The celebrated game turns into expensive TV series from HBO. Is it worth your time in front of the TV?
It was in 2013 that the video game The Last of Us was released and enjoyed great success. A big reason why the game was so acclaimed as it was was the well-written story. Now ten years later, it is time for that story to be turned into a television series, and it is the game's author Neil Druckmann who's also written the script for the series, together with Craig Mazin who previously made, among other things, the miniseries Chernobyl.
The world has almost ended. It's been 20 years since a malignant fungal infection that took over people's brains spread like wildfire across the earth. Humanity did what it could to try to stop the spread, but it could not be stopped. Now the world is in ruins and uninfected people are still fighting for their survival.
The scarred survivor Joel, together with his companion Tess, is persuaded to ensure that the teenager Ellie arrives unscathed at a rebel headquarters a long journey away from the quarantine zone where they all initially find themselves. Reluctant from the start but with the promise of a reward, Joel takes on the mission to hopefully also find his brother on the same journey.
The main roles of Joel and Ellie are played by the excellent Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian) and Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) who both shine throughout the series. The chemistry between them is amazing and as Joel and Ellie's relationship develops, so do they.
Sometimes you just have to be dead quiet to survive.
No less than four of the voice actors from the game are also in the series. Merle Dandridge plays Marlene exactly as she does in the game, and Joel, Ellie, and Tommy from the game, that is Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, and Jeffrey Pierce, also return, though in other minor roles in the series.
In other roles, we see Gabriel Luna as Joel's brother Tommy and Anna Torv as Tess, and then we also encounter Murray Bartlett (Frank), Nick Offerman (Bill), and Melanie Lynskey (Kathleen) during the journey.
Not even 20 minutes into the first (81 minutes long) episode I was already on pins and needles. That is not to say that there is constant action or tension throughout the series. At times it can even feel a bit slow and like nothing is happening, but it's always good, well-told, and leads somewhere. Characters develop and the story deepens all the time.
It is not only masses of infected in various forms that pose a threat on the road, but the biggest threat comes from other healthy people. Robbers, rebels, slave traders, and all sorts of other desperate people who will do anything to survive are the biggest threat. In short, it is a very dangerous journey they embark on.
There is ample evidence of how quickly the world fell apart.
It is also a long journey and we are treated to beautiful albeit desolate views interspersed with dark nooks and ravaged cities. Moss and plants cover most of it, which constantly reminds us that people are almost completely gone and nature runs wild.
Ellie and Joel both carry a past that they don't like to share with others, but when the bubbly Ellie and the more resigned Joel hang out for such a long time and have to rely on each other to even get through in one piece, they naturally soften towards each other and both Pascal and Ramsey is to be commended for the way they portray that development.
In terms of story, the first season follows the first game quite exactly, although the series develops and builds on to certain pieces, so if you have played the game you will recognize most of it. It might sound sad that they hardly changed anything, but why change a winning concept? I don't think there's much doubt that this is the best video game adaptation ever.
The Last of Us premieres on HBO Max on January 15 and is worth your time in front of the TV.
The Last of Us gets the score 8 out of 10.