HBO Brings Videogame to Life with ‘The Last of Us’


Jalen Flowers, Staff writer

Adaptations of classic media have been a recent trend. After seeing classic movies get remade in recent years, HBO offered a fresh perspective by capitalizing off the excellent video game, “The Last of Us”. The game had built a cult following after its release in 2013, winning over 200 game of the year awards. With a storyline that transformed gaming and characters that were loved by a large fanbase, HBO took advantage by creating an immersive experience.

The show engages its audience into the characters that fans of the game know and love and add small changes to the characters that don’t stray too far from the original subject material.

Twenty years after a pandemic destroyed civilization, infected zombie-like humans run wild across the country.  The story of the game and the show follow Joel Miller, an estranged and reserved father grieving the loss of his daughter early in the apocalypse. Joel is chosen to transport 14 year-old Ellie Williams out of her heavily guarded military zone. Ellie’s character is immune to the outbreak that infected the world and is being transported by Joel due to her potential to help create a vaccine. Fans of the game know that the journey Joel and Ellie embark on created the allure towards the franchise. While the show is just as linear, stellar performances highlight the series.

The show captures the regret that follows an apocalypse. While the opening scene of the pilot episode shows the beginning of the outbreak, the audience is thrown five years into the future immediately after. With performances like Emmy-nominated actor Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller, the characters capture the feel of incessant survival following a traumatic event. Ellie, played by “Game of Thrones” star Bella Ramsey, embodies the humor and innocence that popularized the video game character.  

The production is eerie, the acting and setting is unsettling, and when brought to the live action state, the show’s realism is sticking with fans. The pacing of the pilot episode captures the suspense of such an immense circumstance. Zombie thrillers rarely feel as real as “The Last of Us”, and this series is giving the genre a rebirth. .

The atmosphere and emotions are still consistent with the nearly 10 year-old video game. The game was critically acclaimed because of its immersive open world survival setting, in a world with visibly broken civilization and just as broken characters.

One blemish on HBO’s newest show is their treatment of Joel, their protagonist. While Pascal plays Joel sensationally, one of the most respected characters and father figures in gaming fails to capture that same aura early in the series. Instead of being his introverted and vulnerable self, Joel has an unstable aggression that makes a fan of the game uncomfortable.

While there is plenty of room for character development, his relationship with Ellie may suffer due to HBO’s change of his character. Their father-daughter relationship is what made the game so iconic.

“The Last of Us” as a stand-alone show would be impressive. HBO’s biggest challenge is not letting the video game outwrite, outperform and out-engage them as that is the reality for most live action video game remakes. HBO has managed to capture a fanbase that is already aware of the journey and character arcs the show is about to embark on.

“You are not Joel and you are not Ellie,” said Neil Druckmann, creator and director of the show and game in an interview with the Washington Post. “You are getting interesting perspectives that speak to the theme of life.”