You’re watching ‘The Last of Us,’ right? RIGHT? (Um, what’s that clicking noise … ?)

HBO’s adaption of the video game has quickly become one of my favorite shows. PLUS: Adult Swim and Hulu cut ties with Justin Roiland, and the ‘Harley Quinn’ Valentine’s Day special gets a trailer.

You’re watching ‘The Last of Us,’ right? RIGHT? (Um, what’s that clicking noise … ?)
A clicker in The Last of Us. / HBO

If we ever find ourselves in a zombie apocalypse, I’m out. Not playing. Can’t handle that. Nope.

But I am all in for The Last Us, HBO’s fantastic adaption of the PlayStation series by the same name.

The show aired its second episode last Sunday. I’ve decided that Sunday at 10 p.m. is too late to give a write-up the attention it deserves for Monday’s newsletter, so I saved my notes on the episode for this edition. As the days went by, though, I read more about The Last of Us and saw more super positive reactions to the show, so it seemed like kicking this edition with The Last of Us was the way to go.

Are you watching The Last of Us? You should be. Especially if you spent way too long watching The Walking Dead and waiting for that show to find its footing again.

The Last of Us is The Walking Dead if The Walking Dead was actually the prestige TV show it often masqueraded as. Bella Ramsey’s Ellie is the anti-Carl. She’s funny. She sharp. I’ve yet to see her eat an industrial-size container of pudding.

I love that I haven’t played the Last of Us games (or gone down a wiki hole to read up on them). I enjoy reading about what the show changed from the game — but only after I’ve seen a new episode.

And it sounds like there have been some pretty big changes from the game to show, enough to possibly cause a backlash from fans of the video game.

“That’s all right if people are upset by it — I don’t blame them,” series co-creator Craig Mazin told Variety in a piece that published after last week’s episode. “Everybody dreams of working on something where the fan engagement is to this level, where people will argue about these things or feel passionate about them. I do feel sometimes, if you just see how it goes, I think you’ll be OK.”

I saw people on Twitter comment that they’re not in the mood for a show about an outbreak that causes society to collapse, considering what we’ve gone through the past few years. While watching the first episode, I thought to myself, huh, doesn’t seem believable that everyone could become infected that fast. But then I thought back to March 11, 2020, and how quickly the coronavirus went from being a vague threat to “oh no, Tom Hanks has covid.” The world really can fall apart in a flash.

The second episode not only revealed the possibly cause of the cordyceps brain infection (something I wish The Walking Dead had done after hinting at it in its first season) but showed that entire cities were actually bombed in hopes of stopping the spread. And some people thought the coronavirus restrictions were draconian …

Anna Torv, Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us. / HBO

The Last of Us has been a huge ratings hit for HBO. The first episode was the second biggest premiere for the network since Boardwalk Empire after House of the Dragon. The second episode then clocked the “largest week 2 audience growth for an HBO Original drama series in the history of the network.” A second season announcement shouldn’t surprise anyone when it comes.

I can’t talk about The Last of Us without talking about the clickers. I actually didn’t know this is what they were called until I was reading that Variety piece (not playing the game and all) and had been referring to them as zombies myself. Clickers is much cooler.

I know the game is a decade old so it’s weird to call the design of the clickers fresh, but compared to what we’ve seen from zombie shows and movies over that time period, they are fresh. They’re different. They’re terrifying in a way that normal zombies have become boring. I would not want to be kissed by one of these guys. (Sorry, Tess.)

The Last of Us also asks us to believe that Pedro Pascal can pass for both 36 and 56 — which I’ll allow.

If you found the time to watch The Walking Dead past its expiration date or have managed to watch House of the Dragon every Sunday night, find the time for this one. I can’t wait to see where the show goes.

Happy Thursday, and thanks for reading Popculturology. I love writing about pop culture, and I hope you enjoy reading this newsletter. If you do, please subscribe. It’s the easiest way to make sure you get every edition of Popculturology. Tapping the ♥️ at the bottom of each post also helps the newsletter. Now let’s get to the news.

The News
Rick and Morty in Rick and Morty. / Adult Swim

Adult Swim cuts ties with Justin Roiland — but Rick and Morty will continue

Adult Swim announced on Tuesday that it had ended its association with Justin Roiland in light of the domestic abuse charges against the Rick and Morty co-creator.

Does the world need Rick and Morty? Absolutely not. But so many people besides Roiland work on the show — why should they pay for his actions if the show was canceled?

I’m very curious to see where this goes. Besides the infinite number of Ricks and Mortys, Roiland voices countless other characters on the show, including Mr. Poopybutthole and Mr. Meeseeks. Will the show find a soundalike to take Roiland’s place or accept that these characters will sound differently going forward?

