THE TERRYFING AND DESTRUCTIVE POTENTIAL OF UNCONDITIONAL LOVE
Unconditional love is a wonderful thing. It can bring out the best in us. It can make us vulnerable and caring in ways we never imagined possible. But unconditional love also has the terrifying potential to bring out the worst in us and make us do things we never deemed possible.
And if you love someone unconditionally, you know this already.
The moment my wife and I saw our daughter for the first time was like being hit by a lightning bolt. Our lives were forever changed and our hearts filled to the brim with unconditional love. Even if our daughter was conceived after years of I.V.F treatment and delivered after 18 hours of labor and eventually a C-Section.
(And my sleeping through a medically induced water breaking process didn’t help anything. Sorry about that, Megan.)
In the hit video game turned HBO series, The Last of Us, a middle-aged father named Joel Miller (Pedro Pascual) sees his teenage daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) murdered, by a United States Army soldier, on the first day of a fungus-based zombie apocalypse. The loss of the only person he unconditionally loves breaks him and for the next 20 years he exists as an emotionally unavailable smuggler.
His daughter, long dead, is ever present in his mind and the only person he shares any sort of affection towards is a fellow smuggler named Tess (Anna Torver). That is until he is tasked with transporting a virus-immune teenage orphan named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a post-apocalyptic hellscape in an attempt to find a cure.
You can see where this is going, right?
As gruff and battered Joel transports smart AND smart assed Ellie across the country, they occasionally find the best of humanity (an elderly indigenous couple and a commune in Wyoming), but much more often, find the worst in humanity (literally everyone and everywhere else). These occasions, or ‘missions’ in video game terms, bond Joel and Ellie as Joel becomes the parent Ellie never had, and Ellie replacing the daughter Joel couldn’t save.
And that is when the power of unconditional love, to quote another video game term, is unlocked.
And who are the worst that people that they find? The competition is steep, but the leader in the clubhouse is Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey); a Kansas City based anti-government rebel who is hell bent on getting revenge on the people that murdered a person that she had unconditional love for – her brother Michael.
As Kathleen teeters on madness induced revenge, she ignores the threat of a network of underground zombies and kills perhaps the most valuable asset in an apocalypse; a medical doctor. Well, actually the medical doctor who delivered her. AND I am assuming also delivered her brother Michael. Why? She is blinded by rage over the death of someone she had unconditional love for.
Kathleen’s story eventually bears more fruit and the audience is introduced to Sam and Henry; a duo of brothers Kathleen incorrectly believes killed her own brother. Sam, the younger brother, is deaf and a survivor of leukemia and older brother Henry has, in the past, collaborated with the government to procure leukemia medication for his brother.
And by collaborated with the government, it is heavily implied that his information directly led to the death of many of Kathleen’s fellow rebels (colloquially referred to as Fire Flies).
Who wouldn’t you sell out to obtain medicine for a leukemia-stricken sibling?
As Kathleen, Sam, and Henry’s paths convene and crescendo, an entire city full od men, women, and children die unspeakable deaths because there is nothing Henry and Kathleen wouldn’t do for, at to avenge, the people they love unconditionally.
Would you let your hometown be decimated to save your child?
After the Kansas City fiasco, Joel and Ellie find more trouble on their way west, including a cannibalistic cult led by a pedophile with a Jesus complex. Only on this mission, Ellie is the one who saves Joel via murdering the leader of the cult with a hatchet. Yeah, you read that correctly.
Did I mention how dark TLOU is?
As the season barrels towards an end, Joel and Ellie, much worse for the wear, reach their destination and a medical team begins working on the cure, which unbeknownst to Joel, involves Ellis being murdered. As Joel pieces together exactly what is happening, his rage mushrooms, and he massacres the defenseless, the unarmed, and the defeated as he races against the clock to save Ellie. The unconditional love he felt for Sarah has been surrogated by Ellie, and he won’t lose his daughter(s) again.
Joel ultimately saves Ellie, but ironically, may still lose her as Ellie, the smarter of the two, sees through a lie Joel tells her to shelter her from the carnage he committed to save her life. In the end, all this father daughter duo has is the truth, and that has been shattered.
Damn, this show was brutal. I am going to need a year to adjust before season two.
And to hug my daughter.
Rabbits and Beaujolais
- Episode three. Long, Long Time. Give the Emmy to Nick Offerman
- I loved the post 9/11 imagery of soldiers, plane crashes, and the parallels between FEDRA and FEMA. I had no idea video games could be so smart.
- Any idea what movie trilogy show runner Craig Mazan was involved in previous to TLOU? Raise your hand if you guessed The Hangover.
- Is there anything Linda Ronstadt doesn’t make better?
- I think game and series creator Neil Druckman had a lot to say about capatilism, the military, and how soldiers are treated. Case in point? Joel’s often troubled, veteran brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) finally found peace in a commune.
- If not overshadowed by ‘I got you baby girl’, the potential line of the year would be ‘It wasn’t time that did it’.
Drayton Farley: TWENTY ON HIGH
It seems their is a new sheriff in town, and the name of that sheriff is Drayton Farley. His sophomore release, TWENTY ON HIGH, sees the Alabama born singer songwriter play catchy and sincere county, folk, and Americana tunes while singing immaculately worded songs. Farley’s sound is timeless and it is easy to imagine TWENTY ON HIGH being played on a cassette in your grandfather’s pick up truck, on the turntable of a hipster in a gentrified neighborhood, and in the case of myself, a middle aged suburbanites house.
Traditional Country Music themes abound, including trains (Farley works for the Norfolk & Southern), working long hours, and missing your family. However, Farley finds a way to intertwine these traditional themes through a contemporary lens while singing about mental health (Something Wrong), growing older (Stop The Clock), and anxiety about parenthood and marriage (Above My Head).
Farley certainly sounds like a younger version of fellow Alabama born and bread songwriter Jason Isbell. In fact, TWENTY ON HIGH could have been titled The 300 Unit, and I would have believed. And that’s not a bad thing. If you are looking for a laid back, smooth, and refreshing Spring time jam, look no further.