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Streaming Spotlight: “The Last of Us”

On Jan. 15, the long-awaited HBO series The Last of Us premiered with an hour-and-a-half long pilot episode. 

Based on the video game of the same name, the show is set in a dystopian United States which has been completely overrun by a fungus called Cordyceps. 

The show follows Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) as he navigates his way through the post-apocalyptic world and fights for survival. Near the close of the pilot, he is tasked with smuggling a young girl named Ellie across the country. In exchange, Miller will receive transportation to find his brother Tommy who has been missing for at least three weeks. 

The second episode released on Jan. 22, and a new episode will continue to be released every Sunday. 

At its completion, the first season will total nine episodes with a runtime of 1 hr. each. 

As someone who has not played the Last of Us video game, I still found the first episode enjoyable, both in plot and performance. Pascal’s performance was stellar, as he gave a commanding, yet emotional presence. Additionally, the plot was engaging and intense with just the right amount of mystery to it. 

Upon watching, I had a conversation with The Talon’s primary video game reviewer Caleb Phelps and got his opinion on the show’s pilot episode. 

While he has played the game, Phelps said he was skeptical about watching the show for the first time. 

“I wasn’t initially a huge fan of the actors, particularly Ellie’s actress,” Phelps said. “However, within 10 minutes, I became really engaged.” 

Phelps said he felt the changes benefited the show as a whole rather than butcher it. 

“All the changes they had were really small,” Phelps said. “They gave more explanation to what the characters were like and made changes that made the transition between game and show easier.” 

Phelps said these changes were good because it gives two different interpretations for the show depending on whether people have played the game or not.

“The show is different enough to when you play the game; you’re having two different experiences,” Phelps said. “It’s just a matter of which version of the story you prefer more.” 

Despite these minor changes, the show greatly benefited the original video game. After the show’s premiere, game sales in the UK increased by 238%

Phelps said he recommends The Last of Us to anybody. 

“If you’ve never experienced the main story of the game, you’ll still enjoy the HBO show,” Phelps said. “If you like zombie apocalypse films and shows, you’ll like it. It’s just a great show.” 

While my knowledge of the show’s original story and plot pales in comparison to Phelps’, I still thought the first episode was brilliant and casts amazing potential for the rest of the season. While the daunting runtime may cause viewers to flee, I could not recommend the show highly enough.

 Out of 10 stars, The Last of Us’ first episode warrants 8.5.

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