From playing to watching: “The Last of Us” resonates with gamers and viewers alike


“The Last of Us” is a gritty yet heart-warming video game made by studio Naughty Dog, which is also known for the “Uncharted” franchise. HBO released the first episode of the tv show adaptation on Jan. 15. Fans of the game, or of video games in general, may be hesitant to watch the show because of Hollywood’s failure after failure of adapting a video game into a show or film, yet “The Last of Us” proves it can be successful.

The story follows its two protagonists, Joel and Ellie, as they try to survive a world where civilization collapsed after a  fungus infected most of the world’s population and turned them into hostile hosts. In this post-apocalyptic world, not only do Joel and Ellie have to survive encounters with the deadly infected, but they must also survive against what’s left of the human race, like cannibals and raiders.

Image courtesy of HBO/WarnerBrothersMedia

So far, the first episode captures the gameplay and story perfectly. Everything from the cinematography to the soundtrack, and to the pacing is nearly perfect and follows the game nearly beat by beat. Fans will instantly recognize memorable elements like the intro music, the cinematography of the infamous “car scene” and even small details like Joel’s guitar playing in the background of some scenes.

The show opens with the virus ominously moving through a black screen, but, upon closer inspection, it reveals much more. The first few scenes show how the virus takes and destroys everything in its path, turning people into infected hosts, overgrowing cities and destroying entire countries with its spores. Through it all, there is something beautiful about the fungus. Though brutal, the show explains how the virus is just mother nature running its course, which helps develop the beautiful aspect about this game: Joel and Ellie’s father-daughter relationship.

As an avid player of the games, I love how the show perfectly follows the first-person experience. The little bits of backstory we get from Sarah, Joel’s dead daughter, provides an opportunity for the audience to witness the heart-wrenching tragedy that Joel experienced. For example, the game starts with Sarah waking up to the outbreak, but in the show, she wakes up and makes food for Joel because it’s his birthday. Then, Sarah starts to notice odd things throughout the day, like small things in the news and her sick neighbors. The scene where Joel, Tommy and Sarah are all in the car matches the camera angles, actions, dialogue, setting and emotions really well. The whole time I was watching it, I only saw the game, which made the scenes truly come to life.

Pedro Pascal in direct comparison to Joel, one of the main protagonists in “The Last of Us” video game.
Photo courtesy BBC.

After all this, the show picks up at a QZ (quarantine zone) with Joel working body duty (disposing of infected hosts) and earning ration cards. Here, we finally meet the Fireflies, a group of rebels fighting against the QZ. We also see that they are the ones holding Ellie, a teenage girl who is seemingly immune to the hostile fungus, captive and learn that they have to deliver her like cargo.  Joel is forced to take the job to deliver her. The episode ends with Joel and Ellie fleeing the QZ with the goal of getting her to another Firefly camp so a cure can be made.

Overall, this episode is a terrific and dynamic start for the show. In the following episodes, I’m excited to see all the iconic moments from the game come to life in the show. For those interested in a post-apocalyptic show or just a great show with twists, check out “The Last of Us” streaming on HBO and HBO Max with new episodes airing on Sundays at 8 p.m.