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REVIEW: ‘The Last of Us,’ Episode 1 – “When You’re Lost In The Darkness”

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The Last of Us Episode 1 — But Why Tho

At long last, The Last of Us is finally hitting the small screen, courtesy of HBO. Based on the Naughty Dog videogame series of the same name, The Last of Us centers on a world where mankind was infected by a strain of the Cordyceps virus – transforming them into inhuman monsters. It’s in this world that Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) struggles to get by, and where he meets Ellie (Bella Ramsey). In The Last of Us Episode 1, Joel ends up smuggling Ellie out of the quarantine zone they’re both holed up in, all the while grappling with his past.

It’s no secret that video game adaptations are the one piece of pop culture Hollywood has struggled to crack over the years. Sometimes, they’re great! Sometimes…they’re not. In recent years, the tides have turned due to actual video game creators being involved in the behind-the-scenes process. This is especially true of The Last of Us, as head writer Neil Druckmann co-wrote the script and serves as an executive producer. And Druckmann isn’t the only Last of Us alum to return – composer Gustavo Santaolalla also handles the show’s music. Santaolalla’s score is hypnotic and haunting, and I feel it’ll stick with new viewers and long-time game fans.

Druckmann is also joined by Craig Mazin, who directs The Last of Us Episode 1 in addition to co-writing it. Mazin takes the same approach that he did with his prior HBO series Chernobyl, building up to the Cordyceps infection instead of just outright starting in the post-apocalypse. This lets viewers know more about Joel prior to his life as a smuggler; those who played the game were more than likely aware of the tragic events in his past, but Mazin takes it a step further and builds up to that tragedy – which makes it hit far harder when it actually happens. Mazin also captures the chaotic nature of the Cordyceps outbreak, choosing to stage the majority of the action from the interior of Joel’s truck. Cars pile up in traffic, people run screaming in the streets, and finally, a plane takes a nosedive into the ground. Trust me; it’ll feel like you’re right in the middle of the action.

None of this would matter if the two leads weren’t perfectly cast, and HBO struck gold when it came to Pascal and Ramsey. A lot of folks will probably point out that this is not the first time Pascal has played a grizzled father figure in a sci-fi setting, but unlike Din Djarin Joel is oh-so-human. He has faults – he’s willing to protect his family above all else, even leaving another family on the side of the road. And in the quarantine zone, he’s more than willing to sell drugs and other things just to get ahead. That mix of elements is what made Joel such a compelling character in the TLOU video game, and Pascal fully taps into that.

Ramsay is no less impressive. In their first scene as Ellie, they come off as…well, as any teenager would: sullen, snarky, and unwilling to cooperate with adults. Yet there’s a little bit of vulnerability to their performance, hinting that there’s more to Ellie than meets the eyes. Ramsay received praise for their performance in Game of Thrones, and it’s clear that praise wasn’t unfounded. The rest of the cast is more than a game, including Gabriel Luna as Joel’s brother Tommy.

The Last of Us debuts a pilot episode that perfectly nails the scope and emotional depth of its source material, thanks to the combination of talent behind and in front of the scenes. The show is off to a great start, and if it continues on this track, it could very well be one of the best video game adaptations of all time.

The Last of Us Episode 1 is available now on HBO Max, with new episodes airing on HBO and HBO Max every Sunday.

The Last of Us Episode 1 — "When You're Lost In The Darkness"
  • 9/10
    Rating - 9/10
9/10

TL;DR

The Last of Us debuts a pilot episode that perfectly nails the scope and emotional depth of its source material, thanks to the combination of talent behind and in front of the scenes. The show is off to a great start, and if it continues on this track it could very well be one of the best video game adaptations of all time.

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