Adult Swim ordered 70 more episodes of Rick and Morty in 2018 and is only partially through that deal at the moment.

Hulu cuts ties with Justin Roiland — but Solar Opposites will continue

Hulu followed Adult Swim’s example on Wednesday and announced that they too would no longer be working with Roiland.

“We have ended our association with Justin Roiland,” 20th Television Animation and Hulu Originals told Variety.

This also affects both Solar Opposites and the newly released Koala Man.

Like with Rick and Morty, Roiland voices not just a main character on Solar Opposites but several other secondary characters.

SNL’s postproduction staff threatens strike

Over the past decade, Saturday Night Live has relied heavily on pre-taped material. Digital shorts, commercials, movie parodies — all the parts of the show that aren’t performed live during an episode.

That part of the show might be in trouble soon.

The postproduction workers at SNL have authorized a strike in hopes of speeding up negotiations on the newly unionized group’s first contract, The Hollywood Reporter reports.

SNL obviously relies heavily on this team of people, as they’re the ones turning around segments that often need to match the TV shows and movies they’re spoofing, like House of the Dragon and M3GAN.

THR notes that their “sources say the show could certainly go on, albeit potentially without pretaped segments” but it could pose an issue when it comes to the multiple other labor organizations that have members who work on and with SNL.

Let’s not forget that SNL wound up having a shortened 33rd season due to the writer’s strike in 2007 and 2008. Without pre-taped segments, there’s a lot of live airtime that needs to be filled.

Ben Affleck says ‘just do it’ to Nike movie

I’m sorry. That’s an awful headline for this item. We should be focusing on how Ben Affleck directed, produced and starred in a movie about Nike’s pursuit of Michael Jordan — and that movie somehow comes out in April.

Affleck and Amazon studios made the announcement (via Variety) on Monday that Air will premiere in theaters before heading to Prime Video.

The former Batman will play Nike founder Phil Knight, with buddy Matt Damon playing Nike executive Sonny Vaccaro. Jason Bateman, Chris Messina, Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker and Viola Davis round out the cast.

This is the first film Affleck has directed since 2016’s Live by Night.

Giancarlo Esposito in Breaking Bad. / AMC

Giancarlo Esposito joins the MCU — wait, no … Megalopolis. He joins Megalopolis.

When I saw a breaking Deadline alert for Giancarlo Esposito joining a film, I thought the time had finally come when the former Breaking Bad star had signed on for his long-rumored MCU role. (Charles Xavier? Magneto?)


Just joining Francis Ford Coppola’s Megalopolis.

When we last heard from Coppola’s passion project, he was shaking up his special effects team and pouring his hard-earned winery cash into the film. Sounds like things have turned around, with Deadline reporting that the director recently told them “the film is on schedule and on budget.”

David Harbour’s Santa will slay again

I still need to catch Violent Night on streaming. I’ve heard from a few friends who loved the movie on top of it being 73 percent fresh on Rotten Tomatoes and making almost $76 million at the worldwide box office.

I’m not surprised that a sequel is in the works, with director Tommy Wirkola telling TheWrap, “we’re talking about it and we’re just making deals and getting everything in order.”

Sounds like there isn’t a script or deal yet for the sequel, but the wheels are in motion for David Harbour’s Santa Claus to save Christmas once again.

Insert fun Madonna reference/pun here

A Madonna biopic was in the works, with Ozark star Julia Garner set to star and Madonna planning to direct. The artist’s recently announced (and immediately sold out) world tour appears to have taken precedence over the film, with Variety reporting that the biopic has been scrapped.

“Insiders familiar with Madonna said her sole focus is the tour, but she remains committed to making a film about her life one day,” Variety reports.

I’m very curious to see how a biopic being made with the subject as the director would go. It’s already a tricky enough line for these kinds of films to walk when you’re worried about musical rights or working with the subject’s estate. Could you imagine trying to tell Madonna to do something differently on her own biopic?

Netflix co-CEO: ‘We have never canceled a successful show’

Netflix co-CEOs Ted Sarandos and Greg Peters recently chatted with Bloomberg about the company’s leadership transition, the state of streaming and how Netflix was appealing to the tastes of its audience.

One line that stuck out to me in this interview was from Sarandos.

“We have never canceled a successful show,” he told Bloomberg. “A lot of these shows were well-intended but talk to a very small audience on a very big budget.”


Now, it’s no secret that Netflix cancels shows like no one else. (It also isn’t a secret that the leads in these canceled shows are usually women and people of color.) The streaming giant obviously has its own standards for what makes a show “successful,” but that’s a weird way to dismiss a ton of shows that people loved and that creators poured themselves into.

GLOW wasn’t a successful show, running for multiple seasons? Teenage Bounty Hunters wasn’t a successful show, landing on numerous “best of” lists the year it came out? Or is success measured by which shows get played the longest in the background while people leave their TVs on?

