Review: The Last of Us HBO Series Premiere – Adapting It Right

Video game adaptations into movies and television shows haven’t had the best reception. A lot of this is due to creative liberties being taken and limitations being placed on the creators of those adaptations for one reason or another. The biggest thing that fans of video games want to see is that an adaptation has a reverence for the source material and a visible respect for what made those games so interesting. Luckily the team behind the HBO show The Last of Us, an adaptation of the game with the same name, is doing what everyone wanted. Naughty Dog, the dev team behind the game, is involved with the show’s creation, along with Neil Druckmann, the creator of The Last of Us story and world. What we get from this collaboration is a solid first step into a show with many intriguing aspects that will keep everyone coming back to watch more.

If it wasn’t already obvious, the first episode of The Last of Us show does a great job of rendering the post-apocalyptic world of the game to the screen. The first episode gives audiences key info on why things are going so badly, as well as showcasing some of the big moments that are pulled directly from the game.

We’re introduced to Joel and his daughter Sarah before things go south, giving everyone a view of the normal life that is taken away from everyone in a devastating fashion. What seems like a normal birthday at one moment quickly becomes a change in the quality of life, making for some great drama. You don’t just see the devastation and its effects over time, you can see how burdening it becomes on Joel.

But while the events of the game are translated very well, the show gives everyone more backstory and other elements to complement this. Moments like the very start of the show are different from the game, where audiences are given a foreboding conversation of what can and will happen, given the right circumstances. It’s not something the game had or needed to do but it’s a fresh new element that doesn’t overshadow the big parts of the game, rather enhancing them greatly. There are other moments in the episode that do something similar, but for different reasons. It helps a lot for people who have not played the game but are still able to get all the important details that one would get from exploring the world of The Last of Us game.

And what about the characters and the actors that play them, are they great adaptations as well? Simply put, yes they are. Pedro Pascal does a solid job of being Joel, flowing through the range of emotions from when we first see him to where he ends up by the end of the episode. He is a man scarred by tragedy and time with a viciousness that can be turned on very easily, and Pedro makes it work out beautifully. At the same time when we finally get to meet Ellie, played by Bella Ramsey, she has the same wit and attitude directly from the game. Ellie is going to play a very big role throughout the season, but the short time we spend with her is filled with a lot of intriguing details and tough moments. Her relationship with Joel is the foundation of the game, and it’s looking to be done justice in this series adaptation.

The rest of the cast handles their characters very well, building up the world of The Last of Us and promising more to come as the season goes on. We get to see the Fireflies and FEDRA military organization in good detail, with all of their harsh realities on full display for both sides. It’s a very harsh world that Joel and Ellie find themselves in, where everyone is hurting and on the verge of either death or insanity. Anna Torv plays Tess, Joel’s partner, and is equal parts clever and broken while trying to survive. She does a great job interacting with Joel when things happen to them and forces the pair into alternating their plans during the episode.

Gabriel Luna plays Tommy and is the one we see the least out of everyone, only being present in a big way at the start during the beginning of the story. He will definitely return in more episodes and will have more interactions with Joel eventually. Merle Dandridge plays the commander of the Fireflies, Marlene, and is also a great part of the episode. While she will most likely appear again during the season, we get some good moments in her interactions with Ellie and Joel that are brief.

The only part of the premiere episode we’ve yet to see a lot from is the Infected. These are the people who have been infected by the spores that are present in the world of The Last of Us, causing the downfall of everything. After a slow buildup, we get to see some Infected before the episode focuses on other things going on with our main cast. The Infected are definitely the looming threat of the show, as they are in the game, but the show is going to spread their appearances throughout the season. Unlike in the game where you can encounter Infected as you play, their appearance of them will have more weight and suspense in the show. Based on trailers that were released before the premiere, there are going to be some big moments with the Infected that fans of the game will love. Whether the show will alter or completely change anything about them has yet to be determined.

The premiere episode for The Last of Us is a great pilot for what can be a very well-made show. Anyone that was worried about elements of the game not being done well can relax for now. The characters you know are here and portrayed well, and so is the atmosphere you know from the game. If the creators of the show can keep this momentum going for the next few episodes, then The Last of Us may be on the right track to being one of the better video game adaptations we have seen in a long time.

Have you gotten a chance to watch The Last of Us on HBO? Do you think the season will turn out to be a success? Post a comment with your thoughts down below and let us know!  

The Last of Us (Series Premiere)
  • 90%
    The Last of Us - 90%
90%

Excellent

The beginning of this series is very well done, adapting elements of the game faithfully. At the same time, it gives extra backstory and details that help complement the important aspects that were originally in the game. The characters are complex and have intruiging elements to their personalities and backstories. While there is much more to come throughout the season, the series is off to a great start.

Jakejames Lugo

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