"The Last of Us," both the game and the show, has always been slightly more realistic than most zombie apocalypse stories. Okay, admittedly that's not saying much — everything about the outbreak in "The Walking Dead" makes zero sense, for one thing — but every once in a while, you do have to give the show props for some attention to detail.
Not only is the show's premise of fungus taking over living creatures' brains based on a terrifyingly real thing (don't click that link), but the latest episode is also pretty spot-on about gasoline. We get to see Joel (Pedro Pascal) siphoning gas for their truck and explaining that it's "basically water" due to how much time has passed. Most post-apocalyptic stories treat gasoline like it lasts forever, but it actually only has a shelf life of about three months to three years (depending on the type of fuel and its storage). Then it starts to degrade, losing its efficiency, which is why Joel and Ellie have to stop and siphon gas so often. Most of "The Last of Us" takes place over 20 years after the collapse of civilization, so no random car sitting on the side of the road is going to be good enough to run again.
Of course, if you want to get nitpicky, there are still plenty of things about this show that don't hold up to scrutiny. Like the fact that there are hundreds of nuclear power plants around the world with nobody running them anymore, or how without weather stations there's basically no way for people to know when a natural disaster (like a hurricane or tsunami) is on its way. But maybe the most unrealistic part of popular apocalypse stories is their take on how humans would respond to the collapse of civilization.
Like most zombie shows, "The Last of Us" makes it clear that the real danger you have to look out for is other people, not the infected. At one point this might've seemed like a bold take, but as of now this has long since been standard for the genre. "The Walking Dead" wasn't blowing anyone's minds when Rick dramatically delivered the line, "We are the Walking Dead," just as "The Last of Us" isn't doing anything unique with the fact that the majority of its conflicts are human-versus-human.
Although it's true that in real life people can become selfish and violent out of fear, the idea that humans would largely turn into savages the moment society breaks down feels more cynical than it does realistic. One of the clearest examples of this is when the basic plot of "Lord of the Flies," a book that features a bunch of schoolboys turning into savages after being marooned on an island, happened in real life. When isolated from society for an extended period of time, the schoolboys in real life ended up handling things remarkably well.
That's why some of the most realistic parts of "The Last of Us" are when we see humans working together instead of turning against each other under pressure. Yeah, violence is part of human nature, but so is community and cooperation. Even complete strangers like Joel and Ellie will learn to like and support each other over time, even if having to take care of a child is a massive inconvenience for Joel. "The Last of Us" games have always dabbled in a cynical view of human nature, but the loving, optimistic relationship between its main characters is where it rings the most true.
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The post HBO's The Last of Us Corrects A Detail That Most Post-Apocalypse Stories Get Wrong appeared first on /Film.