The Last of Us: An Apocalyptic Phenomenon Worth Seeing


(Artwork/Elena Sichel ’24)

Tony Wang, Online Staff Writer

The Last of Us, a TV drama adapted from the eponymous video game series, has exceeded its audience’s expectations. This is especially monumental after many failed video game adaptations, such as the Halo TV show last year, which left the game’s fans bitterly disappointed. However, as someone who has never played The Last of Us games, I will approach the series from a different perspective. This review will focus purely on my first experience of this apocalyptic world, where a fungal infection has turned most of humanity into zombie-like creatures. 

The two main characters, Ellie and Joel, go on a twist-filled trek across the country. The first episode offered a promising start, building up what was to come but also offering Joel’s meaningful backstory, a roller-coaster of impressive emotional peaks. As one student said, “I was unprepared for the heart-wrenching plot twist. I didn’t expect Sarah’s (Joel’s daughter) death at all.” The show’s creators set the tone and demonstrated their commitment to character development. From that moment on, it was easy to become invested in Joel’s journey and eagerly await the release of each new episode.

The show artfully crafts a sense of grandeur within a profoundly personal context, weaving a bleak yet equally enthralling environment. Its barren world seems nearly devoid of life, but that also puts the spotlight on the characters who are still alive, making their character arcs much more interconnected and giving greater depth to their struggles. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey’s portrayals as Joel and Ellie, respectively, are the indisputable highlights of the show. The two talented actors give performances that showcase their unmistakable chemistry, breathing life into their characters with emotional interactions, imbuing them with an incredible sense of sincerity.

However, where there is light, there is also shadow. Despite containing jumpscares and moments of visceral horror, the infected are often relegated to the background, which builds a dissonance between the characters and the audience. While the characters are in great fear, the stakes do not appear as high. The lack of integral roles the infected directly play and the limited showcase of their devastating potential blunts the impact of the otherwise superb world-building.

Related to world-building, the show’s cinematography is made possible by its absurdly high budget of $90 million. While I wonder if the entirety of this formidable budget was essential, the utilization of practical effects and real locations rather than a green screen to film most of the show’s surroundings created palpable realism. This results in breathtaking shots, each worthy of being somebody’s wallpaper. In addition, CGI is only selectively used on the infected, with the showrunners mainly giving them an authentic appearance using prosthetics and other practical effects.

The Last of Us delivers an emotional and thrilling experience, offering something moving and memorable to any viewer who has experienced other character-centric stories which have impacted them deeply, even for people who aren’t fans of apocalypse or horror. It has made me hope that this is the beginning of an era where live-action game adaptations don’t disappoint, or this will remain a rare diamond in the rough. Either way, this show has made me curious about the game it was adapted from. I sincerely believe that people who are not necessarily video game fans will appreciate this apocalyptic phenomenon.