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TV Review: HBO's The Last of Us

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.

"Save who you can save." - Tess


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.

The Sweet

The Last of Us is one of the best TV shows of the past ten years.

The best thing about this series has to be the characters. The show is able to get you incredibly invested in these people and then absolutely tear your heart out when something bad happens to them. Joel and Ellie are the only characters that appear in more than two episodes, and they are...I don't know. I don't have words to describe how amazing those two are. Their relationship is the emotional core of this show, and it absolutely hits every note that it should. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey's chemistry is electric. The way that their relationship slowly develops from annoyed by each other to a true father-daughter bond is incredible. It's the main reason that this show is so good.

There is not an episode of The Last of Us that's bad. They range from really good to some of the best of all time. The reason that this show is so good is because it crafts these compelling stories within a larger narrative. There are points where this show feels like an anthology, because there are a few episodes that don't really contribute to the full, overarching journey. And those episodes are the best. Episode three is a self-contained story about two side characters. It doesn't really impact Joel and Ellie's journey. And it may be the best episode in the show. Those are the things that make The Last of Us incredible.

The production design is jaw-dropping. Whenever I praise production design, I usually mention it in passing. But the PD in this show is instrumental in getting the viewer sucked in to this hellscape of a world. The run-down buildings and viney structures make this place feel lived-in. The Infected look terrifying. They make me physically sick to look at. There are times when I turned away from the screen because they are so disgusting, which is exactly what the makeup team is aiming for. It's a part of the show that can be overshadowed by all of the other incredible things, so I have to give it props.

I know I talked about their characters, but Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are something else in this show. I've loved Pedro Pascal since the first season of The Mandalorian, and I've maintained that he's a great actor since then. He isn't great in this show. That's an understatement. He fully immerses himself in this world as this broken, deeply flawed man who has lost everything. He gives a monologue in episode six that was some of the best acting I have ever seen. And Bella Ramsey is also amazing. I can't say she quite reaches the level of Pedro Pascal, but she's very close. She can have the charisma that Ellie is supposed to have, but she also adds this complex, emotional layer that shines through when it needs to. These two actors, like their characters, are the core of the show. They make it great.

The show is also really good at blending genres. I'd primarily call it a drama. But when you think drama, you think The Shawshank Redemption or Forrest Gump. So let's add on to that, then. The Last of Us combines drama with the horror-thriller genre as well as action, science fiction and adventure. That's a lot of stuff to balance, but the show does it so well. It's the perfect blend of a character-driven story backed by a horrific atmosphere. The drama is potent. The horror is terrifying. The action is visceral. The sci-fi feels almost real with the way they describe the Cordyceps infection. And the adventure is thrilling. All of these genres that do not fit together somehow work like a well-oiled machine in The Last of Us. And it's all the better for it.

The show is mainly driven by emotion, and, oh boy, let me tell you. This is probably the most emotional show I have ever seen. It even passes Stranger Things in terms of sad scenes that will hit you in the heartstrings. From the very first scene, The Last of Us establishes a sense of dread that does not go away until the credits of the finale roll. Every single time you see a character happy, you feel tense, because you know that that happiness will not last long. And, when something terrible happens, it just hits you. The deaths in this show are so emotional. They are so heart-breaking. Multiple episodes will have you crying.

I don't know what to say. The Last of Us is near perfect.

The Sour

I do have to say that the finale was probably the weakest episode of the series. It's not bad. Once again, it's still very good. But, to me, it felt slightly rushed. And I'm still unsure if this is a satisfying conclusion to the story that we're given. The direction they go makes sense. It lines up with the characters and adds more complications and complexity to the story. But it just felt a little unsatisfying. I don't think it takes away from the show. I still think it's a good episode. But it felt like a bit of an underwhelming conclusion when compared to the rest of the show.

But that's really it. This show is incredible.

Final Thoughts and Score

The Last of Us is, by far, the best on-screen adaptation of a video game. The characters, story, direction, production design, and performances all combine to make one of the greatest first seasons of TV ever.

I will go Sweet here. Age range is 17+.


Sweet (Great) Savory (Good) Sour (Bad) Moldy (Terrible)

"The Last of Us"

Fun Factor: 9.5/10

Acting: 10/10

Story: 9.5/10

Characters: 10/10

Quality: 10/10

Created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann

Rated TV-MA for strong bloody violence, frightening themes and images, language, suggestive material, thematic elements

Premiered on January 15, 2023

Episode runtime: 55 minutes

Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller

Bella Ramsey as Ellie Williams

Anna Torv as Tess Servopoulos

Gabriel Luna as Tommy Miller

Nico Parker as Sarah Miller

Lamar Johnson as Henry Burrell

Nick Offerman as Bill

Murray Bartlett as Frank

Merle Dandridge as Marlene

Melanie Lynskey as Kathleen Coghlan

Storm Reid as Riley Abel

Scott Shepherd as David

Keivonn Woodard as Sam Burrell

Troy Baker as James

Ashley Johnson as Anna Williams

Rutina Wesley as Maria

Jeffrey Pierce as Perry


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