The Last of Us, HBO’s New Hit Bringing a Light in the Darkness
The PlayStation staple and hit video game series, The Last of Us, has made its way onto television. HBO has undertaken the adaptation and has already confirmed a season two before the current season has even finished.
Now it might come as a surprise since video game adaptations typically do not do well but in recent times they have garnered a lot of attention. With the likes of Castlevania, Arcane, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners, and now The Last of Us, they have begun to break the stereotype in creating passionate and riveting adaptations that deserve their moments on television.
The Last of Us follows the story of Joel, played by Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Narcos, Game of Thrones), who has to escort 14 year old Ellie, played by Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones), across the United States in a post-apocalyptic world where a fungal outbreak has crippled humanity and left them on their last legs.
The story begins at the start of the pandemic as you watch what happens to Joel then jumps 20 years into the future where Joel and Ellie meet and begin their journey.
Throughout the series you watch as they have to not only combat the infected left from the pandemic but also people who do whatever they can to survive no matter the cost.
Now I want to discuss what this show accomplishes not only as an adaptation of the game but as a show that can stand alone apart from it.
Firstly, the production is incredible. The atmosphere that they are able to create not only matches moments and parts of the game but are incredible when looked at as a television show. You get to see the world before, during and after the pandemic that works well to showcase how the world has changed.
Skyscrapers toppled over with overgrowth and debris everywhere. Once normal stores and streets that were full of life are desolate and stripped of anything that would be of value. Buildings are flooded with the remains of those who were not able to survive. Quarantine zones and settlements are crudely put together. The feeling of isolation and despair is captured magnificently through the various scenes within the show.
The infected and clickers match the terrifying and disgusting look that they have in the games. When they appear in the show you feel the intensity and severity of the situation as they pursue the characters. They look like walking fungus and there are moments that can send shivers down your spine just by looking at them.
As a show, the idea of another “zombie” show can feel a little tired. It does follow the premise that the real monsters are the people that are left. However, what really sells it is the characters. They are written so well that you can empathize and understand the very tough choices that they are faced with. Do they give up their humanity or hang on to it even if it could mean their deaths? These types of dilemmas are repeatedly at the forefront and you watch to see how they evolve.
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey do a fantastic job portraying Joel and Ellie. Joel is a dejected survivor who has had to find a will to continue and Pedro really matches the angry, hopeless Joel that is seen in the game. Ellie is a smart ass teenager who only knows what life is like within the militarized quarantine zone. Bella not only delivers this snarky attitude that fits a teenager but really captures the wonderment that Ellie has when she sees things for the first time like airplanes, trucks, animals and the such.
Just like the game, the show is very dependent on the chemistry between the two leads as they banter, argue and work together throughout their journey. However, the two of them more than deliver on this chemistry and you can see as they begin to grow on one another.
The show does a good job in adapting scenes from the game pretty much one to one. Yet, they also make use of this medium to expand or make changes to the story and characters within the world that feel appropriate.
In the game there are times where you are having to fight through bandits, groups and infected. For television it might not make sense to always have a 50 year old Joel constantly fighting his way through many groups of enemies. As well as the fact that you are playing through the perspective of Joel so when you come across other characters in the story the only information you know about them is when Joel is interacting with them or as you discover collectibles that provide more information on them.
Instead they might take these moments to show off more of the world before the outbreak or how other characters have lived throughout the outbreak before they even met Joel.
This is apparent in moments like the third episode where the main focus is on survivalist Bill and his partner Frank. In the game you never see what their life is like but instead this episode shows how Bill survived the apocalypse and met Frank. You are able to see how people approach these end of times and how they pull through in spite of the circumstances.
In episodes four and five, you watch as the remaining “civilizations” are struggling to survive and how instead of pulling through for one another they become vindictive and angry. Joel and Ellie get caught up in the middle of these situations. For Joel it isn’t anything new but for Ellie she is witnessing how kind and cruel people can be.
The first episode title, When You’re Lost in the Darkness, really captures the story of The Last of Us. Do you stay in the darkness? Do you find a light to guide you out? What do you do and what are you willing to give? There will be nine episodes for the first season and five are out now. Be sure to catch up and I will be covering the rest of the episodes to air so join in the experience.