Pedro Pascal is known for playing a patriarchal protector figure in The Mandalorian and is about to take a similar role in HBO Max’s upcoming adaptation of The Last of Us. That similarity isn’t even lost on Pascal himself since he said it was the “best double-dipping [he] could possibly imagine.” And while those two fictional pieces are set in big, known franchises, Pascal also took on a similar role in 2018’s Prospect, which is worth watching on Hulu for those who want another dose of “Protector Pascal.”
Prospect doesn’t immediately play the Protector Pascal card, though. Instead of pairing up with a fellow adult for a good chunk of the first act or finding his younger companion at the end of the debut episode, Ezra, Pascal’s character, doesn’t even show up until about 22 minutes in. Aside from the poster, it’s not totally clear that Ezra will even be a prominent character. This unexpected setup foreshadows how Pascal’s role as a surrogate parent or guardian is slightly different here.
Ezra is a rogue swindler who purposely cranks up his charm in an effort to butter up the person he’s talking to. This is a clear separation from Joel and the beskar-clad Din, both of whom speak plainly and with as few words as possible. Ezra’s demeanor is a great fit for Pascal, too, since he’s such a naturally charismatic actor that has used such charm to be a highlight in films like The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and carry others like the abysmal Wonder Woman 1984.
That magnetism in this context is a refreshing combination since these types of characters are typically gruff, stoic guys. Ezra also isn’t even much of a protector here, often needing Cee — the “Ellie” here — to carry or help his ass in various ways. These elements mean that it has the buddy dynamics of The Last of Us, but with a new lens and that makes enough of a difference.
Its science fiction setting also uses enough of the same lens, but with a small twist. The Last of Us is rather grounded and derives its fungal creatures from science, showing that even its one supernatural element has a basis in reality. Prospect is also mostly set in the more realistic end of the science fiction spectrum, but hints at a broader and more fantastical world where space miners extract ore out of small fleshy tentacles in the ground while protecting themselves from the spores floating outside, the latter of which has a direct resemblance to Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic adventure. This mix of blue collar realism and science fiction works well for both since they’re relatable enough while still being more interesting because of their small creative leaps.
The Last of Us and The Mandalorian are also bigger commitments, but Prospect loosely gets through some of the same beats in a shorter time frame because it is a film instead of a TV series. Since it is only an hour and 40 minutes, Prospect can quickly provide a story about two characters slowly bonding without requiring about a dozen hours out of its viewers. This does mean that Cee and Ezra’s relationship is not nearly as complex as Joel and Ellie’s, but that’s not the goal here and that disparity gives it yet another unique feature. It hits comparable notes without being as time consuming.
Prospect is an underappreciated entry in the Protector Pascal oeuvre and deserves more of a look, especially in the wake of The Last of Us’ HBO Max debut on January 15. Watching Pascal find new life within this character archetype demonstrates his range, and the film’s condensed version of the reluctant partner story makes for a more digestible way to absorb some of the same general beats in a new sci-fi wrapper. Prospect may not have an onslaught of emotional gut punches like The Last of Us, yet it doesn’t need to in order to be worth its weight in poison spore gems.