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  • Hamish Hart

The Last of Us (2023) Season 1 Review

RATING: 9.5/10

IN 2013, Naughty Dog Studios released the critically-acclaimed video game The Last of Us. One decade later, the creative mind behind Playstation's masterpiece Neil Druckmann helps lead the way to adapt the game into a television series, and it's safe to say that both medians fully deserve worldwide acclaim.

After a global pandemic causes civilization to crumble, humanity is left to survive against fungus-infected humans - and each other. The Last of Us primarily follows toughened family man Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) and 14-year-old girl Ellie Williams (Bella Ramsey) who is Joel's protectee as she may just be humanity's last hope to end this 20-year-old pandemic once and for all.

A vocal minority have criticised the show for making select changes to characters and the story as a whole, and while there are certainly differences between game and show, there's no denying that each adaptation manages to accurately portray the sheer despair and anguish of living in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by friends who have been transformed into fungal foes. Each of the nine episodes are well-paced and don't treat the monsters as annoying but rather as a giant hurdle for the characters to overcome; not overstuffing the episodes with them and keeping them only as special attractions to keep tensions high. But at the end of the day, the show's greatest achievement is the relationships forged from episode to episode - especially the main one moulded between Joel and Ellie.

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey breath new life into Joel and Ellie respectively, embodying the character's personalities and motivations previously brought to life by their immaculate video game counterparts Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson; two esteemed actors who pop up in the show not just as one-off cameos, but as important characters who affect Joel and Ellie's journey for better and worse. Pascal's grizzly performance is a feat in how to portray a hardened survivor, rarely expressing the positive side of himself, making the development of his character all the more satisfying as he learns to open up to himself and others - particularly Ellie - who arguably grows the most from start to beginning. Bella Ramsey's Ellie begins the series as a loner who refuses to open up to others before meeting Joel, a similarly-enclosed survivor whose also dealt with loss, as they learn to reconnect with humanity by protecting and bonding with each other in a manner which feels genuine by virtue of the chemistry between Pascal and Ramsey.

Very rarely does a television series, let alone a video game adaptation, manage to have a perfect track record in terms of episode quality, but Druckmann's The Last of Us hits it out of the park by having nine consistently-great episodes in a row. Despite the season finale feeling slightly rushed due to its shorter runtime, the sheer quality of the season's conclusion more than makes up for its length. Each episode also feels uniquely-different to warrant some of the controversial changes made from game to show such as limited time with certain characters. This allows the season to have something for everybody; whether you're into action, drama, romances, zombie stories, The Last of Us has something to satisfy your needs.

If there's a phrase I would use to describe the show, it would be "avant-garde". The Last of Us' cutting-edge adapted screenplay allows the series to explore a wide variety of stories in this post-apocalyptic world. Episodes like When You're Lost in the Darkness, Long, Long Time and When We Are in Need accentuate the show's gritty and eerie setting, focusing on the harsh reality we are currently living through by blending it with a calamitous future many dread. The show may not be on par with the video game for my money, but at the end of the day, you can't truly compare the two medians due to interactive experience of video games. The Last of Us still stands as my favourite series of 2023 and with a second season green light for next year, I'd highly recommend to jump on the world's most talked about show before Season 2 hits streaming. Please, go watch the show now; you won't regret it.


About Me

Hamish newsheadshot_edited.jpg

Born in Longreach in Central West Queensland, I have undertaken a number of prominent roles across the region such as Journalist and Digital Media for The Longreach Leader, as well as appearing on critically-acclaimed radio stations ABC Western Queensland and 4LG and West FM to discuss all things film.

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