Television Man | Aidan Morgan
After nine gruelling, beautiful and very sad episodes, The Last of Us (HBO/Crave) is done forever. Just kidding! The series may have ended its initial season, but the critical and ratings smash will probably never end now. According to creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, they’re already hard at work on the adaptation of The Last of Us Part II, the sprawling and strange addendum to the comparatively focused first instalment. Mazin has hinted that the adaptation of the second game will take more than one season.
Will the series go the way of The Walking Dead, spinning out season after season to diminishing returns? I’m so glad you asked, imaginary person! It seems unlikely, given the massive expense of the series and the games’ focus on the characters of Ellie (played beautifully by Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey) and Joel (played beautifully by Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal). However, given that we live in the age of endless franchises, I wouldn’t be shocked if sequels and prequels eventually started to sprout from the original like… uh, I’m blanking on an appropriate simile now, but it will come to me later.
POKED YER FACE
For those who prefer comfort viewing instead of post-apocalyptic misery, Poker Face (Peacock/CityTV+) also ended its first season on a high note. Like The Last of Us, Poker Face is a road movie full of murder and hardscrabble living. But this one features Natasha Lyonne (Russian Doll, But I’m a Cheerleader) as Charlie Cale, a woman with a nigh-supernatural talent for detecting lies.
Created by Lyonne and Rian Johnson (Knives Out), Poker Face bends the whodunnit formula into a weekly “howcatchem,” in which the murder is shown at the start of each episode. Enter Charlie, who’s generally been somewhere in the background but off-screen for the first act, and is now tasked with untangling knots of jealousy, resentment and old secrets.
It’s Murder, She Wrote if Jessica Fletcher chugged whiskey. It’s The Hulk if Bruce Banner were a raspy-voiced redhead. It’s a distaff Columbo. It feels like the golden age of formula-driven episodic television with the production and writing of a prestige TV series. It’s the most fun you’re going to have in front of a television screen, guaranteed.
Poker Face has already been renewed for a second season.
REBOOTS AND REVIVALS
Speaking of franchises sprouting sequels and prequels, Picard (Paramount+/Crave) is now well into its third season. If you’re a fan of Star Trek: The Next Generation and all things Patrick Stewart, season three of this uneven series may reward your patience. There’s plenty of ’90s-era nostalgia being mined out of the latest episodes, with Jean-Luc picking up various crewmates from TNG. It feels bizarre that we have more Star Trek series to choose from than ever (I count five currently running, with more on the way). If the average quality remains as high as season three of Picard, I have no complaints.
A less illustrious but still welcome return is Party Down (Starz/Crave), which comes back for a third season after a hiatus of 13 years. The story of a group of Hollywood cater-waiters serving ’dervs and drinks was screamingly funny in 2009 and 2010, and somehow it’s even funnier that most of them are still in the exact same position over a decade later. The nominal main character, played by a very dry Adam Scott (Severance, The Good Place), returns to the fold in the wake of a divorce. With the exception of Lizzy Caplan, the original cast is back.
Fungus! Franchise sequels and prequels are sprouting like fungus. I knew I’d get it eventually. ■