HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ Is Riveting


WARNING: Spoilers Below

Watching ‘The Last of Us’ was like visiting an old friend that you haven’t seen in years.

It was an experience I’d been waiting for ever since the video game was released back in June of 2013.

All the years of building up to a live-action version of this acclaimed narrative felt long overdue, but it’s hard not to feel happy knowing it’s here.

In the first episode, the audience is introduced to a variety of characters such as Joel and Sarah. Those who have played the video game know the two very well.

But before getting to that, the showrunners knew how vital it was to set the backdrop of the story further defining and shaping the world for what it truly is.

Within a few minutes, the audience is told a chilling reality to beware of. They’re told that fungus has the potential to be the world’s most dangerous threat. And if this turns out to be the case, there’s a strong possibility of a deadly cordyceps infection spreading across the globe that would inevitably shatter mankind.

It’s a daring question to pose at the very start of the show, yet a compelling and unique approach to grounding the show in realism utilizing readily available scientific findings.

The show could have gone the route of a traditional zombie-infested apocalyptic story, but they didn’t and that’s what makes it special.

Once the backdrop was set, a man named Joel and his daughter, Sarah, are introduced. Everything seems to be pleasant and just about any other ordinary day.

We see the events of the day play out through the lens of Sarah. From her and Joel eating breakfast at the kitchen table to watching Sarah zone out in a classroom, the audience is witnessing the final day of normalcy without even realizing it.

In the background, there are hints alluding to the fact that there is something truly terrific happening. What makes this even more frightening is that nobody knew how much their lives were going to change in just a few hours.

By taking this approach, fans of the video game are pleased with the in-between or left-out moments that they never got to see when playing. It added even more depth and a larger sense of immersion.

Later in the episode, we see Joel and Sarah celebrating his birthday out of all days. Throughout this scene, I couldn’t help but notice the source material faithfully reincorporated.

From that point on, nothing was ever the same. Sarah wakes up to a phone call from Joel’s brother, Tommy. He’s clearly in distress and is asking to speak to Joel but the line disconnects.

The tension and action pick up almost instantaneously and we are thrown into chaos. Joel, Sarah, and Tommy all come together deciding to leave their hometown in hopes of saving themselves.

In these sequences, we see what kind of person Joel is and who he needs to be for his family out of a desire to survive.

In one particular instance, Tommy is driving past a family on the side of the road pleading for someone to stop and Joel tells him to keep driving. This moment is so powerful because it adds an element of uncertainty with Joel.

How far will Joel go to save his family and what kind of a person is he?

These are the questions that may start popping up in the audience’s head as they watch, setting his character up for what’s to come.

Amidst all the chaos, Tommy was separated, forcing Joel and Sarah to run ending in heartbreak. Surprisingly enough, I found it to be utterly gut wrenching and made me break into tears.

Even though I knew it was coming, the impact of that moment had me speechless. Seeing a father embrace his daughter as she dies in agony is painful to witness.

Quite frankly, this devastating blow struck me harder in the show than it did in the video game. I believe that’s because we were given more of an insight into each of these character’s lives before tragedy.

As I teared up and consumed every ounce of emotion pouring out of Joel, I knew that we were in good hands.

Showrunners Craig Mazin, and Neil Druckmann had created something remarkably special for new and returning ‘The Last of Us’ fans to fall in love with.