On left: HBO’s “The Last of Us” promotional poster. On right: Cover image for “The Last of Us” game. The show, scheduled for nine episodes, has a lot in common with its source material. It follows Joel, played by Pedro Pascal, and Elle, played by Bella Ramsey, as they try to navigate a post-apocalyptic world. (HBO / Naughty Dog)
On left: HBO’s “The Last of Us” promotional poster. On right: Cover image for “The Last of Us” game. The show, scheduled for nine episodes, has a lot in common with its source material. It follows Joel, played by Pedro Pascal, and Elle, played by Bella Ramsey, as they try to navigate a post-apocalyptic world.

HBO / Naughty Dog

The Last of Us: Review

January 25, 2023

“The Last of Us” is a Playstation exclusive game about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world. Originally released on the Playstation 3 in 2013, it has since been remastered for the Playstation 4 and remade for the Playstation 5. 

While the game might continue to be a hallmark Playstation exclusive, its story is now more accessible to audiences through an HBO series based on the game. The show premiered January 15, with eight more episodes that will be dropping every Sunday.

It will be interesting to see the similarities and differences between the show and the game’s storyline. The game has been praised time and time again for having a great story, so the challenge with turning it into a TV show is transforming the game into a watchable medium. 

Searching “The Last of Us” on Google causes a mushroom button to appear, and clicking it spreads a viral fungal growth seen in “The Last of Us” franchise. Staff Writer Ashton Lewandowski and Editor Drew McCarthy will be here after every episode to provide a recap and analysis. 

Warning: This review contains spoilers.

Episode 1: When You’re Lost in the Darkness

The show wastes no time explaining a fungal infection in an initially comedic scene that slowly gets darker as the episode takes place, which sets the mood for the rest of the episode. 

The characters in the scene proceed to slowly ponder what would happen if the fungus ended up evolving to adjust to warmer temperatures found in humans. ”

— Staff Writer Ashton Lewandowski

This scene in particular references a real life mutant-ant fungus, which slowly takes control of the ants’ motor functions in order to spread itself to more ants. The characters in the scene proceed to slowly ponder what would happen if the fungus ended up evolving to adjust to warmer temperatures found in humans.  

We are then introduced to the main character, Joel Miller, as well as his daughter and his brother. Joel is played by Mandalorian actor Pedro Pascal, and he plays the part masterfully. 

Whenever Joel is on screen, he has a raw aura of power despite appearing like a normal guy. The next few scenes are the characters going about their day, even though the audience can tell that something is off, whether that be from police sirens going off in the background or emergency vehicles drastically increasing in appearance as the day goes by. 

The first episode follows the first few chapters of the game almost exactly, with extra scenes to ramp up the horror of the situation. 

The first episode follows the first few chapters of the game almost exactly, with extra scenes to ramp up the horror of the situation. ”

— Staff Writer Ashton Lewandowski

An entirely new segment is added with Joel’s daughter, Sarah, and their older neighbors, with Joel’s daughter going over to be friendly with them and their vegetative grandma during the evening. 

Near the end of the scene when Sarah is about to leave, she gets distracted looking at items on a bookshelf. Meanwhile, the grandma near the back of the room is clearly moving her head in horrible and unnatural ways that cannot be entirely made out by the audience and goes unnoticed by Sarah.

The first part of the episode then culminates with Sarah waking up alone late at night to the sound of explosions and military vehicles, seeing a neighbor’s dog, frightened, outside of her front door, and then trying to bring it back to the neighbors only for her to realize they have been brutally attacked by the no longer vegetative grandma. 

The grandma, now an infected zombie, charges at her, but Sarah is saved by Joel and his brother, Tommy, who then realize they need to make it out of the city. The cascading, action-fueled scenes culminate when they find a soldier, thinking he can help them to safety. To their surprise, the soldier is ordered to shoot them and Tommy saves Joel from getting shot, but not before Sarah dies from a gunshot wound.

The show then jumps 20 years into the future to 2023, showing day-to-day life for Joel in the military encampment that he is living in. He has clearly changed, as he is doing shady illegal deals in order to survive. 

We learn of the Fireflies, a terrorist group that has been targeting areas within the encampment in order to fight the more oppressive military that is in control. We also learn that their leader has a girl named Elle, played by Bella Ramsey, locked up in a room.

In the second episode, expect Joel, Tess, and Elle to spend the majority of the time navigating through the collapsed city to bring Elle to the Fireflies.”

— Staff Writer Ashton Lewandowski

Joel is now looking for Tommy, who somehow got separated from him in the 20 year time skip, and is trying to find the resources to escape and meet up with him in Wyoming. They had previously communicated by radio, but Tommy has since gone silent. We are also introduced to Tess, Joel’s smuggling partner, who assists him in the search.

