Review: The Last of Us – Episodes 1-3
Though initially hesitant, Emma Kennedy has nothing but praise for HBO’s The Last of Us, a series adaptation of the iconic 2013 videogame
When I first heard about The Last of Us, I assumed it would be like the other zombie apocalypse stories that have graced our screens in tv and film over the past decade – lacking in originality. Then I learnt that this series is a videogame adaptation; this lowered my expectations further when considering my past disappointment with such adaptations. However, I could not have been more wrong.
So far, The Last of Us offers a fresh and unique perspective of the zombie virus narrative, led by intriguing and brilliantly acted leads and well-paced episodes that leave the viewer waiting for each weekly instalment. Despite the dystopian setting, much of the show’s focus is on its human characters and their interactions with each other. Although it is a show about zombies, the real threat is decidedly the humans who have sought power in this crisis, allowing for morally grey characters and higher stakes than simply trying to stay alive.
The Last of Us offers a fresh and unique perspective of the zombie virus narrative, led by intriguing and brilliantly acted leads and well-paced episodes that leave the viewer waiting for each weekly instalment
Episode one starts in 2003, with our protagonist Joel, played by Pedro Pascal, living an ordinary life with his daughter. The world changes overnight, creating an intense and engaging opening for the series and an excellent set-up for its world and protagonist. It is now 2023; a new dictatorial government runs the world due to the political vacuum left by the crisis. There, we are introduced to Ellie, played by Bella Ramsey, a valuable asset of the resistance, with these two characters coming together over their shared mission.
Pedro Pascal brings realistic and truthful ruthlessness to his character while allowing glimpses beneath Joel’s hardened exterior, making him a complicated, likeable lead. However, his developing relationship with Ellie is the standout hook for the show. Ellie’s innocent nature directly contrasts Joel, creating an entertaining dynamic between them as they bicker and fight through the dangerous world around them. The newness of their relationship has made a perfect set-up for future episodes, with the two most likely growing closer.
Pedro Pascal brings realistic and truthful ruthlessness to his character while allowing glimpses beneath Joel’s hardened exterior, making him a complicated, likeable lead
Yet, I must also mention the stunning storytelling of episode 3. Although arguably deviating from the main plotline, the writers crafted an emotional love story within this world, with beautiful writing quickly connecting you to new characters (and I could not hold back my tears!).
But of course, the zombies are very frightening, which ensures that the threat of the world Joel inhabits is frequently reinforced, keeping the viewer in their seat for the majority of the watch. Its connection to fungus is also a take on zombies that I have not seen before, which is quite disturbing through the visual effects.
This series is off to a great start, with multi-layered characters and storytelling that does not rely on jump scares for engagement. I am excited to keep following this story, and it has given me more hope for other videogame adaptations in the future.