The Last of Us premiered on HBO Max on Jan. 15, a Sunday whose peace is disrupted by waves of tears, anxiety, and laughs—as much as you could laugh in the apocalypse. Adapted from the cult classic video game by the same name in 2013, the series captures the essence of Joel, Ellie, and the billions of cordyceps that invade our minds.
The series was directed by Neil Druckmann, who played a critical role in the video game and its sequel as the writer and creative director. Upon announcement of the adaptation, like most well-loved franchises, the fans were divided—some were excited about the new medium, while others were scared of what changes would be made.
Fortunately, with Duckermann sticking by the entire production of its first season, there’s no denying how much more depth the adaptation has given to this mushroom-ridden alternate reality.
Fresh takes in the alternate future of humanity
In a reimagined 2023, the world is dominated by a type of cordyceps fungus that propagates by infecting ants and, after a recent outbreak, through humans. These humans act as if they were traditional ideas of zombies where a bite causes infection. We follow different stories of people in this new world, some appearing more heinous than others, but all victims of this apocalyptic scenario.
Though subtle, given its incredible respect for the source material, fans will surely enjoy the different ways the show references the video game. However, the show isn’t blindly loyal to the classic as it intentionally changes the game’s world, and the characters provide a deeper root into the story’s core.
Without spoiling too much, the story changes some narratives to become more heartfelt and human—so that the audience follows stories of breathing people and not just a bunch of NPCs for a specific area. Changes were made but never was it done to the detriment of the show’s storytelling. If anything, it made the plot richer.
When life is on edge, choices need to be made
With performances by Pedro Pascal, who plays the jaded single-father turned survivalist Joel, and Bella Ramsey, who plays the angsty military kid with a gift, Ellie, this duo embodies these characters almost perfectly. Although the father-daughter trope has been done and rewritten so many times, The Last of Us is one of the more memorable and deeply human ones.
Other characters also have moments to showcase another face of civilization in this world, each purposeful in Joel and Ellie’s story and interesting enough to stand out from the rest with differently written arcs.
Moving onto the pacing of the series, given this weekly release instead of the common binge-able streaming release strategies nowadays, it’s a blessing that it wasn’t released in one go. Watching the series in one sitting may be overwhelming, but the weekly schedule allows viewers to recover and prepare for increasingly more emotional scenes. However, it is essential to note that viewers are given ample time as the story isn’t all high-tension in each episode.
The world of mushrooms into flesh
There isn’t much to say about the visuals of the series, as it delivers some of the scariest zombies in recent memory. By utilizing physical fungi-infected human monstrosities with a mixture of CGI, The Last of Us avoids risking the horrific atmosphere of cheap design choices.
While the casting was hit with unnecessary backlash from fans, and oddly enough non-fans as well, of the original game, there’s no denying how much the series gave justice to the game. As homophobic and sexist attacks are thrown to downplay some of the best parts of the show, many viewers should expect more for its second season after its massive success.
More classic video games like The Last of Us or The Cuphead Show are getting attention further from their initial fanbase, and it seems as if the future of contemporary serial adaptations.
Avoid the infection and the risk of getting spoiled by streaming The Last of Us Season 1 on HBO Max now.