“The Last of Us” Starts Strong on HBO Max

Episode 1 Review

Video game adaptations have always been a hit or miss. Either they follow the plot close enough with no personality of what once was or they make insane leaps of logic, making no sense. “The Last of Us Series,” a beloved survival horror game franchise since 2013, is now a TV adaptation on HBO. In “The Last of Us,” overrun by fungus-infected zombies, Ellie and Joel search the wasteland, slowly turning into a father-daughter-duo along the way. An adaptation was called for due to the atmospheric ambiance, dimensional characters and themes within the 16-hour game. Fans were delighted to hear Pedro Pascal was cast as Joel, yet hesitant when the mechanics shifted for the larger screen. Here are my thoughts and spoiler-less prayers about the first episode of HBO’s “The Last of Us.”
First, to address the elephant in the room . . . the changes. The team behind the show decided to change the method of infection. Before, the disease started via spores, but they changed it to tendrils, based on natural fungal parasites, for clarity. At first I was skeptical about the change, but, when portrayed, it almost seemed better than the game. The start of the episode was not one-to-one with the game, but it added backstory and depth behind the characters and their actions throughout the flashback. It made the twist at the end all the more heartbreaking than the first time.
Pascal did a fantastic job as Joel, and there was no better actor to do the job. The entire cast felt right, and even the background characters gave insane performances. During a tense chase scene, a runner (a type of zombie) was going after the main characters through an isolated restaurant. The runner flailed its ragdoll-like body as if a foreign parasite was in control and did not care about its physical well-being. While watching as it smashed into tables and barstools, I thought about how believable and almost better the actors portrayed this dystopian possibility.
Finally, the episode ended with a nice cliffhanger to let the audience hunger for more content. Overall, the first episode set a solid foundation for the game’s atmosphere, characters and themes.