By: Papa Minnow

Known as one of the greatest stories in video game history, The Last Of Us made a stellar television debut on HBO, Sunday night. The on-screen adaption follows the story of Joel Miller, played by Pedro Pascal, and Ellie Williams played by Bella Ramsey, as they journey across a post-apocalyptic America for reasons that will develop as the series goes on. 

Episode 1, titled “When You’re Lost in the Darkness,” introduces us to these main characters but not before offering a backstory as to why modern day events are taking place. The opening scene delivers the first deviation from the video game in that the audience is exposed to a 1968 late night talk show that features two scientists who discuss the possibility of a pandemic. 

One scientist posits that a major pandemic could evolve from a fungal infection in a similar manner that we see in ants. While at the time it seemed unlikely, his theory was that small increments in elevated temperature could result in a genetic mutation for fungi to evolve and find human hosts. 

This story development is an entertaining way to introduce the concept of a cordyceps fungal outbreak in humanity, since it was delivered with late night show humour as opposed to news reports that were broadcast in the game. With the subsequent screen, fans familiar with the game are met with a very iconic intro song and an all new animation screen created by HBO’s high quality visual effects team.

Fast forward to 2003, the day of the outbreak, and we’re now following Joel’s daughter Sarah as she starts off her school day while planning a surprise for her father’s birthday. Actress Nico Parker does an excellent job of being a witty teenage girl that keeps her father in check. 

One of the benefits of The Last Of Us’ television adaption is the ability to flesh out characters and storylines that the game only briefly touches on. While the overarching story is still present in the show, we learn that Joel works in construction and see more of Sarah’s character development as a kind and helpful teen. 

She offers her company to her elder neighbours after school and we’re shown how she was able to afford Joel’s gift, spoiler alert, she did not in fact have to sell drugs. We’re also given eerily creepy new scenes like the neighbour’s mother in her wheelchair. 

One significant change in the adaptation occurs during the frantic eruption of chaos in the town when a huge explosion blocks off an exit for Joel and Sarah. In the game we’re treated to a car crashing into a gas station causing the major mishap.

In the show HBO said f**k it, we have the budget, make it a plane crash instead. It’s a chilling dramatization that grounds the show into reality and keeps gamer fans engaged from moment to moment. 

There was a lot of skepticism when it came to the show’s casting prior to its debut and understandably so. Most video game or live action adaptations fail to capture the source material’s essence when changing mediums. 

The first rendition of Sonic in the Sonic movie was abhorrent enough to fuel the nightmares of seven generations of children. While Uncharted was a decent movie overall, the casting of Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg as Nathan Drake and Sully respectively, took some getting used to. And the less said about Dragonball Evolution the better. 

However, there have been some solid choices made in recent years when it comes to video game adaptations. Henry Cavill as Geralt in the Witcher series was an excellent choice and when it comes to the Last Of Us‘ first episode the casting falls in the latter category.

Even though Pedro, Bella, Gabriel Luna as Tommy and Anna Torv as Tess do not fully resemble their characters, their performance and tonality certainly hit the mark. Bella’s appearance was the biggest departure from a visual perspective, however, her inherently young face and her passionate acting mannerisms are so accurate that the lack of visual accuracy fades away in mere moments of her on-screen performance. 

Pedro does a great job at replicating Joel’s accent and Tess is just as badass as the videogame character. But the biggest surprise comes as Tommy. 

Gabriel Luna’s performance as Tommy is shockingly accurate and as close to the game performance as possible. The moment he popped into Joel’s house, his presence felt as natural as breathing.

There aren’t many negatives to discuss with the debut of this series. The only drawback with this episode’s adaptation is that some fans may not be fond of some of the changes that do occur in the show, like Joel and Tess’ new reason for smuggling and leaving the QZ.

On the other hand, since the overarching plot is still followed, gaming fans aren’t left with many major plot surprises since the grand story elements are all here. Fans may find that problematic if the rest of the series follows suit, however, there are still enough minor adjustments to the main story to keep most fans captivated throughout the episode. 

And despite knowing what may happen next, the Last of Us still provides scenes that can emotionally tear you apart no matter how many times they’ve been witnessed. Episode 1 of The Last of Us is a faithful but yet captivating surprise that sets the bar for what video game adaptations can be. Here’s hoping the rest of the series is just as thrilling. 


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