HBO’s The Last of US Review

A Video Game Adaptation Done Right.

Carl Harding, Sandscript Writer

The first episode of the highly anticipated HBO series The Last of Us released on January 15 and has blown many people away, including myself, on how good it was on staying with the original material from the game. For those unfamiliar with The Last of Us, it is a video game following the story of Joel Miller (played by Troy Baker in the game) and Ellie Williams (played by Ashley Johnson in the game) as they travel from Boston, Massachusetts through a post-apocalyptic United States to reach Saint Mary’s Hospital which is located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Joel is trying to get Ellie to a rebel group known as the Fireflies because she is immune to the Cordyceps Brain Infection that has destroyed the world, and they (Fireflies) are looking for a cure for the fungus. On their journey, Joel and Ellie will face many challenges from fighting bandit gangs as they try to survive, to quietly sneaking by other infected humans. HBO teased The Last of Us in September of 2022 with a short video featuring a remix of the song “Alone and Forsaken” by Hank Williams which excited the most avid fans of the game. This excitement was on full display on January 15, when the show drew in over 4.7 million viewers, making it HBO’s second largest debut behind the Game of Thrones spinoff, House of The Dragon which drew in a massive 9.986 million viewers in its debut last year. 

     The Last of Us has been met with great applause gaining a 99% tomatometer and a 96% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.  The show stars Pedro Pascal as Joel, Bella Ramsey as Ellie, Nico Parker as Joel’s daughter Sarah, Anna Torv as Joel’s partner Tess Servopoulos, and Gabriel Luna as Joel’s brother Tommy. Pascal has been in a couple blockbuster shows already, playing the Mandolorian in the Disney+ drama, The Mandolorian as well as Oberyn Martel in the smash hit, Game of Thrones. Ramsey also had previous experience with HBO, playing Lyanna Mormont in Thrones.

The first episode is about 85 minutes as it incorporates the first three to five hours of the game. It shows Joel’s life before the Cordyceps infection ravaged the world, and continues on to show Joel, Tess, and Ellie escaping into the ruins of Boston as they get Ellie out of the quarantine zone and begin their journey across the U.S. HBO did an amazing job with this first episode, from the cinematography to the actors they casted to play these iconic characters was incredible. HBO hit the nail on how bleak and depressing this new world is as people are doing whatever they can to survive. Whether they are joining gangs, or going on scavenging raids outside the quarantine zone in Boston, people are doing whatever they can to get food and water. It also does not help that the quarantine zone is ruled by the military, which means if they are caught they will be hanged. This aspect of the show is one that made me feel sad because these people were just trying to get supplies so they could survive. The buildings in the zone are also worn down with some of them even having vegetation growing in and around them. As for the actors, Pascal as Joel was amazing to see. Pascal had a lot of pressure on nailing Joel and he did it very well as Joel is struggling to get by in this new world, suffering from PTSD as a result of the death of his daugther Sarah. At the end of the episode Joel has a flashback of the soldier that killed his daugther when a gaurd attempts to stop them from leaving the zone, and he loses it repeatedly punching the guard till he was dead. Seeing Pascal get so violent shocked me and that was the same with Joel in the game, and Pascal did an amazing job. Ramsey also did a good job as playing Ellie as she is around Ellie’s age and Ramsey knows how to act as a teenager with Ellie’s defiant nature and her attitude. Torv did an amazing job as she has starred as Tess once, and that was in the game. This was something that made fans and me ecstatic as she did a great job as Tess in the game. The zombies are also another big thing that HBO nailed, although we only got to see the‘Runners’who are people who have been infected for a couple with the fungus, they are fast and attack in groups to overpower survivors. The other stages of the infection have been shown in teasers and viewers are anxiously awaiting them already. Another aspect I love about The Last Of Us is its use of a real fungus as its disease. Cordyceps is a real fungus, but it does not infect humans. It is limited to insects such as ants and spiders, but scientists have discovered that in the future, the fungus could infect humans in the same way as insects which should send shivers down your spine.

Overall I give the first episode of HBO’s The Last Of US a 5 out of 5. I highly recommend this show if you love The Last of Us games or if you like anything to do with zombies or post apocalyptic settings. It is exciting to see what HBO planned for the rest of this show’s debut season. Fans have high hopes that this series will finally break the cycle of failed video game adaptations when it comes to the big screen.