I’ll be the first to admit that The Last of Us was not a game I picked up on my PlayStation. It’s got nothing to do with the plot or themes. Lord knows I love myself a good post-apocalyptic adventure, just like the next person. Maybe it was due to it being a console-exclusive game. I have been a PlayStation owner for many years, going back to the original version. However, over the years, I have been playing games exclusively on my PC. I just feel more at ease with a keyboard and a mouse than any controller.
Perhaps the main reason has to do with a little undead overload. 2013, the year The Last of Us was released, was a busy year for me. I was working for a website called Walking The Walking Dead (don’t look for it, ’cause it is gone now). In my role, I traveled a lot to Senoia, GA, to report on the TV show’s Seasons 3 and 4. I spent many a day and night just off-set, catching any photos I could that were allowed by AMC and journaling what I had seen and heard, so I could speak about it on the podcast. I made a lot of good friends down there, including some cast and crew members. But when your job deals with Zombies, the idea of spending my spare time playing a game that features something very close to the undead was very unappealing. You know the saying: Never let your hobby become your job…
But now that the Zombie hysteria has died down some, HBO Max has released the long-awaited The Last of Us series. Back when the game was released, the thought of making a movie based on it was floated around, even with the name of horror legend Sam Raimi attached. This adaptation never made it out of development, leaving fans of the game disappointed.
HBO never lost sight of a live-action offering, allowing it to sit on the shelf for seven years before the network announced it was moving forward on the project. Of course, the pandemic delayed production, but now the show is reported to be the largest television production in Canadian history. And from the looks of the first episode, they nailed the story perfectly.
The Last of Us TV series begins in 2003. A fungal outbreak occurs that causes exposed humans to turn into ravenous cannibals simply called The Infected. As the infection spreads, a man named Joel (Pedro Pascal) and his daughter, Sarah (Nico Parker), are attacked by a soldier, leading to Sarah’s death. Pedro is rescued by his brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna), and they make their way to a safe zone set up by the government.
Years later, Pedro is tortured by the memories of his past and has become a smuggler. During a mission, he finds himself entrusted with the care of a young girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey). And as the series unfolds, we will see if Joel is able to fulfill his duty of protecting Ellie as they journey across the country to safety.
The Last of Us is really well done. I know it is only one episode, but when I look back at other TV series that have come out lately, the crew behind this show did its homework. Some of the pitfalls that doomed other shows, such as Ms. Marvel and Andor, were avoided. Those shows may have ended on a high note, but the first few episodes were so slow in story building that I lost interest. The Last of Us is the polar opposite. The show’s beats are a great mix of story-building, action and suspense.
Pedro Pascal is amazing in his role as Joel, bringing a hard edge to this man, all while giving him faults that make him human. In video games, main characters seemingly have superhuman-like abilities, but in the show, Joel is portrayed as a man with some injuries he has been carrying for years, making viewers a little uneasy that this “main character” may end up lost by season’s end. He and Bella have a believable chemistry, in that you can feel Joel’s need to redeem himself for the loss of his daughter yet doesn’t want to be put to that task. It’s a great element to this story, and I am finding myself excited to see what is next.
HBO Max has made me want to go back and check out both games. The Last of Us series earns a solid five out of five stars. It’s the right blend of action and storyline, something fans of the game will love, while not being hard for new viewers to grasp. Pedro Pascal may be setting himself up for some awards for this show, and they are very much appropriate.