‘The Last of Us:’ A stunning story of love beyond the end 

Naughty Dog’s award-winning video game ‘The Last of Us’ was adapted into a TV show in Jan. Since it has grown into an equally beloved show by the public featured on HBO Max. Illustration by Kaitlyn Tran/Daily Campus.

As a society, we have long been obsessed with the apocalypse; as a generation, even more so. Facing an existence seemingly on the perpetual edge of collapse, it’s no surprise why. We have been brought up in a world that demands so much yet seemingly provides so little, left to navigate a society built on a foundation of sand that feels as though it is crumbling in real-time. Naturally, we turn to the media that explores these fears to make sense of it all. 

HBO’s “The Last of Us,” based on Naughty Dog’s hit 2013 video game of the same name, has been the most recent example of this phenomenon, and it has risen to prominence as a master class of human-centered storytelling. Following its source material with relative (though not complete, as is the case with the best adaptations) accuracy, Joel (Pedro Pascal), Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and their few allies beautifully capture the tales of people past the end of the world. 

The show so often flaunts the misery of its universe, yet it remains acutely focused on love that abides and the pain it may bring. “The Last of Us” is not a happy story, but it remains a twistedly hopeful one. In a world where society exists in prisons and villages, humanity’s best, somehow, carries on. After all, if Bill is to be believed, a person only needs one love to make life worth it. 

This theme of love’s refusal to die shines brightest in “The Last of Us.” The base violence of a post-apocalyptic world is not lost, but the show does not aim to slaughter for the sake of gore. Rather, violence grounds the narrative, encapsulating the idea that it can be a tool for the defense of love, a mechanism used by people afraid of losing the few friends they have left. 

Every episode is a beauty in itself, with none existing as a clear outlier in quality. They flow seamlessly into one another, stitching together an American landscape entirely believable twenty years after the end. Sets are made and used with care, meant to be practical without foregoing the cinematographic potential audiences expect from HBO’s best. 

Still, the show is not without flaws. At points, its pacing feels off-kilter, seemingly constrained by its nine-episode season. This issue is most prominent in its latter half as the show is forced to hurry through some of its most intense moments for the sake of keeping in line with its structure. Viewers unfamiliar with the source material likely will not even realize this has happened, but the cuts are sure to raise eyebrows for those more familiar with Naughty Dog’s original narrative. 

Despite this, the best moments of “The Last of Us” often leave you too stunned (and teary) to care about the show’s missteps. In a sea of disappointing video game adaptations, Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have seemingly done the impossible: They have captured the beauty of a game’s universe while making its television world unique. 

Regardless of what knowledge a viewer brings to the table, “The Last of Us” is stellar from start to finish. The recommendations of critics and viewers alike are spot on: “The Last of Us” is sure to be one of the best viewing experiences to come out this year. Having already been renewed for a second season that will follow the plot of 2020’s “The Last of Us Part II,” audiences will have more cordyceps-fuelled action to look forward to soon. 

Rating: 4.5/5 

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