Wanna send me your comments, questions or recommendations? Write to Popculturology at, and I might run your mail in a future edition of the newsletter.

Trailer Watch
Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy in Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special. / HBO Max

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day Special

Harley Quinn is one of the best shows currently on TV. (It easily made the cut for my favorites of 2022.) The show returns this February for a Valentine’s Day special — and based on the synopsis for the special, it’s going to be one of the wildest Valentine’s Day specials out there.

As Harley goes to obsessive lengths to ensure that her first Valentine’s Day with Ivy is the best ever, Bane’s efforts to impress an unexpected date go horribly awry. Meanwhile, after an unfortunate online dating encounter, Clayface engages in some self-love.

Harley Quinn: A Very Problematic Valentine’s Day special premieres on Feb. 9.

A scene from The Bad Batch episode “Entombed.” / Lucasfilm

The Bad Batch


Was this another one-off episode of The Bad Batch? Perhaps. But it had a lot of fun potential Easter eggs hidden in it.

The Bad Batch gang found themselves on an uncharted planet this episode, hunting for a treasure with Phee. Treasure hunts haven’t gone well for the squad this season (remember Dooku’s war chest?), and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that this hunt doesn’t go well either.

Let’s go through the treasure hunt of Easter eggs hidden in “Entombed”:

  • Phee reveals that the treasure they’re looking for is the Heart of the Mountain. Are they looking for The Hobbit’s Arkenstone?
  • The patterns and puzzles the crew comes across are very reminiscent of what we saw the Zeffo create in the Jedi: Fallen Order video game. Phee refers to the civilization that created these puzzles as the ancients. Are we getting close to seeing the Zeffo pop up in other parts of Star Wars?
  • A ton of Indiana Jones vibes in this episode, the most obvious one being Phee’s suggestion that they go looking for a lost chalice next.
  • The weapon that the Bad Batch crew found themselves reminded me of an alien version of Mechagodzilla. (Also resembled the creatures from the Horizon Forbidden West video game that was turned into a recent Lego set.)
  • This is probably a stretch, but the markings on the inside of the creature toward the end of the episode had some similarities to the World Between World’s visuals.

Any other Easter eggs I missed in this episode?

The Links

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Odds and Ends
Michael B. Jordan in a promo for Saturday Night Live. / NBC

Michael B. Jordan hosts SNL

Black Panther and Creed star Michael B. Jordan hosts Saturday Night Live for the first time this weekend. As usual, the show released a promo for the upcoming episode, pairing Jordan with rookie castmember Michael Longfellow.

Oops. The Statue of Liberty Ms. Marvel was tweaked to match MCU continuity

Here’s a fun one. When Ms. Marvel released, Marvel Studios apparently missed that the Statue of Liberty in the show didn’t match the look of the Statue of Liberty in Spider-Man: No Way Home. (Look, those special effects artists are extremely overworked. Seriously. They can’t catch everything in the sprawling and multilayered MCU.)

The show has since been updated to fix the continuity error. If you haven’t watched the fantastic Ms. Marvel yet, here’s your excuse to do so.

Behind the Sketch: M3GAN 2.0

Love watching the talented production crew at SNL make sketches like “M3GAN 2.0” happen. Chloe Fineman is also legit scary in murder doll mode. I don’t blame Punkie Johnson for jumping.

Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. / Lucasfilm

Daisy Ridley on Rey’s origins: ‘It’s beyond my pay grade’

Everyone is entitled to their own opinions on Star Wars (unless those opinions are just a cover for racism or sexism). And I don’t think my opinion on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker will ever change.

It’s bad. Really bad.

Not only did it bow to Internet trolls and sidelining Marie Tran’s Rose Tico, it disrespected pretty much everything Star Wars: The Last Jedi did — including establishing that Rey came from parents who were nobodies. When Kylo Ren told her that her parents “were filthy junk traders who sold you off for drinking money,” that should have been the end of it. Rey represented the idea that anyone could claim the Force and be a hero.

J.J. Abrams had other ideas, retconning Rey’s origins to establish that, no, the Force was inherited, making Palpatine Rey’s grandfather.

Rolling Stone asked Daisy Ridley her thoughts on Rey’s revised parentage.

“Well, J.J. [Abrams] was the one who was like, she is of no one, so it wasn’t just The Last Jedi where that was the message,” Ridley told Rolling Stone. “What was interesting about the last one, for me, was that you can be a hero and not come from anywhere or you can be a hero and come from literally the worst person in the universe. You’re not your parents, you’re not your grandparents, you’re not your bloodline and you’re not the generations before you. So, I always was like, sure. But it’s beyond my pay grade.”

A pretty classy answer to the question.

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