The Last of Us: A contagiously brillant show



Official Poster for “The Last of Us” HBO Max

AJ Summers, Opinion Guest Writer

Spoiler Warning

With its popularity spreading, HBO’s “The Last of Us” reinvents the post-apocalyptic genre. Based on the popular 2013 game, “The Last of Us” is a new post-apocalyptic TV series created by HBO and was released on Jan. 15. With the huge success after its launch, the game has only continued to climb in popularity after the release of its sequel. “The Last of Us” follows the journey of Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and her caretaker Joel (Pedro Pascal) as they travel across the United States in hopes of finding a rebel group called the Fireflies who can help manufacture a cure against the current pandemic. The series began production in 2015, including many actors from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” as well as voice actors from the original game. This new thriller has sent me on a wild ride of emotions; one minute I’m crying my eyes out, and then the next I’m on the edge of my seat.

I was hesitant at first to watch this series because I had never played the game, but I quickly realized it wasn’t necessary. The first few minutes of the show are the most terrifying because of how calm the characters are when talking about the end of the world. With COVID-19 only recently ending, the thought of another pandemic occurring is dreadful and the writers used this to their advantage. “The Last of Us” starts off with a theory on what would happen if global warming caused Cordyceps, a fungus known for infecting and controlling insects through their nervous system, to be able to evolve and take over humans.
The show stays true to the original storyline of the game, with the addition of a few major changes. In both the game and the show, humans are infected by a fungus that takes over the host’s body and turns them into a “zombie.” Unlike traditional zombies, the people infected remain conscious for a few weeks but are unable to move due to the fungus’ effect on the nervous system. In the game the fungus is spread by spores produced from the infected bodies, which requires the characters to wear masks. In the show the creators took a different approach and changed the way humans are infected. The show instead uses tendrils which are long strings of fungus that extend from the victims’s body, usually from the mouth. These tendrils not only infect others but create an extensive system that allows the fungus to communicate with itself over large distances.
With any adaptations there will always be complaints and one of the biggest controversies was the addition of an LGBTQ+ couple. In the game, Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) were friends that lived with each other after the outbreak. In the show we see a different take on the characters, which I think is brilliant. Most people never consider how lonely it would be in a post-apocalyptic world, where both characters show that it’s possible to be loved even when the world is destroyed. By the end of their arc, I was crying over the pair and their love for eachother.
All the actors in this show were spectacular in their ability to convey so much emotion. My favorite by far was Bella Ramsey as Ellie. Before the airing of the show there was a lot of backlash against Ramsey due to their appearance and questions around their acting ability, but Ramsey did a fantastic job in this show. In episode seven “Left Behind” we are able to see a glimpse of Ellie’s backstory, where we meet her best friend and crush Riley (Storm Reid). Ramsey accurately portrays what it’s like to crush on someone without explicitly stating it. Ramsey wasn’t the only actor who blew me away, Pascal and Melanie Lynskey (Kathleen) were amazing in the depictions of their respective characters.
By far the most terrifying character in the series was David (Scott Shepherd) purely because he was by far the most realistic antagonist yet. I was absolutely terrified every time he came on screen and I strongly advise watching episode eight “When We Are in Need” with extreme caution.
While I had high expectations when I started watching, I was only disappointed with the lack of time. With this show only being nine episodes long, most of Ellie and Joel’s journey is shortened to a few major scenes from the game, but the show does attempt to make up for the loss of time through its use of dialogue.
Overall this show is by far one of the best shows released in 2023 and I would absolutely recommend it to anyone who loves horror and suspense.