Naturally, as a big fan of The Last Of Us, and also HBO’s shows such as True Blood and Chernobyl being among my favourite TV shows of all time, I was excited for HBO’s The Last Of Us TV adaption. I was expecting it to be an extremely well produced show, that faithfully retold Ellie and Joel’s journey, but as someone who is super familiar with the story, I wasn’t expecting to be absolutely enthralled with HBO’s adaption in the way that I was.
Rolling credits on the finale this morning, after binging the entire season over the last 3-4 days, I fell in love with this world, and these characters all over again. I’ll try and keep this review as spoiler free as possible, as this is a tricky one. Either you’re ingrained in this world and know it inside out, and any minor variation within the show will be new to you, or you’ll be totally new to this entire story, in which case I’d want to reveal as little as possible.
Just like everyone else, I wasn’t sure about seeing Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie. Not because I thought that their likeness didn’t fit the bill, but just because of these characters being so clear in my mind from the games in terms of how they look, how they speak, how they bounce off each other, but right from the get-go when these characters meet in episode one, I was sold.
Pascal and Ramsey have somehow made these characters their own, whilst retaining key mannerisms that made these characters so great to begin with. It’s hard to talk about their journey without revealing anything too important, but even though I knew exactly how the key plot points would play out, I still felt absolutely every struggle and triumph that this duo went through. I genuinely cared for them, and believed their absolute necessity to make it to their end goal, which is what a story like The Last Of Us calls for, and these performances deliver it in spades.
This is true for the entire cast of characters. Whether it be Merle Dandrige as Marlene, Euphoria’s Storm Reid as Riley or Yellow Jacket’s Melanie Lynskey as the newly introduced Kathleen, across the board, I believed every single one of these performances, and felt that in most cases, they actually added to what we’d known previously of this story.
Whilst the story of Ellie and Joel is obviously the hero here, and a lot of the way that story is told is very true to the source material (bar a few minor variations that I’d argue make more sense in context of what happens in the future), it was some of the other stories within this world that really captivated me.
For instance, an entire movie length episode is dedicated to Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank’s (Murray Bartlett’s) relationship, which resembles a very normal life, within a very abnormal world. This is touched on in the game, but very much as a foot note, where here’s it not only gives context to this relationship and situation which is very different to any other that we come across in The Last Of Us, but it also gives better context to Joel and Tess’ relationship before Ellie.
The same can be said for Sam and Henry, two brothers that we come across in the game, but their existence within the world is much more fleshed out within the TV show, which in my opinion is for the betterment of Joel and Ellie’s journey.
I really can’t stress enough just how much all of these variations which feel minor in isolation come together to flesh out this story and world in ways that I didn’t know or think that I wanted or needed, but it has made me more invested in this story.
As far as the pacing of the show goes, I thought it was fairly consistent, with it doing a great job of breaking out these individual stories into certain episodes, rather than keep you going back and forth before a large cast of characters. It made the stakes feel high in each episode, with the fate of each character that appears never feeling guaranteed that they’ll make it through to the end of the episode.
Whilst the infected don’t play a massive part in this series outside of obvious key points, for the most part, they are extremely believable and just as menacing as they are in the games. Particularly, the first scene which involves a hide and seek encounter with a Clicker. There were a few scenes that involved the infected, which felt a little bit unfinished, but this was an in-progress version of the show, so I’m fairly confident that they’ll be polished before they hit the screen.
The score was a massive part of The Last Of Us, and it’s all the same here, with some extremely familiar tunes coming through at key points to drive home what is happening on screen. This isn’t a huge surprise given it was composed by Santaolalla, who did the original two games as well.
Whilst the bar is low for video game TV and movie adaptions, HBO’s The Last Of Us rises above to be an absolute classic. It’d be a disservice to only go as far as saying that this is a fantastic TV show adaption of a video game, because on its own, it’s a must-watch piece of television.