Review: The Last of Us


While many video games have tried to make the jump to the big screen – Tomb Raider, Doom, Uncharted – the results have often been less than stellar. That has changed with the release of The Last of Us.

The popular video game The Last of Us takes place in an apocalyptical world after a global pandemic destroys civilization. The cause? Cordyceps, a fungi that has turned humans into zombie-like creatures. This time it is not about the video game but a show. 

The two major characters in both the video game and show are Joel, played by Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) and Ellie, played by Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones).

There are guest stars throughout the show – Joel’s younger brother, Tommy, portrayed by Gabriel Luna (True Detective); Nico Parker (The Third Day) as Sarah, Joel’s 14-year-old daughter; Murray Bartlett (The White Lotus) as Frank, and Nick Offerman (Parks and Recreation) as Bill, two post-pandemic survivalists who met and became lovers. 

Those who know about the franchise know that the show is really good at including a lot of the same scenes from the game. There are locations and dialogue that are also the same from the game which brings satisfaction to fans and casual players from the game. There are some major differences between the game and the show, but it still feels complete because the writers and creators tied it in to still feel familiar. 

People constantly see plots about a post-apocalypse world after zombies or aliens invade the planet, but The Last of Us is different from these other shows and movies. It’s a show that really makes you, the viewer, think about the decisions that the characters are making and what people have become like after living through something like an apocalypse. The show can be very violent at times, whether it is fighting the fungus-ridden humans – runners, clickers, and bloaters – or seeing how evil some people can be, it brings out adrenaline in the viewer. 

We follow Joel through his journey to deliver Ellie, who is immune to cordyceps and can be the cure to humanity, to the Fireflies. Watching the relationship between Joel and Ellie in the beginning, one begins to question how well they will work together, and then over the episodes, we see their relationship develop and deepen, starting to feel like a story between two lonely people finally becoming a family, which is following the same tone as the video game.

In each episode, there is a new chapter to the story introduced from the past that ties in into the present world. Smartly cast and carefully written, these side stories evoke an emotional response from the very beginning. Although some episodes might be controversial for certain people, there were plenty of others who enjoyed them despite the backlash from some viewers.

The first episode provides background about Joel’s life before the outbreak, where we learn how he lost his 14-year-old daughter. We then see Joel’s life in the present day and are introduced to Tess (Anna Torv), his girlfriend, and Ellie at the end of the episode. The second episode is about where the outbreak all first began. The first episode is good at explaining how Joel became the person he is, the second episode was a very interesting episode following a scientist discovering patient Zero in Indonesia. Both episodes are great at setting the tone for the show and how serious the problem was and is for society in their world. 

The third episode was probably the most controversial, with a story about Frank and Bill which was very different from the video game in terms of their storyline and location. In the show, Frank and Bill live to be an old gay couple together, but in the video game Frank hanged himself and Bill is still alive helping Joel and Ellie. The version of the show didn’t sit right with some people as they probably didn’t know about the homosexual couple, but it was one of the best insights about how some people survived and brought a heartbreaking scene that made some cry (including me). It was enjoyable to watch although it felt like it was a different show we were watching because Joel and Ellie don’t appear until the end of the episode. 

In the fourth episode, after a journey through the desert, Joel and Ellie find themselves in the streets of deserted Kansas City. Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), a rebel leader, wants to catch Joel and Ellie after they run into trouble while passing through the city, along with getting revenge on Henry and Sam, two brothers. Watching Joel and Ellie building their relationship in this episode, while still feeling distant, is great to watch as you start to notice how they are slowly relying on each other’s presence. Kathleen was hard to sympathize with because she wanted to get revenge and didn’t care who was hurt in her pursuit of it. 

In the fifth episode, Kathleen tries to get revenge against Henry and Sam. This episode is dramatic and you can’t help but feel sympathy as to why Henry was doing anything he could for his brother Sam. With a great performance from Henry (Lamar Johnson) and his brother Sam (Keivonn Woodard), a deaf boy, it is a fresh breath of air to know that there are still people with disabilities who are just as willing to survive. It was an action-packed episode where we finally see a bloater and get to see an emotional ending for Henry and Sam. 

