The Last of Us is a 2023 television drama released on HBO that concluded its first season this past weekend. Created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, the series is based on the 2013 Playstation video game created by Druckmann and Naughty Dog. Since the show premiered in January, it has received high critical praise and positive audience reception, being touted by many as the greatest video game adaptation of all time. As someone who has followed the gaming industry for most of my life, I can confirm that this is true. The Last of Us is a thrilling dramatic tale that combines excellent writing, acting, and filmmaking to tell a story that grips you from beginning to end and leaves you wanting more.
The show’s portrait of a zombie apocalypse breaking out in our world is told in a realistic, harsh, and raw approach to its core. This depiction truly makes the conflicts the characters overcome feel like something that could happen to any of us under such circumstances. What elevates the writing quality even further is the incredible performances of the two lead characters: Joel and Ellie, played by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey respectively. Pascal gives so much weight to his performance as Joel, knowing when to show emotion and when restraint is necessary. I bought him as a broken man willing to do anything to survive but yearns for human connection despite his fear of loss after his tragic past. However, Ramsey may have given the best performance in the whole show. Her incredible range of balancing serious drama and an irreverent sense of humor made Ellie come across as a fully 3-dimensional character that made her feel like a real kid you would have known growing up. In addition to the protagonists, the show did an excellent job of fleshing out the side characters that populated the post-apocalyptic version of America. These also helped show all the different perspectives that could come out of this horrifying situation that made the world feel well thought out and lived in.
On a technical level, the show was also competently made. Beautiful cinematography with every shot having a purpose, sound mixing that created an immersive experience in a creepy atmosphere, and well-paced editing made it a joy to watch that kept me interested and engaged the entire time. If anything, the incredible pacing left me wanting more, particularly in the final episode, which felt like it was too short. If I had one complaint about the show, it would be that the final episode felt like it needed more time to flesh out its ideas and conflicts. It also felt rushed by the time everything concluded.
Despite that one minor complaint, The Last of Us Season 1 was an exciting ride that I would highly recommend watching immediately if you haven’t already. Let’s all hope for our sake that a real zombie apocalypse doesn’t break out before they get to make season 2.