Review: The Last of Us (Episode 1)
The highly anticipated debut of HBO Max’s The Last of Us has finally arrived! Based on the Sony games of the same name, The Last of Us follows Joel and Ellie as they trek through an apocalyptic wasteland full of fungus infected “zombies.
A Cultural Icon in Gaming
In June of 2013, The Last of Us debuted on Sony’s Playstation 3 to “universal acclaim.” The setting is a United States ravaged by a mutated Cordyceps fungus, turning its citizens into highly aggressive creatures that are dubbed The Infected. The majority of the story takes place in 2033, 20 years after the initial infection. Our two primary protagonists are Joel, a man who loses his daughter in the beginning and becomes a smuggler in the new future, and Ellie, a very special teenager who holds the key to humanity’s survival. Joel is tasked with escorting Ellie through the wasteland to fight for all of humanity.
Finally, a True Adaptation?
The first episode of The Last of Us as a TV show is already bringing to life a love letter to the games in the truest sense. I will preface the rest of this review by letting you know, I never played the games myself. I’ve watched play-through and loved the story, but I have not had the pleasure of diving into it first hand myself. That being said, the gaming community has already been very vocal about their support of the first episode and its ability to stay true to the source material. It’s no secret that video game adaptations have not been well received in the past. However, The Last of Us is off to one of the strongest starts we’ve seen in this regard. Several scenes have been pulled directly from the game. One in particular shows Joel’s attempt to escape his town, in which we watch from the backseat as he desperately drives through and around the chaos that ensued from the initial outbreak. It was almost a shot for shot recreation that was beautifully executed.
An Apocalyptic Setting with Matching Tone
Next to how true to the source material the show is, the tone is the true stand out. The tone of the show really grabs a realistic view of society as a major disaster breaks out. The vast majority of the population has been infected, but there are small havens that are run by the authoritarian FEDRA. With every authoritarian government in movies, shows, or games comes resistance; the members of the resistance in The Last of Us are known as Fireflies. They vehemently oppose FEDRA and commit acts of “terrorism” in an attempt to gain freedom in a safe world. The depiction of this dynamic feels so much more real than in past forms of media. Every time someone comes face to face with a FEDRA member, you are genuinely on the edge of your seat on what might go wrong. The atmosphere and tone are tense, dingy, run down, and at points, scary.
What’s to Come?
If the show continues to push forward with being true to the game, The Last of Us promises to be the highest praised video adaptation of all time. The first episode ended the set up phase and left us on a cliffhanger as Joel and Ellie have just made it outside of the quarantine zone and are beginning their journey through the wasteland. The episode has already been praised for its attention to detail, Easter eggs, and even the small changes made. I, for one, cannot wait to see where the series goes from here and will be revisiting the television series after the finale to review the season as a whole.
The Last of Us is available to stream on HBO Max