TL;DR – A faithful and tense introduction to the series.
Disclosure – I paid for the Binge service that viewed this show.
The Last of Us Review –
I came into this week’s The Last of Us with some trepidation. On the one hand, the series, especially the second game, holds a special place in my heart as it was the streaming event that sucked me into this world. However, since then, many shows have come into this post-apocalyptic space, and some, like Station Eleven, have been transcendent. My question is, has The Last of Us missed the bus, or is it the perfect time to jump back into this world?
So to set the scene, it is September 26th, 2003, in Austin, Texas, and there is a sense of strange calm as Joel (Pedro Pascal), and his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) celebrate his birthday as the news reports something weird happening in Jakarta. Joel and his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) have to work a double shift to get the house they are working on fixed. While Sarah is out getting her father’s watch mended, police start tearing up the streets. Hours later, things move from bad to worse as the city implodes, and Joel desperately tries to get his family to safety. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be [SPOILERS] ahead for the show and Schindler’s List.
In this first episode, we get two separate storylines, to the point where I think this could have been better served as two different episodes broken up at the Boston 2023 reveal. So, I am going to look at the two parts separately. The first thing that this adaptation nails is the fact that it is not afraid of its own source material. Many adaptations feel almost scared of even touching what went before and losing the very thing that made them shine. But the moment you heard those opening chords of the theme song, you knew that this would be something different. Which then develops into an incredibly faithful narrative of the fall of humankind.
The set-up for the world falling apart is one of those moments that the series nails, the slow whispers, odd reports on the radio, neighbours acting weirdly, and sirens in the distance. We already know what will happen, so they manage the tension by dropping things in the margins. This primes you for the calamity when the fungi reach critical mass. The opening escape was one of the moments where I was stuck on the edge of my seat for the entire time. Big long takes, letting you sit in the emotions of a world falling apart. It was a sequence that felt both like an epic moment of cinema and an in-game cut scene. The moment with the plane was terrifying.
Much like the cold open in 1968, that gives us a hint of what is coming with the professors explaining what fungi could do and the threat Cordyceps could pose. When we jump twenty years into the future to 2023, it is crucial to instantly give a vibe about where the world is. The lone child walking in a distinct colour only to have a dire fate is nothing new. I just have to say Schindler’s List, and tears come straight to your eyes. But it works, not only for the setting, but also to instantly give us a window into who Joel has become in those twenty years. We have a world that is surviving, but only just, there may be links to other cities, but the ruins of the old world are everywhere.
Which is an excellent moment to talk about the cast. While there are moments translated shot-for-shot from the game, we still get something new as the actors champion what came before while also finding their own voices. Part of it is because we have all gone through a recent pandemic together, so shared understanding gets brought to the screen. Pedro Pascal & Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal & Nico Parker have an instant rapport that a series like this needs. Add to this some fantastic support work from Gabriel Luna & Anna Torv, and you have a compelling push for the first episode.
In the end, do we recommend The Last of Us: When You’re Lost in the Darkness? Did it go a little long, probably? But I think it nailed the world and the characters and created a launch pad for everything else we are about to watch.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen The Last of Us yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review House of the Dragon on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Last of Us
Directed by – Craig Mazin
Written by – Craig Mazin & Neil Druckmann
Created by – Craig Mazin & Neil Druckmann
Based On – The Last of Us by Neil Druckmann and Naughty Dog
Production/Distribution Companies – Naughty Dog, PlayStation Productions, Sony Pictures Television, The Mighty Mint, Word Games, HBO & Binge
Starring – Pedro Pascal & Bella Ramsey with Gabriel Luna & Anna Torv and Nico Parker, John Hannah, Merle Dandridge, Josh Brener, Christopher Heyerdahl, Brad, LeLand, Marcia Bennett, Brendan Fletcher & Jerry Wasserman