Tess and Joel sneak into a building wanting to enact revenge for a deal that went bad with some other smugglers, only to find them all dead. They then spot a hurt Fireflies leader, named Marlene, with Elle, the captured girl from earlier. They work out a compromise that promises Joel and Tess the means to escape the military encampment, as long as they bring Elle with them to a Fireflies base located in the city.

After an encounter with a soldier, Tess and Joel discover that Elle is infected with the mutant fungus, but after some deliberation between the two, they decide to continue with their mission. The episode ends with Tess, Joel, and Elle sneaking out of the military encampment, heading toward a collapsed city. 

Joel has noticeable post traumatic stress disorder from losing his daughter, which is shown throughout the second half of the episode. Joel’s PTSD might come into play later in the show to cause him to do something unreasonable. 

The show has followed the first chapters of the game very closely, with only slight deviations in plot, and will likely continue to follow the chapters in the game closely. 

In the second episode, expect Joel, Tess, and Elle to spend the majority of the time navigating through the collapsed city to bring Elle to the Fireflies.

Episode 2: Infected

The second episode of “The Last of Us” jumps back in time to 2003 in Jakarta, Indonesia, with Mycology Professor Ibu Ratna being taken by the Indonesian government to examine a body that was recently infected and killed by a fungus. 

The worker had suddenly become rabid and bit the other workers in the factory”

— Editor Drew McCarthy

A government official explained to Dr. Ratna what had transpired leading up to the death of that person after her examination of the body. The body was of a flour and grain factory worker. The worker had suddenly become rabid and bit the other workers in the factory and attacked the cops, ending with the worker shot and killed.

In an eerie speech, Dr. Ratna explained that she has studied fungi her entire life and in her professional opinion, there is absolutely no cure for this. The worried government official asked what was there to be done. She simply said, “Bomb. Start bombing. Bomb this city and everyone in it.”

The show then jumps back to 2023 and the adventure of Joel, Tess, and Ellie. After the group had successfully escaped the QZ and had begun their trek westward, they arrived in a ruined Boston. Boston was home to many infected people and  would serve as the group’s first real trial with zombies.

As the group continues to travel, they come upon a museum which they must go through in order to reach their destination. They found dead fungi on the outside of the museum and assumed there were no infected inside because of this. They were dead wrong. 

These zombies make horrible clicking noises and look even more taken over by the fungus…”

— Editor Drew McCarthy

As they enter, Ellie stumbles upon a freshly deceased human. This puts them all on high alert because it meant that there actually were zombies in the museum. As they silently make their way through the creepy museum, they have their first encounter. 

The zombies in this museum are not like the regular kind, they are called “clickers.” This is made known by the video game, and is not clearly stated in the second episode of the show. These zombies make horrible clicking noises and look even more taken over by the fungus, as their heads are about 50% mushroom.

Luckily, Ellie is traveling with two zombie killing experts, Joel and Tess. The two use their expertise to get out of the museum after a scuffle with around four or five clickers. The thing about these mushroom zombies is that they are all connected. If one finds you or is killed, it alerts all of the zombies connected to them. 

Some have no other zombies connected to them and others have hundreds. The entire reason the group went through the museum and not the faster way was because there was a group of about 100 zombies in their way just out on the street. Unfortunately, the zombies in the museum were connected to those 100 zombies. The group was alerted of this when they heard a cacophony of screams from far away. 

The group bolts across a field of grass to a different building to hide, but the zombies are still heading their direction. They are confused as to how they know where they are, when Tess suddenly reveals she got infected in the museum.

This episode leaves the audience with the feeling that this world they are in is more brutal than we could have ever imagined.”

— Editor Drew McCarthy

Luckily, there were barrels of oil and a few grenades in the building they were in, the group decided that Tess would stay behind and blow up the zombies and the others would make a run for it. Joel and Ellie sprint out of the building spilling as many oil barrels as they could.

As Tess begins to try and set the oil on fire with her lighter, the zombies storm the building looking for her. One of the zombies who found her, walked up to her and in one of the most disgusting scenes so far, opens its mouth to reveal a plethora of mushrooms reaching out. 

As the zombie gives Tess the most horrific kiss ever, she is finally able to light her lighter and set the oil coating the floor on fire. Joel and Ellie are shown running through the grass as the building explodes. They look back saddened by the fact they just lost their comrade, but know that they have a mission and have to carry on no matter the cost. 

This episode leaves the audience with the feeling that this world they are in is more brutal than we could have ever imagined. I think next episode it will be even more evident. There will probably be a lot of fighting between Joel and Ellie due to their sadness and frustration with their loss. 

The group will probably continue their trek westward but I think more than anything, there will be a paradigm shift. I believe that the main enemy will be the military rather than the zombies in the next episode. I am sure they will encounter zombies, but it seems the military has a greater influence in this story than we think.

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