The action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog, “The Last of Us” garnered plenty of success and attention for its gameplay and story. Released in 2013, many players were quick to play the game and review it. As attention for the game grew, the company released its prequel “The Last of Us: Left Behind,” sequel “The Last of Us Part II” and a remake of the first one, “The Last of Us Part I.” Each game received positive reviews and plenty of awards. With the amount of success the games have received, a show adaptation was eventually greenlit to be released by HBO Max. The show debuted its first episode on Jan. 15, 2023, — watched by millions of viewers and gained plenty of positive reviews.

The show is set twenty years in a post-apocalyptic dystopian world in which a fungal infection turns humans into violent, cannibalistic zombies. The story follows Joel (Pedro Pascal) who is tasked with smuggling a teenage girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), out of the quarantine zone and across the United States. Ellie, bitten by a zombie, is immune to the infection, showing promise as the key to creating a vaccine and ending the spread. As they embark on their journey together, the pair are forced to confront each of their own pasts and fight off the harsh conditions and terrifying creatures roaming their world.

The first two episodes focus on the beginning of the journey for Joel and Ellie. While the two do not get along at first, it is evident that as the story progresses, so will their relationship. Additionally, the first episode gives a bit of Joel’s background story twenty years before the rest of the show. The audience is able to sympathize with and discover what happened with Joel when the outbreak first started spreading. The first two episodes bring in plenty of emotional moments that grab the audience’s attention and present the terror of a zombie apocalypse. In the opening scene of each episode so far, the audience learns more about the infection and where it all started.

With the show having excellent storytelling, acting and cinematography, it also intensified the suspense scene. With frightening zombie variations such as clickers, who rely on the slightest sounds to find their victims, the suspense is heightened. At any turn, there can be an infection that can bite or tear at the characters. This puts audiences on the edge of their seats, as they watch the characters be careful of their movements.

Most reviews of the show come from audiences’ praising the actors’ performances. Pedro Pascal, best known for his roles in “The Mandalorian” and “Narcos,” effortlessly plays his role that gives the character many layers for the audience to unfold as the show continues. Bella Ramsey, known for her breakout role in the HBO series, “Game of Thrones,” plays an excellent Ellie, highlighting the character’s youth and fiery spirit. When both actors are on screen, their chemistry flows so easily. Their dynamic gives a real and authentic performance that immerses audiences in the story. Other actors such as Anna Torv as Tess, Nico Parker as Sarah and Gabriel Luna as Tommy add to the authenticity of the performances and heighten the show’s story.

Although the post-apocalyptic world has been abandoned and is in shambles, the cinematography of the show is breathtaking. With beautiful shots of fallen, run-down buildings and empty streets, the dystopian world almost feels real. This also demonstrates to the audience how much the infection has taken over the world and its effects on civilization. These shots of their sets mixed in with CGI deserve praise for the excellent scenes that allow the audience to visualize what life would be like in an apocalyptic world.

Many praise the video game’s adaptation into a show for the attention to detail, keeping true to the game, while also adding new story-telling elements. Plenty of scenes in the show depict how mirrored the two are when put frame by frame with the video game. Additionally, there are many shots in which game players feel transported back into their computers as the show often takes on the third-person perspective. By remaining faithful to the original game, players are able to find excitement and satisfaction with the show. Despite many players loving the identical aspects, new audiences are sure to enjoy the show without needing prior knowledge.

Verdict: “The Last of Us” is an intense, but frightening show perfect for past players of the esteemed video game and new audiences as well. The actors’ performance and the show’s attention to detail from the game are what steal the show.