The Last of Us is an action-adventure, survival horror game that was developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony PlayStation, now known as PlayStation Studios. It was released worldwide on June 14th, 2013 and has won many awards from various associations, and has been dubbed as the best game of the Playstation 3 with seven million copies sold worldwide. Combine that with the polarizing success of the sequel The Last of Us II and the increasing fandom of the franchise, and you get a live-action adaptation greenlit by PlayStation Studios and HBO.
When I first heard about this news, I was genuinely excited. I wanted to see just how grueling they could make this show compared to its video game counterpart, and if they could nail the portrayal of the characters and the fantastic story to give fans a genuine experience they could enjoy beyond the game. With Craig Mazin (best known for the five-part series Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (writer and creative director for The Last of Us video game), this was sure to be a hit series – I had held onto my faith as if my life depended on it. Speaking as objectively as possible, they did not disappoint!
The series is nine episodes long and the first episode makes a lasting impression with a runtime of one hour and 25 minutes long. Fans of the game already know this little tidbit, but for those of you that are brand new to the franchise, you’ll learn this post-apocalyptic world doesn’t just involve zombies and the constant dread of trying to survive. There’s some science involved here – one you wouldn’t have expected. Ladies and gentlemen, I am speaking of Cordyceps. Cordyceps are wicked fungi that primarily infect insects and take over their minds. It makes the host uncontrollable, extremely violent, and irate. The show gives you an explanation as to why this particular type of fungi is involved and the role it plays in this story, which the video game counterpart never really explains. This also sets the rest of the tone for the show and gives you an idea of what’s to come.
The most interesting aspect of the series is in the way it reveals where and how things went wrong. The shift in the mood is what grabs you and keeps you invested. A major part of the experience of translating this story from game to series is how well the actors play their roles in all of this. The main stars of the show are Pedro Pascal (best known for The Mandalorian and Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones) as Joel, and Bella Ramsey (Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones) as Ellie. One approaches the casting of any major roles such as these with a fair bit of caution, but the pair thankfully surprise with how well they stack up to their video game counterparts, Troy Baker (voice actor for Joel) and Ashley Johnson (voice actor for Ellie). The supporting cast for the show does a wonderful job of bringing the world to life, and in a pleasant surprise Merle Dandridge reprises her role as Marlene from the video game.
With every episode, the series always finds a way to keep you on the edge of your seat due to how new everything feels, even if you are a fan of the video game. The excitement that comes from seeing more of how it all started and to see the overall story more fleshed out is unparalleled. Experiencing the series is almost as if you were seeing another side of the same story you feel you know so well. While this is supposed to be a different take, viewers are sure to be impressed and very excited at how well the show adheres to the source material. When comparing some of the most iconic moments of the game to this adaptation, the results are genuinely exciting with what they do both differently and similarly and how well it all fits together. While the level of brutality seems almost impossible to match, the show has a very good handle on the level of violence it does depict, and it’s satisfying, to say the least.
What it does similarly is it captures the essence, beauty, and joy that happens all while the world around Joel and Ellie continues to fall even deeper into despair. The only thing fans might miss is the exclusion of airborne spores – which is another way of spreading infection and also a key element to the game. It is nearly inevitable that video game fans will question why certain moments were done differently, or not at all. However, it is very likely that if a second season were ever approved, this and other key moments would be included. Mazin and Druckmann both expressed recently that if they were to do a second season it wouldn’t go beyond the games.
Another huge win for the show is the place of actual representation – having people from different races and identities all equally represented because it’s a mirror of what the real world looks like. This is something Neil Druckmann has also done in his work within the gaming industry, so it only makes sense for it to be done here, as well. The design of the clickers look terrifying and seeing what makes them different from the video game adds even more suspense to the show. This is a series that could benefit from being more than nine episodes due to the rich tapestry of characters just waiting to have their backstories explored further. Fans have been getting lost in this world for nearly a decade now, and the transition to television has been executed at such a level that you will scarcely believe it.
To my fellow The Last of Us fans, you won’t be disappointed with what you see on January 15th at 9pm ET on HBO. I’m betting my dollar that you’ll enjoy it as much as I did. You can catch the episodic recaps here every Sunday after the show airs.
The Last of Us delivers on what we love about the game while giving us even more depth to the story and characters. Pascal and Ramsey embody Joel and Ellie and deliver from start to finish.
Hey! I’m Lais a.k.a. Chipz-N-Stix and I love video games and nerd culture overall. I typically do reviews and impressions on video games as well as offer some helpful tips and tricks to enhance your gaming experience. From time to time I tend to touch on certain topics that get you thinking – things that would matter to the individual. I’m also a self-proclaimed Pokemon Master but that doesn’t mean you can outright challenge me. I have to “motivate” my team for that!