Review: The Last of Us Season 1
Well, here we are. Nine episodes later, and we’ve come to the end of our first season of The Last of Us. We took a look at the first episode, but now we have to look at whether the season was everything we hoped for. WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD!
A Masterclass in Story Telling
Anyone who has played the games already knows that The Last of Us is one of the best stories told in recent gaming memory. However, how many times have we gotten adaptations that just can’t quite keep up? This is not one of those times. There were several significant changes made to certain stories, like Bill and Frank, but the general consensus has been that the changes made were done in such a way that it actually enhanced the game’s story. However, it’s worth noting that several scenes were shot-for-shot recreations of the game.
The building of the relationship between Joel and Ellie has been an interesting watch, as we aren’t getting predictable tropes you typically see in these types of stories. There have been several instances where Joel will tell Ellie to do something, then she goes and does something completely different that ultimately saves someone’s life, including Joel’s. Usually in these types of relationships we get the typical, “I told you to stay back!” type of moments. Not in The Last of Us. There is a respect there between Joel and Ellie, where Joel recognizes how much of a survivor Ellie is, and he begins to treat her like a partner and not just a kid.
Emotional at Every Turn
If there’s one thing, in my opinion, The Last of Us has done better than anything, it’s the ability to make you feel. The absolute powerhouse performances from Bella and Pedro as Ellie and Joel have brought tears to my eyes more than once. It goes beyond just the main characters though. The performances delivered by Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett as Bill and Frank were some of the most gut-wrenching and emotional of recent memory.
Relationships and their effects on people in a post apocalyptic society were a focal point in season one overall. Building trust and love in a time of raiders, bandits, and murderers is obviously difficult. This makes the Henry and Sam story arc that much more heartbreaking. To me, this pales in comparison to the prequel arc we got with Ellie and Riley. However, that particular story allowed for context into why Ellie came back to protect Joel when he was in dire straits without having to speak a word.
Obviously, the big key component is the relationship being built between Joel and Ellie. Every time one of them is in a situation that looks dire, the dynamic these two have built up always results in a tear jerking moment. Especially as Joel has become more open and fatherly after the tragedy suffered with his daughter in the beginning.
Here is where we get into heavy spoiler territory, as the season finale is the culmination of everything the show has been building towards in the best way possible. Joel finally gets Ellie where they need to be, and he discovers that in order to attempt to create the cure, the Fireflies plan to kill Ellie. This is where Joel absolutely loses it. Joel proceeds to go on a monstrous rampage to save her. This is where we get the look at the Joel we’ve heard the horror stories about. He becomes the cold and calculated killer of legend.
We’re left with somewhat of a gut punch of a moment. Joel escapes with Ellie after killing all of the Fireflies in the hospital they were in. When she wakes up, Joel proceeds to fabricate an entire story about why they left the hospital. She’s still in her hospital gown so she’s distrusting, but after they almost make it back to Jackson, Ellie prompts Joel one more time for the truth about the Fireflies. He doubles down and commits to the lie. This, in essence, leaves us in a bad situation at the end. There had been so much trust built up only to have the season end with Joel breaking it all down in order to try and protect the only thing he has left in this world.
It was such a sucker-punch of an ending, but season 2 promises to continue the beautiful story telling we’ve grown used to in the last nine weeks. Season one of The Last of Us is available to stream on HBO Max.