The 6th episode is when we finally see Joel and Ellie out of the city heading to the Fireflies. Without expecting it we meet Joel’s brother, Tommy, who has started a new life, where he doesn’t need to fight to survive and is living in a caring community. Since Ellie and Joel are not used to having to put down their defense after meeting rebels and cordyceps, it was hard for them to fit in. Watching the episode to find out there are still communities that are well-civilized was unexpected but felt comforting. It was also funny watching the way Ellie acted toward others because she was never allowed to feel unguarded. Meanwhile, watching Joel and his brother Tommy not feel close because they had lived different lives after a long time was a little sad because they were on different pages in life.

The 7th episode is when we finally get to know about Ellie and her life in the FEDRA camp before meeting Joel. Ellie had a best friend, Riley (Storm Reid), who she was living with but ran away to join the Fireflies. The night Riley came back is what changed everything. Ellie shared a kiss with Riley and we saw them have fun at the mall. But since all good things come to an end, Ellie has to deal with seeing her best friend and herself get attacked by the cordyceps, although Ellie finds out she is immune to the cordyceps. It was heartbreaking knowing that Ellie had to deal with losing people throughout her whole life. We then cut back to Joel and Ellie reaching the Fireflies, but instead, Joel gets hurt by two men and Ellie has to get him to safety. The episode was predictable about the ending of Riley and Ellie, but it was heartwarming knowing that they loved each other but then became heartbreaking seeing them fight for their lives. Watching Joel get hurt was unpredictable and intense.

In the 8th episode, in trying to protect Joel, Ellie comes across the people who hurt Joel. The leader of the group convinces Ellie to come back with him, but he is not who he seems. While she was able to get medicine for Joel, she had to leave him. Joel recovers, but is not able to get to Ellie in time. Luckily, Ellie didn’t need him to.There was a visible contrast in the way Tommy’s group was as a community and the cult. It was serious at the end of the episode as it was just Joel and Ellie helping each other after becoming father and daughter. Overall, this episode was amazing at storytelling and showing the chemistry between the two characters. Joel had an amazing delivery on his part in the scenes where he gets hurt. 

The final episode, although the shortest, was packed with action scenes, where Joel sends Ellie to save humanity, but doesn’t know what will happen after. We see how Ellie got her immunity from the cordyceps and get to see her mom, Anna (Ashley Johnson). Once Joel finds out how they plan on using Ellie for the cure, Joel is faced with a difficult decision – save humanity or save Ellie. After all they’ve been through, there’s only one choice for Joel. ((SPOILER ALERT)) After saving Ellie, Joel takes her back to Tommy’s community. When she asks what happened, he lies and she seems to accept his lie, though you get the sense she doesn’t believe him, which leaves us wondering how it may affect their relationship going forward. 

Although I did not play the video game, it was still a show that you can enjoy whether or not you have played the game. The show itself might drift off into the life of other characters and their problems, sometimes leaving little spotlight on Joel and Ellie making it hard to understand them and what they are doing, where they were, the context, and the timeline. What was enjoyable was seeing the relationship between Joel and Ellie grow from strangers to a father-daughter one.

The episodes were all so interesting that you couldn’t take your eyes off the screen. With scenes that would make you emotional or excited, it was an emotional rollercoaster. The show had great fighting scenes all throughout but I think there could have been more scenes where they were fighting clickers and bloaters to remind us that the video game and show was about fighting the cordyceps, but with the too many fighting scenes it would have become an action series instead of the emotional and well constructed series it became. 

The nine episode show is available to stream on HBO . It was a joint production between Sony Pictures and PlayStation Productions, directed by Greg Spence. The show was written and executive produced by Craig Mazin (HBO’s Chernobyl). Niel Druckman, one of the developers of the game, was also helping with the scripts and storyline. There will be a second season, as it was renewed after the second episode was released. Whether it follows the storyline of The Last of Us, Part 2, remains to be seen. I would rate the show a 9.5/10 because it was almost perfect but the ending scene was missing something, other than that it is an amazing show.