The Last of Us (HBO) Review (episodes 1-2)

photo courtesy of HBO

The Last of Us review (eps 1-2)

The Last of Us produced by HBO is an adaptation of the acclaimed PlayStation original game from 2013. It was created and written by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckman the creator of the original game. It’s the story of a viral pandemic that overtakes the world and leaves humanity in ruins. We follow Joel as a survivor in a quarantine zone in a ruined Boston that smuggles goods with his close friend Tess. When a situation leads them to smuggle a girl outside the zone to a rebel military group they quickly find it’s more complicated than they could ever imagine. The last of Us isn’t a simple adaptation its widely considered to be one of the best stories ever in its original medium. People were rightly skeptical when news of an adaption dropped. With that said I can happily say this is one of the strongest adaptions ever created. It brilliantly adds to the source material without straying from what worked originally. It adds depth to its characters, allowing room to breathe before their inevitable ends. Thanks to brilliant writing from its two creators The Last of Us will not only be one of the strongest adaptations but one of the best of the year.
The showrunners understand that not everything from the game can translate to tv perfectly. It smartly changes some of its core ideas while expanding its message. Firstly, the show adapts its fear by evolving (no pun intended) its virus/fungus to fit in a modern setting. The root cause of the outbreak was its fungus infection. It takes over the mind and spreads from host to host creating a “zombie” like creature. In the show, this fungus evolves to withstand the internal temperatures of a human being allowing it to spread throughout the globe. One of the ways it explains this change is through exposition in its opening segments. Each episode starts with an exposition brought to us by scientists. In the premiere, a scientist explains just how deadly it would be if fungus were to evolve by explaining our lack of resources to combat it. In the second episode, we learn from a professor that an infection has spread to countless amounts of humans in Indonesia. We understand the threat of a pandemic, we fear what we don’t understand. When someone with seemingly unending knowledge tells us we are doomed it elevates our fear to unfathomable heights.
Easily the best part of the show is the performances. Pedro Pascal, Nico Parker, and Bella Ramsey perfectly add to the tension with incredible nuance. Through tragedy, drama, and fear we have been directly placed into this world thanks to their masterful work. Nico Parker is the standout in episode 1, her portrayal of Sara is the exact thing the viewer needs to connect to the main protagonist and the world. While Pedro and Bella both show strong hesitancy and a deeply nuanced performance. From Craig Mazin’s past work on Chernobyl it is clear he’s a master of perspective, his creative lens shines here and provides hope for the rest of the series.
The Last of Us is remarkable not because it’s adapting a game, but because of the changes made. It adds to its material, it enhances its characters. It has a profound sense of respect for those that created it. Through creative collaboration with its creators we were given a phenomenal program that expands the world and the characters of what made the original so impactful.
I recommend watching The Last of Us and I am really excited to see where it goes next.
The Last of Us airs Sunday nights at 8pm CST on HBO and HBO MAX.

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