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Here's Why The Last Of Us Is A Head-Scratcher For A Non-Gamer

HBO's "The Last of Us" brings one of the most beloved video games out there in gorgeous and gut-wrenching live-action form. Just four episodes into the series, fans have already lost multiple lovable characters in ways that have ranged from disturbing to strangely heartwarming, and the show's clever additions and flourishes make sure that even fans who know the video games inside out find something new in every episode, and there's no telling what part of the story main characters Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) will have to face next.  

However, there is one problem. The production values and cast of "The Last of Us" are as great as you can hope from a massive HBO Max show. Still, if you aren't familiar with the games and are watching the show as its own thing, a close inspection of "The Last of Us'" gorgeous surface reveals certain cracks that someone who's played the games might be able to mentally fill without even noticing. 

Ellie seems far too happy for someone living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland

In the games, a big part of Ellie's allure is that she's a capable, fully realized person who knows how to enjoy the small things in a post-apocalyptic life that tends to offers precious little in the way of fun. This makes her a perfect foil for the gruff, forlorn Joel, and leaves plenty of room for character development as she, herself, gets to experience more of the terror and unfairness their world is so full of. 

The character's mischievous nature is present in the HBO series, as well. However, while Bella Ramsey's performance is nothing short of amazing, this version of Ellie takes the comedy almost too far — especially if you're unfamiliar with the games, and don't know what an integral part of her character it is. In a show full of serious and shell-shocked characters, Ellie is constantly cracking jokes, messing around and getting into trouble, while dropping more tactically deployed F-bombs than the rest of the cast combined. While the fact that she knows she's immune to the Cordyceps infection no doubt helps her self-assuredness, it's established that she was reckless well before she found out about it. In fact, she got bitten in the first place when she foolhardily explored a dangerous mine.

As Episode 2 shows, Ellie can get serious and scared when there's real danger around. However, her energetic comic relief nature in the majority of her scenes is so distracting that she runs the risk of turning into a Chandler Bing or a — gasp — Jar-Jar Binks if the show doesn't learn to rein her enthusiasm in a little.

Bill and Frank make no sense

There's no shortage of emotional moments in "The Last of Us," but Episode 3 throws a post-apocalyptic curveball at the viewer by forcing the main characters on the backseat, and focusing nigh-exclusively on doomsday prepper Bill (Nick Offerman), who surprisingly finds the love of his life when fellow survivor Frank (Murray Bartlett) stumbles upon his elaborately prepared compound. The two men's surprisingly tender, decades-spanning love story only briefly features Joel, Ellie, and Tess, which can be surprising if you're not familiar with the games.

The video game version of Bill (voiced by W. Earl Brown) and Frank's story is far more tragic and many parts of it are only hinted at, as Frank has already perished when the events of the game take place. However, Bill interacts with Joel and Ellie quite a bit, and is easily one of the first game's most important non-player characters. As such, fans of the game may well find the show's increased focus on Bill and Frank's life fascinating — but if you have no idea who these people are supposed to be, giving these random characters an entire episode so early in the show might seem strange.

Some plot points seem frankly strange

It's not exactly a secret that "The Last of Us" is based on a video game, so it's possible to dive into the show without knowledge of the video game's events, but still be aware of the fact that it is based on a game. Watching the show through those eyes, however, a couple of problems about Joel and Ellie's odyssey emerge. 

The way Marlene (Merle Dandridge) entrusts Joel with getting Ellie to safety makes some sense in the game, as she knows full well that Joel and Tess (Anna Torv) are the best smugglers around. However, the series version of the Firefly leader is incredibly distrustful of Joel, and only sends Ellie with him because Marlene herself is too wounded to travel ... despite the fact that she has a presumably capable and combat-ready Firefly underling (Natasha Mumba) with a much less grievous injury right there by her side. From this point of view, the scene basically just happens because the plot requires it. 

Likewise, when it comes apparent that Joel and Ellie must travel together, they walk and drive on open roads without a worry in the world. What's more, it's implied that Joel has made several such trips before. Since the world seems to be fairly full of Infected, raiders, and totalitarian government forces, why isn't there a single checkpoint, ambush, or a group of wandering Infected out there? 

Even if you're not familiar with the game, The Last of Us is not a lost cause

Despite the many ways "The Last of Us" might cause a non-gamer's eyebrows to raise, it's worth noting that the show's still at the early stages, and it has the chance to turn many of these strange things to strengths. When you combine Bill and Frank's largely standalone episode with the flashbacks that tease the impeding arrival of the Cordyceps apocalypse, it seems that the series may simply be using a narrative device that takes the action away from Joel and Ellie every once in a while to expand the scope. 

Likewise, people shouldn't get too annoyed about Ellie's happy-go-lucky characterization. Without going into spoilers for people who haven't played both "The Last of Us" games and the "Left Behind" DLC, she's very much in the beginning of her arc, and Ramsay will get to display her full range and then some before long. As fans of the game already know, even the open road and beautiful scenery is simply a calm before the many, many, many storms the main characters will have to endure as they encounter different factions. 

If you're going in cold, "The Last of Us" is telling its story for the first time, and it takes a while for everything to unfold. Based on the first few episodes, the ride should be worthwhile — but don't be surprised if the show continues to deliver the occasional headscratcher for non-gamers as it builds its world and sprawling story.