TheLast of Ushas been a triumph among critics and audiences around the world, with countless viewers hailing it as the best video game adaptation to television to date.
The finale of the HBO show’s first season aired this week, with fans left bereft but generally impressed by its conclusion.
It’s not often you see a zombie thriller getting top marks across the board, but with 96 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, 9.1 on ImDb and 84 per cent on Metacritic, its scorecard is hard to beat.
However, look closer and you’ll spot an interesting trend among its reviews: two episodes have been met with a notably less enthusiastic response than others.
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Of course, this is an inevitability with any series – you can’t hit it out of the park every time – but the episodes in question have something in common…
They both centre on gay relationships.
The first, episode 3 – ‘Long, Long Time’ – is all about the surprise encounter-turned-romance between Nick Offerman’s character, the self-sufficient recluse Bill, and Murray Bartlett’s warm and impulsive Frank.
Admittedly, its ImDb rating of 8/10 is nothing to be sniffed at, but compare it to the 9.4s of episodes 8 and 9 and you might wonder where its apparent inferiority comes from.
Critics on the website have largely insisted that their disapproval is based on the installment offering “little to no input on the series” with one writing: “It is a pointless, boring and stupid filler episode.
“What makes it pointless is that the events depicted in this episode to the bigger part have little to no effect on the main plot or the main characters (who are barely in this episode),” they added.
Others criticised it for straying from the characters’ role in the original game. One complained: “They completely changed the hole [sic] thing just to gain support from LGBTQ+ which is just wrong in my opinion.
“You shouldn't just shoehorn things in for extra points.”
Their point was just one (more polite) example of the backlash that dogged social media from viewers taking issue with the show’s queer storylines.
However, star Bella Ramsey, who plays protagonist Ellie, was quick to hit back at homophobic trolls, saying in an interview with GQfollowing episode 3's release: “I know people will think what they want to think. But they’re gonna have to get used to it.
“If you don’t want to watch the show because it has gay storylines, because it has a trans character, that’s on you, and you’re missing out. It isn’t gonna make me afraid. I think that comes from a place of defiance.”
It may not come as a surprise that the other lower-ranked episode, episode 7 ‘Left Behind’, which earned an even more modest 7.4/10, covers Ellie’s relationship with her best friend Riley (played by Storm Reid) and sees the pair sharing a kiss.
This time, ImDb critics branded it “boring teen drama”, with a number saying the acting was “awful” and one summing it up as “basically an hour of watching 2 teenagers giggling and getting overly dramatic in a mall”.
The pattern of rating these two episodes low also continued on Metacritic where both episodes have been rated way below the average ratings for that site.
Still, Reid and Ramsey have remained defiant in the face of the negativity and rampant homophobia to which they have been subjected.
Speaking to Variety Reid said: “I think Bella put it perfectly a couple of weeks ago: ‘If you don’t like it, don’t watch.’
“There’s [sic] so many other things to worry about in the world. I think being concerned about who people love is just absurd to me. I just don’t — I will never understand it. I don’t get it.
“I think despite what people are going to say, if they don’t like it, I think there are going to be a lot more people that appreciate it – a lot more people that feel represented and seen and heard.
"So that’s what matters. That’s where the work comes in.”
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