The Last of Us
The Last of Us TV series is based on the critically acclaimed video game series developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment.
Kicking off on January 15, this HBO series will be released every Sunday night at 8:00pm CST over a 10 episode period.
Spoiler level: Mild, Spoiler Zone marked.
The Last of Us Episode 1 did the near impossible: it showed how a live action version of a video game can respect the source material and still be inclusive enough for casual audiences to enjoy this epic and emotional journey.
I am a big fan of the series and have played The Last of Us multiple times. After learning Craig Mazin (who worked on Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (writer for the original Last of Us and co-director of the game) would be the showrunners I felt the show would be in good hands but was still nervous about how it would feel.
The Last of Us video game is the story of Joel and Ellie as they trek across an infected United States and deal with the many types of monsters that exist in the world. It’s an emotional story and an epic journey that was further enhanced by the amazing acting of Troy Baker as Joel and Ashley Johnson as Ellie.
Episode 1 took a beloved series and gave it its own spin in the story and characters without alienating longtime fans. Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) is a working-class man trying to make ends meet for his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker). The episode takes its time in its almost 90-minute runtime, giving viewers the opportunity to get to know Sarah for a good portion of it. When the outbreak happens and all hell breaks loose, it makes the tragic loss Joel faces even harder and gives audiences a reference to Joel’s motivation when he is seen aged, gray, and broken twenty years in the future.
The camerawork is well done especially when the infected begin to spread, forcing Joel, Sarah, and Tommy (Gabriel Luna) to escape Austin. Viewers feel as though they are trapped in the truck with the characters as the horror unfolds and the world breaks. It’s an intense set piece and is likely just a small example of the production quality ahead.
The acting from all cast members is stellar. Tess (Anna Torv), Firefly resistance leader Marlene (Merle Dandridge), and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) all come to play in the second half of the episode and their presence is felt without overshadowing any of the other actors.
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey did an excellent job in introducing their rendition of Joel and Ellie. For fans of the video game series, it would be easy to compare Pascal and Ramsey to the work from Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson. However, the way in which Pascal and Ramsey take the characters and make them their own in a respectful way, is nothing short of spectacular.
If the pacing is a sign of what is to come, then this journey will no doubt be epic in its own way. The Last of Us video game was so well done that it would have been easy to lift the script and recreate it scene by scene. However, the subtle plot tweaks and story enhancements made Episode 1 feel fresh and familiar. The pacing in Episode 1 is well done giving a full story and subplots within it.
Heavy spoilers posted after the photo…
This episode begins with epidemiologists discussing pandemics and risks to humans on a 1960s talk show. Dr. Newman (played by John Hannah) expresses how fungi can be just as threatening as bacteria or viruses if they evolved to survive in warmer temperatures and should this ever occur, humanity could cease to exist.
Jumping to 2003, viewers are introduced to Sarah (Nico Parker), her father Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal), and her uncle Tommy Miller (Gabriel Luna). It’s Joel’s birthday and almost a third of the episode takes its time in showing Sarah at school, getting her dad a birthday present, and spending time with the neighbors. While this can feel like a low stakes day, there is an ominous build happening all around. Sarah wakes up in the middle of the night from explosions and the outbreak is in full and terrifying force. Joel and Tommy quickly get her and attempt to get out of Austin, Texas only to be stopped by a soldier and Sarah getting fatally wounded, dying in her dad’s arms.
Jumping twenty years into the future at a military quarantine zone in Boston, we are introduced to Tess (Anna Torv), Firefly resistance leader Marlene (Merle Dandridge), and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Joel and Tess are in search of a car battery to get out of Boston and Marlene is working to get Ellie to another Firefly location. Their paths cross after both parties are lied to by a smuggler named Robert and after an intense discussion, Marlene makes a deal with Joel and Tess to get Ellie to another Firefly location. Joel and Tess agree begrudgingly and, on their wa out of the city, they are stopped by a soldier who scans Ellie as being infected. It’s a revelation to Joel and Tess as they learn why Ellie is so important and after Joel kills the soldier, they make their way through the fence and into the infected zone.
As a series premier, Episode 1 is a stellar beginning. When the credits rolled, I was left content and eagerly awaiting what lies ahead in what will likely be one of the best, if not the best show of 2023. Episode 1 of the Last of Us is cinematic, epic, and the next episode can’t get here fast enough.
The Last of Us: A Perfect and Respectful Rendition to a Well Known Epic
- Writing - 9.5/109.5/10
- Storyline - 9.5/109.5/10
- Acting - 9.5/109.5/10
- Music - 9.5/109.5/10
- Production - 9.5/109.5/10