The Last Of Us Episode 1: "An Incredible Opening"

The Last Of Us Episode 1: "An Incredible Opening"
Images via HBO

Written by 

Daniel Hollis


16th Jan 2023 16:59

This review contains mild spoilers for The Last Of Us Episode 1.

It’s been a long time coming, but The Last of Us TV series has finally hit our screens and it’s done so with a bang. The pilot episode, which rocks in at a whopping 80 minutes, absolutely flies by with devotion to the source material, while also using that framework to build and fix problems that plagued the original narrative.

For the uninitiated, The Last of Us follows Joel, who after the tragic events of worldwide infection that turn humans into parasitic hosts, is left broken in a post-apocalyptic world. With nothing much to live for, besides a select few people in his life, he’s quickly whisked on a mission to escort a young girl named Ellie across the harsh wasteland of an infected America.

The show has two incredibly challenging feats it has to achieve at once. Not only does it have to bring this world and story to a completely new audience, but it also has to stick the landing with those who have played and loved the source material. It’s no secret that The Last of Us is heralded as one of the greatest games ever made, and this pilot episode expertly proves why.

Change Is Good

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Episode one is essentially broken into two halves. The first focuses on the events pre-infection, with the latter half taking place twenty years later. Viewers are treated to an extended look at Joel and his daughter Sarah’s relationship - something that is all too brief in the original game. It not only builds up Joel’s personality in a way the game didn’t have the time to do but it also helps its most shocking moment have much more impact.

Enough can’t be said about the show’s production in these moments either. HBO has clearly funnelled a bunch of money into The Last of Us, and it’s seen in every frame of the opening act. Watching the world crumble through the eyes of Sarah is every bit of horrific as it was in the game, but its translation to TV makes everything seem so much more grandeur.

Even the post-apocalyptic scenes, where the majority of the show will be taking place, have incredible set designs. The world is desolate and cold, but it also feels lived in and weathered from the years since the initial outbreak. Seeing Joel walk the streets, completing odd jobs, and collecting ration cards feels raw thanks to some stellar production values.

Changes to the narrative have also been made for the better. Having had almost ten years since the original game’s release, the transition to a TV series has made some of the ropier moments feel much more organic. Fireflies leader Marlene's introduction feels much more organic, and a brutal ending scene involving Joel adds another layer of depth that the game never did.

As the weeks go on, it will be interesting to see how these changes play out and whether they’re all for the better, but it’s created some interesting diversions that fans of the game will no doubt enjoy watching come through.

Stellar Performances

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As with the initial story, characters are at the forefront of The Last of Us, and that’s no exception here. While it would have been easy to immediately throw in infected and set pieces, the show takes its time to build up its cast and give you reasons to care for them. Not only is the writing top-notch, but performances across the board are incredible.

Much will be said about Pedro Pascal as Joel, who will no doubt have more times to shine in the coming weeks, but enough can’t be said about Bella Ramsay as Ellie. Although they are only in roughly half of the first episode, Ramsay has quickly donned the shoes of the beloved character and instantly proven that they are the right person for the job.

Elsewhere, Anna Torv as the tough but fair Tess and Gabriel Luna’s brief stint as Tommy both steal the show. Despite reservations from fans of the game in recent weeks, the crew behind The Last of Us clearly knew what they were doing and signed the right people on for the job.

It makes us excited to see how other characters are handled in the upcoming episodes, and what other changes have been made to adapt The Last of Us for the small screen. If there are any reservations we do have about the show, it’s that it’s left us wanting more. The Last Of Us Episode 1 is a prime example of not only how you adapt a video game, but also how you make an incredible opening for a television series.