When you're lost in the darkness, look for the light.
The Last of Us is a 2023 post-apocalyptic drama series created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, produced by Sony Pictures Television, PlayStation Productions, Word Games, The Mighty Mint, and Naughty Dog, and distributed by Warner Bros. Television Studios. It's based off of Naughty Dog's 2013 video game, The Last of Us. The series stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.
"Fungi seem harmless enough. Many species know otherwise. Because there are some fungi that seek to control, not kill." - Dr. Neuman
Twenty years after civilization is destroyed by a deadly fungus, a broken smuggler named Joel is tasked with transporting a fourteen-year-old girl across the United States.
WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD.
As a point of reference, I have played through a portion of The Last of Us. The portion that I've played is mostly what is covered in this episode. So I was excited for this show, but I had reservations, because I'm never confident in video game adaptations.
And, oh my God, did this show blow my expectations out of the water.
The Last of Us is a breath-taking translation of the video game to the small screen. This pilot episode is about as perfect as you can get. It nails all of the story beats that the game had while actually going deeper and allowing you to really be invested in these characters before it tears your heart out by showing us the apocalypse.
The first thirty minutes of the show essentially act as the prologue to the entire story. And it's absolutely fantastic. In the game, we see Joel and Sarah right before the night of the apocalypse. Sarah's death is devastating, because you are invested in her and Joel, and it's just sad to see a kid get killed. This version is SO much sadder. The writers allowed the story to take its time and develop the characters. You fall in love with them while knowing that something terrible is coming. It makes for a very tense, very sad opening that will have you captivated for the entire time. The exclamation point is Sarah's death, which is just awful. Awful in a good way. Pedro Pascal's performance will rip your heart out. It was perfect.
The second part of the episode builds upon the actual story of the show. Once again, I've only played the first hour or so of the game, so I don't know where it's going, but the second part of the episode is the true beginning of the story. And, while it isn't as thrilling or as sad as the first part, it's still fantastic. It has this somber tone while giving you an intriguing build to the story. It gives us a glimpse of FEDRA and the Fireflies. It shows us where Joel is at. We meet Tess. We meet Marlene. And, of course, we meet Ellie. It's a great build to the story and a great second half of this episode.
The direction and production design are absolutely fantastic. The way that the Infected are portrayed in this episode is incredible. The faithfulness to the game and the practical effects just make this feel all the more special. The way that shots from cut scenes are recreated is just so, so good. The dusty look and feel of the show makes it feel so immersive and so much like the game. Just amazing. The attention to detail and amount of care put into production of this show is fabulous. I cannot rave about it enough.
And Pedro Pascal...man. This guy continues to prove time and time again how fantastic of an actor he is. He's never talked about beyond The Mandalorian, and he should be, because he's truly talented. He's really good at portraying broken characters, and he puts that on full display in this episode. The depth of emotions that he's able to portray here is so great. I absolutely loved him. I cannot wait to see his progress throughout the season.
This is, by far, the best adaptation of a video game I have ever seen. It's not even close. Video game movies and shows have a bad reputation, and I'm hoping that The Last of Us changes that reputation for good, because this show is off to an incredible start.
I genuinely have almost no negatives. This episode is as close as you can get to perfection.
The one thing that I will say is that this episode feels like two rolled in to one. It's very long. It's an hour and twenty minutes. And there's essentially two separate stories in here. The episode was actually originally written to be two episodes, but it was eventually combined into one because the writers felt that making this two episodes would rock the pacing of the show. And you can feel that. You can feel the length. But it's not that big of a deal, because the show is so good that you won't care.
Final Thoughts and Score
The Last of Us is as good as it looked from the trailers and just as good as early reviews have said. Everything, from the direction to the performances to the faithfulness to the game, is amazing. I absolutely adored this episode and I am very excited for the rest of the season.
Fun Factor: 9.5/10
"When You're Lost in the Darkness"
Created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann
Rated TV-MA for strong bloody violence, frightening and intense scenes and imagery, strong language, thematic elements
Premiered on January 15, 2023
1 hour and 21 minutes
Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller
Bella Ramsey as Ellie Williams
Nico Parker as Sarah Miller
Gabriel Luna as Tommy Miller
Anna Torv as Tess Servopoulos
John Hannah as Dr. Neuman
Merle Dandridge as Marlene
Brendan Fletcher as Robert
Josh Brener as the Talk Show Host
Christopher Heyerdahl as Dr. Schoenheiss
Marcia Bennett as Mrs. Adler
Brad Leland as Mr. Adler