The Last of Us: Spoiler-Free Review
By Max Gast
On January 15, 2023, one of the most anticipated media adaptations of any video game ever came out. The Last of Us, based on the award-winning video game and its sequel, aired on HBO Max. It’s been the most talked-about show of the year so far.
The original Last of Us was a Playstation-exclusive video game released on June 14, 2013, to rave reviews, including a 9.7/10 on IMDb, which makes it third place in the video games section on the site. It eventually became a best-seller and since has been declared one of the greatest video games to ever be released.
The show was a smash hit with 4.7 million viewers watching the pilot, and 8.2 million watching the ending. Along with that, the game has been having a healthy resurgence.
Aside from the game, the show has received rave reviews on IMDb as well, sporting a 9.1/10 rating already making it 21st on the TV show section of the site, up there with Game of Thrones, The Twilight Zone, and Breaking Bad.
But what are my thoughts?
If you don’t know what the show/game is about, it’s about Joel, a middle-aged survivor of the apocalypse who lost his daughter to it. The zombie apocalypse in the show starts when a fungus called Cordyceps mutates so it can infect humans and cause them to have rabid behavior. A rebel group called the Fireflies wants Joel to smuggle a defiant 14-year-old girl named Ellie halfway across the country. She may be humanity’s last hope because she is immune to the infection and could help scientists find a cure. Along the way, they encounter terrifying obstacles including the infected and evil survivors.
In my opinion (and many others’ opinions) the show is the best video game adaptation ever put to screen, but that title comes surprisingly easy. The video game adaptation as a genre has been notoriously bad since its meteoric rise in the 90s. The Last of Us broke this curse by sticking very close to the source material.
The lengthy pilot, 81 minutes, is also the longest episode in the show, setting the scene telling us Joel’s backstory and how he eventually in the episode ends up with Ellie. The episode was lengthy but it hooked viewers in; everyone was watching it and it was shocking to people who played the game how accurate the show was
Now weeks later, the show is over, with a jaw-dropping finale episode where Joel has to make hard moral decisions, along with many great episodes along the way (Ep. 3 and 5). I like those episodes because they explore great characters and show a real struggle.
I think the show does an excellent job of portraying Joel and Ellie’s growing trust for each other as their journey continues, though rushed at times. The sets and effects are amazing along with makeup that makes the grey-and-red, goopy zombies come to life and the effects that make the orange fungus spread everywhere. All of this is accompanied by great lead performances from Pedro Pascal (Mandolorian and Narcos) and Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones), as well as characters that come and go like Nick Offerman who plays Bill in one episode gives one of the best performances of his career.
Pascal plays the lead, Joel Miller. Pascal did an amazing job of portraying Joel’s changing attitude toward Ellie throughout the show and was amazingly cast. On Joel’s side is Ramsey, who plays hot-headed Ellie. From the minute we’re introduced to Ellie, you could tell how well done the casting was. Many people were skeptical of Bella Ramsey’s reveal as Ellie, but skepticism was crushed by the time of the pilot. In Ellie’s first scene, she explodes with different insults and impatience towards the rebels testing her, displaying the attitude and type of character that Ellie is.
Aside from character writing, the story is done phenomenally. HBO recruited Neil Druckman, the original creator of the game, to adapt the award-winning story to the silver screen. Along with Druckman, Craig Mazin, writer of the celebrated HBO mini-series Cherynobl, worked with Druckman to write an excellent adaptation of the game.
Aside from what I think, the show and everything around it has been super successful. The first game has had a rebirth with sales jumping up 322% after the show’s premiere. The show already has a confirmed second and third season, based on The Last of Us: Part II where Joel and Ellie face a new, more intimidating enemy. Abby Anderson, someone who wants to avenge her father by killing Joel. Overall, HBO’s The Last of Us is an excellent show, and one of HBO’s best in a long time. It’s by far the best video game adaptation to appear on a screen, but aside from its praise, I rate the show a 9/10. Sometimes the show goes too fast, other times too slow, but its sets, story, characters, and effects are excellent, even by HBO standards. You can watch all episodes of The Last of Us on HBO Max right now.
I love this show and your review is spot on. Excellent article.