The Last of Us makes an early bid for the best show of 2023


Adaptations of video games into film and television have seemingly always struggled in the past. While there are certainly examples of success, such as Cyberpunk: Edgerunners or Netflix’s The Witcher, these are often few and far between.  

For every good adaptation of a game, there always seemed to be at least five examples of bad ones. Movies like Assassin’s Creed, Uncharted, Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, or Resident Evil are testaments to this claim.  

With the announcement of HBO’s, The Last of Us came some well-deserved skepticism from fans, as the game has been lauded for its masterful storytelling since its release in 2013.  

Thankfully, the curse of bad adaptations seems to have been broken with this show.  

The show is set in a post-zombie apocalypse in America in 2023, twenty years after an outbreak of a mind-controlling fungus called cordyceps. Viewers will follow the main protagonists, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), on their journey to find a cure for the fungus.  

Joel is battle hardened and stern, as he developed these traits as a way to subconsciously shield himself from growing attached to people after he witnessed some horrors on the first day of the outbreak.  

Ellie is a fourteen-year-old girl who acts as Joel’s foil in this show. She is lighthearted, fun-loving, and humorous in a way that provides a nice dichotomy in attitude between the two characters.  

This is not to say that Ellie is there simply to be comedic relief in the same way a character from a Marvel film is. She has her own unique backstory and traits that make her an interesting character. 

Somehow immune from the infectious properties of the fungus, Ellie has been made to understand that she is a special case after she did not turn into a zombie following being bitten. This is the catalyst for her and Joel to begin their journey across America to get her to the proper facilities equipped to deal with making a cure.  

Throughout the show, the audience begins to see Joel change and become softer thanks to Ellie. A very real sense of character progression is felt with him as opposed to him remaining static throughout.  

Likewise, we also see Ellie becoming more attached to Joel during their journey, fighting tooth and nail to ensure they can both make it out of dangerous situations alive.  

The worldbuilding, character arcs, and overall story of the show remain very faithful to the game, which did it in a way that had never been seen before. Thankfully, the show preserves the magnum opus that was the narrative of The Last of Us. 

Individual episodes that stand as masterpieces on their own are also a facet of this show. Episodes three, five, seven, and eight provide thought-provoking, though often sad, stories about how people live and deal with the broken world around them.  

The Last of Us is a show that is, thankfully, accessible to people that have never played the game. The story can successfully stand on its own without the aid of the original gameplay. 

Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin pull out all the stops in The Last of Us and make it well worth the viewer’s time. If you are on the fence about watching this show, or are thinking of watching it after hearing about it online, you would be doing yourself a favor by tuning in.