The Last of Us Lives Up to Game’s Lofty Reputation

by Jordan Costolo ‘25

In 2013 the video game producers Naughty Dog created The Last of Us, an action-adventure game that went on to win numerous awards not only for its gameplay but also for the story and character development of its main cast. On January 15, a TV show based and named off of The Last of Us premiered on HBO Max. Both the game and show are about a world ravaged by zombies, and the plot follows Joel Baker (Pedro Pascal) escorting a teenage girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) through the wasteland, protecting her from infected and humans alike, as she may be the only way to find a cure. Along the way they encounter not only deadly zombies but also other hostile humans.

The show pays homage to the original game, partly because the original producer of the game Neil Druckmann co-created the series with Craig Mazin, producer on the series Chernobyl. The series is so similar to the point where some shots are almost completely the same as cutscenes in the game. Both Pascal and Ramsey navigate their characters well, creating a sense of realism in their emoting and their growing father-daughter like relationship. The strong emotion viewers start to feel for the characters helps get across the pain and sadness which are common in the world of both the game and show. Almost every character in the show is realistically portrayed, making it hard to not feel a full range of emotions about each of them, including even the antagonists.

In a world where zombies seem like they would be the main focus, The Last of Us follows the human aspects of survival. The desperation created by these circumstances brings out both the worst and best in the people, creating enemies not only in the form of zombies, as well as raiders and savages. Another thing that is different from most other shows involving the apocalypse is that The Last of Us shows the process of how the world decays over time. Other shows or movies just show the post apocalyptic landscape, while this show presents how the world itself would crumble step by step, making the world feel bigger and more realistic, differentiating itself from other zombie media.

Speaking of the world around the characters, the effects and landscape throughout the show create a beautiful backdrop for the characters to travel through. The show is full of wide sweeping shots to show off the beautiful and sometimes eerie, abandoned landscapes. The infected look disgusting, just as they should, either decaying or being without most of their former human features.

The Last of Us combines positive aspects from the game and a cast that really does care about the story they’re depicting. Video game movies have been common in the past with often extremely low, or at best, mediocre reviews. This newer format of a streaming show based on a video game offers the way to more freely adapt more interactive stories.

Grade: A