THE LAST OF US. Light at the End of the Tunnel [REVIEW of Episode 1]
The Last of Us is coming to HBO Max. Fans of the Naughty Dog game will have the opportunity to get acquainted with the highly anticipated series on January 15, 2023. I managed to find myself among the lucky ones who watched the first episode during the official premiere in Warsaw. And I must admit that I fell in love at first sight. Critics were not overly enthusiastic – this series is pure gold!
Series (Not Only) For Gamers
Before I get to the raves, I announce to everyone that I am not a gamer and I know this award-winning PlayStation game mainly from descriptions and stories. You will see a detailed comparative analysis and assessment of fidelity to the original after the TV premiere. Meanwhile, I am in a hurry to reassure all lovers of post-apocalyptic series and climates who (like me) have not played the game – it is absolutely not necessary to enjoy watching the new HBO production. It will probably be a different kind of pleasure than the fans of the original, discovering familiar places, characters and situations. But I assure you that the creators made sure that we would not get lost in the story and that we would want to stay with it for longer. As a welcome, they served us a very strong and emotional prologue, a fantastic atmosphere, some pretty good jokes, and sound and visual effects that knock you to your knees. If The Last of Us maintains the level of the first episode, it has a chance to become not only the best adaptation of the game in history (which is not particularly difficult considering the level of the others), but also one of the most outstanding HBO series (which is damn hard considering note the level of the others).
The Last Love on Earth
The series takes us to the world after the apocalypse caused by deadly fungi that appropriate people’s bodies, turning them into bloodthirsty zombies. In this extremely dangerous environment, Joel, affected by a huge personal tragedy, accidentally meets the young Ellie and is almost immediately given the task of delivering her to the indicated place outside the quarantine area. Initially, he treats her like ballast, but we know that over time, he will develop a truly fatherly love for her, and she will gain trust, sympathy and respect for him. However, before all this takes place, we will be equipped with the necessary package of information about the initial situation.
Blood, sweat and tears
The Last of Us is undoubtedly a series whose main target are game fans. However, the creators do not underestimate the other viewers. Without wasting time, they introduce us to the story very efficiently and intelligently in the first minutes. We’re not even at the prologue yet, and we already know exactly what threat the heroes will face. Then, using Hitchcock’s earthquake adage, they get to the point very quickly and – while we are still looking around the presented world – they already sow anxiety, trap us, scare us and emotionally devastate us. And so immediately, without prolonging or procrastinating, they serve us a mix of classic horror cinema tricks with racial survival horror, a poignant family drama, depressing post-apocalypse and spectacular action cinema with elements whose gaming origin is very easy to decipher even without knowing the original. Certainly, this is due to Neil Druckmann, the creator of the game, who serves as a writer, director and executive producer in the series. Just as thanks to Craig Mazin, who performs twin functions, there is an inimitable style and mood straight from Chernobyl.
Another round of applause is due to the authors of the script for the perfect justification of the main character’s life attitude and, I presume, the subsequent decisions he will make. Pedro Pascal copes phenomenally with the emotional baggage that the character he plays has to carry and is simply perfect as a man who has lost everything. The female characters are also great, played flawlessly by Nico Parker (Sarah, Joel’s daughter), Merle Dandridge (Marlene) and Anna Torv (Tess). Bella Ramsey may not be the perfect casting, but she does a really good job with the character of the rebellious and feisty Ellie. If she stays like this until the end, this role could help her career much more than her appearance in Game of Thrones. The whole thing can be summed up in exactly the same way – if the creators maintain this level throughout the season, we will have another HBO hit.
The first episode of The Last of Us promises a lot. He is a light in the tunnel in which we have so far wandered along with the producers of various video game adaptations – from unsuccessful to absolutely nightmarish. Perhaps it is thanks to the talented creative team in which was the creator of the source material, perhaps the HBO quality mark, and perhaps the fact that a 9-hour series is simply a better format than a 2-hour movie to tell an extensive, gaming story. Whatever the cause, there’s no denying that the effect is (so far) staggering. And let’s hope it stays that way until the finale.