonely, traumatised child who grew up too young and actually respects others to the best of her abilities. I've read countless reviews from viewers who aren't gamers who were left with the impression that it didn't seem like an adaptation of a game at all (I actually only just completed the two games recently because I only just got a PS4). I think the acting is extremely impressive, and certainly knocks the socks off 99% of the actors in The Walking Dead. They seem as good as Rick and Michonne, if not better.

I think Joel's 'motivation' isn't clear because it isn't really to him either. He has PTSD, and is pretty much just surviving, though wanting to get to his brother too. He's had people ripped away from him chaotically, and wants to get to the only person who existed with him in a time before the mushroom people took over. In a way, getting back to Tommy is getting back to himself, before he was utterly changed by grief. There's a thread between them, which tugs at Joel. It's important to note the scene in the first half of the episode that had Tommy pleading to Joel to help a family with a child, and Joel chose to drive on. It seems like Tommy was Joel's better self, and he wants that back. Joel is separated from Tommy because they had a difference of opinion (in the games it's clear that they left things extremely sourly, which is different from the show) because Tommy hasn't been through the same grief that Joel has.

Ellie is a lot more than 'plucky'. A lot more. She's basically scared of people and tries to act older because she's a 14-year-old surviving around dreadful people (even Joel and Tess are morally questionable people, or at least were). We have few 'love interests' because the story isn't about romance, for once. And Marlene and Ellie's relationship is rushed because there isn't time for it to be anything but urgent.

I'm not saying you do, but en bulk journalists hate video games. There's tremendous snobbery because the last game they played was Crash Bandicooot, and they're basically ignorant about a whole art form, and have bought into the media's hatred of them whether they realise it nor not. That resentment goes back decades. There have been years of scared Americans (and Europeans too, to be fair, but there's more evangelical Christianity in the USA) wondering if their children express an interest in little more than glue because their children played GTA, and they don't like that their they don't talk to them because they're basically dull, or treat them with suspicion. Nothing like making your kid feel like an outsider to make them engage with substances or exhibit antisocial behaviour. And so, it always made a great news story to say that video games screwed up 'traditional' values, because it's easier to make claims like that than to try to understand the problems with society and their own parenting. This seems like a massive digression, but it's important to remember all this when reading coverage about video games when people don't actually play them themselves. So gaming either gets criticised, or mostly scoffed at. Again, I'm not saying you do that.

As I said above, Joel and Ellie's character development is very much at the heart of the show, and is what makes it so interesting and refreshing. They are individuals - it isn't just a story about a substitute parent. They don't just fall into roles. So much will happen over the next 9 episodes. In a way, I think that people who don't game feel left out, because there's such a rich vein of experience and art in playing certain games that they simply haven't been able to tap into. And by now, it feels quite daunting to pick up a controller. I even get this feeling myself as a gamer. Recently I tried to play God of War, since everyone talks about it being the best game ever, etc etc. I enjoyed the cutscenes (film-like, unplayable sequences), but as soon as it got to the gameplay I was absolutely rubbish. It made me feel quite left out. It feels like wanting to write but not having a pen. But there are also a LOT of crap games with a lot of predictable, boring tropes, just like any form of media/art.

The show has definitely, definitely made me look at mushrooms differently. If you watch the second episode there's one scene in particular that will probably make you feel a little ill. Again, I do really think you should have watched the second episode before posting this article, and please do. Sorry to have gone off on one. Like I said, I did really enjoy your article, but you have a treat in store. As you do if you decide to approach video games. I recommend getting the first Walking Dead game on a tablet - it should introduce you to the concept of engaging with a video game story (it's basically like a film, but you tap buttons to choose your dialogue and it impacts your story, which can be hilarious if you choose to be a jerk). But I dare you not to cry at the end. I was an absolute state, and so was everyone I've played it with or talked about it with.

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