HBO’s The Last of Us is the highly anticipated adaptation of Naughty Dog’s game of the same name. Since 2013, it has been heralded as one of the best storytelling video games. The video game has stood the test of time, with people buying remastered versions of it for years, and so far, the HBO series does not disappoint!
The pilot opens like the game, and in some cases, they are shot-for-shot identical. Starring Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller and Bella Ramsey as Ellie Williams, The Last of Us follows this unlikely duo as they travel across America, twenty years after a fungal pandemic destroys the world as we know it. Of course, with any adaptation, there must be changes and judging from the pilot alone, these changes are almost perfect. With a beloved game such as The Last of Us, expansions were inevitable. Instead of opening the series with Sarah waking up to Joel, we see a typical day in the lives of the Millers back in 2003. Everything, from the same shirt Sarah wears to how the Miller house looks is almost perfect. The family dynamic is clearly shown through the eyes of Sarah with subtle hints of the world slowly falling apart as she goes about her day.
Present-day 2023 offers more insight into the new world order than the game could. We see normal, everyday people working for rations as others are punished for daring to leave the quarantine zone. It’s a grittier, bleaker world within the safety of the quarantine zone than the PlayStation game could show, and it’s a change that adds more to an already brilliant world of storytelling. It’s not just the world-building that gets a welcome addition.
Characters within the video game were already fleshed out, but the HBO series offers that little bit extra that perfectly adds more to the character without changing them too much. Merle Dandridge reprises her role from the video game as Marlene and the show perfectly displays Marlene’s military mind but also compassion for Ellie. Similar changes can be found with Joel. Where his life in the quarantine opens with a deal gone wrong with Robert, HBO’s Joel’s drive seems to be his family. Rather than focusing on the drugs and guns as his focus, Pascal brings another side to Joel Miller without losing the essence of his character.
Unfortunately, the same could not be said for Anna Torv’s Tess Servopoulos. Where other characters were adapted and changed a little to fit the world of television. Tess was as well, but her character seemed to lack that drive or agency that the others perfectly had. Instead of an equal partnership with Joel, the series heavily implies that Joel is Tess’s attack dog. Tess seems a little misplaced in the series, as does Robert, which is the only thing that prevents this episode from being rated a full 10/10.
HBO’s The Last of Us proves that video games can be adapted almost to perfection with their beautiful and gut-wrenching story perfectly transitioning to a series. It opens like a punch to the gut, with panic, heartbreak, and horror all taking center stage, and is elevated by a talented cast and crew. The pilot will draw you in as it shows the grueling tale of survival and family at the end of the world. The best of the series is Pedro Pascal. Pedro perfectly captures his video game character while making it his own. Nothing is ever overdone, from the violence to the emotional gut-wrenching scenes. Joel is a complicated character and it shows more in the series than it does in the video game.
Final Score- [9.5/10]
Reviewed by - Leigh Doyle
Publisher at Midgard Times
Premiere Date: January 15, 2023, on HBO
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