Culture Pick: HBO’s “The Last of Us” leaves lasting impressions on viewers

McKenzie Knight, Contributing Writer

Often, people will liken moments in their lives to scenes from a movie or television show, but only the cast and crew of HBO’s “The Last of Us” can say they spent 200 days inside a video game. 

Based off Naughty Dog’s video game series by the same name, “The Last of Us” is a television series written and executively produced by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann. Druckmann was involved in the “Uncharted and “The Last of Us” video game franchises.  

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the television series may be more relevant to our lives than some think. It’s set in the aftermath of a global, fungal pandemic that wipes out civilization. Joel, played by Pedro Pascal, is a single dad whose daughter died in the early stages of the pandemic, and the show follows his adventures with Ellie, a 14-year-old played by Bella Ramsey, who may be the key to saving humanity.  

The name refers to the story’s emphasis on those left alive. Joel is a smuggler given the task of bringing Ellie across the country to a resistance group that believes she will bring about a cure for the pandemic.  

What makes “The Last of Us” so intriguing is that the premise is not about the pandemic and the characters’ travels as they try to fight off survivors and the infected. Instead, it is about the difficulty and complexities of morality and the human condition.  

The show explores loss, character relationships and survival, both emotional and physical. Joel and Ellie’s relationship is particularly dynamic due to their initial unfamiliarity with each other and Joel’s recovery from the loss of his daughter.  

There is no saying how one would respond when put into a situation such as the one “The Last of Us” presents, but the show expertly navigates the various responses and the lengths that some will go to ensure their wellbeing and best interests. Viewers are also introduced to the discussion of the repercussions of scientific testing and research.  

Originally, the game debuted in 2013, with the remake in September 2022. Generally, it received positive reviews according to the gaming platform, Steam’s, website. “The Last of Us: Part I from 2013 won over 200 Game of the Year awards due to its narrative arcs, gameplay and well-established character models. The game is rated as mature, both for the violence it shows but also for the themes it explores.  

Part II of the series was released in 2020 and received similar acclaim, though it was not as successful as the first. This edition led to more mixed reviews among players, with some saying it was not as well established as Part I, and others claiming it continued the depth of the original plotline.  

Regardless, the series overall was highly praised for its mechanics and impression on players. During the show’s running time, the video game saw over 200% more players, even though the most recent release was almost two years prior. Even without the show, though, “The Last of Us” will go down in history as one of the best and most loved game franchises.  

As with most adaptations, the show does not follow the game’s story in its entirety, but “The Last of Us” still garnered much acclaim due to its expansion of plotlines and characters instead of solely working with previously supplied material. Not only that, but the showrunners insisted that they would be developing motivations and personalities to better appeal to a television audience.  

Fans of the game who have not seen the show will be interested to know that the writers and producers are committed to staying as close to the game’s plot as possible while also making sure to appeal to those who haven’t played the game at all.  

So, regardless of whether you consider yourself a “The Last of Us” game fanatic or are just a television connoisseur without previous knowledge of the game series, there should be something for all viewers. As the show has already been renewed for a second season, take the time to fully immerse yourself in its complicated themes and emotional plotline, and make sure to buy your box of tissues to pull from throughout the show’s nine thrilling episodes — you’ll need them.