The Last of Us: Episodes 1-3 Review



In summer 2013, almost ten years ago, Naughty Dog Developers released The Last of Us Part 1. This game was renowned for its life-like animation and a detailed storyline reminiscent of a film or television series. Now, as of January 15th of this year, the first episode of the live action adaptation of the game has been released on HBO Max starring The Mandalorian star Pedro Pascal and Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey as the main protagonists Joel and Ellie. The second and third episodes have followed, as a weekly Sunday release. 

From the beginning of the first episode, the show contains many scenes mirroring those of the game, pleasing many long time fans. There obviously had to be some changes made to adapt to the new format, but overall it seems like they plan on keeping the storyline lining up with that of the game. Now neither of us have played the game ourselves, but we have contributions from the opinions of Jack Sovak, an avid fan of the game who is watching the show alongside us. 

The Last of Us tells the story of the world in a zombie apocalypse, the source: an evolved type of cordyceps fungus. The story follows Joel, a middle-aged man whose daughter died in the breakout and now lives as a smuggler between quarantine zones, and a young girl Ellie who has only lived in the post-apocalypse world. In the game, you are playing as Joel, while in the show it breaks off to the POVs of other characters as well.

Starting from now until the end of the show, every three episodes we will be giving a rundown and review of the show as it progresses. We will also be interviewing peers who have played the game so as to give the most accurate review we possibly can. 

The pilot episode begins twenty years in the past, the day before the infection breaks out across the world, from the POV of Joel’s teenage daughter. The episode has been praised for near-exact matches of shots to some of the shots in the video game. Jack confirms, naming the daughter’s death scene as being particularly similar to flashbacks from the game. Episode 2 also continues the mirroring trend, matching pretty exactly certain pieces of dialogue and visuals. We’ve never played or seen the game ourselves, but that’s pretty impressive.

The actors also do a great job of recreating the beloved characters making new and old fans alike fall in love with them. Pascal perfectly embodies the gruff, broken character of Joel. The audience can see him dealing with the grief of his past from the very first episode, making him a pretty likable character from the start. Also it is Pedro Pascal, so that helps. Bella Ramsey’s portrayal of Ellie also perfectly compliments Joel with her sarcastic wit and snarky remarks. However, Jack comments that Ellie’s attitude is starting off as significantly more annoying in the show than in the game. We hope she gets more likable as the show progresses.

Turning a one-player game into a show focusing on multiple character perspectives will create some changes in the overall tone of the story. One of Jack’s biggest complaints about the adaptation is the lack of subtlety in the violent and emotional events in the story. This is to be expected, because playing through a story as a character (Joel) will mean living through events at the pace of his reactions. If someone dies, he has to get over it because he has to keep moving. In show format, they are able to focus for longer on the dramatic feeling of the scenes, using different shots and music and effects to connect the viewer instead of putting them right in the story. Personally, we are not affected by this, but people who originally fell in love with the game may notice and take issue with this tone switch.

Now that we’ve discussed as much as we could in regards to the first three episodes, and even brought on someone who has played the game for the most accurate comparison, Becca and I will be patiently awaiting episodes 4-6 to continue our review of this phenomenon of a show.