“The Last of Us”: a video game turned TV show you have to see


A destroyed city looms over characters Ellie and Joel. Poster recreation by Monica Sanford.

Monica Sanford

The beautiful, yet disturbing, atmosphere enveloped my consciousness. The verdant ivy reclaimed every dead car and crumbling building and all of the places we know today were gone or destroyed. The show took me on a journey through the shadows of lost cities with the fungi-infested undead lurking around every corner. 

The recent TV adaptation of the video game series “The Last of Us” follows the story of young Ellie Williams, played by Bella Ramsey, and Joel Miller, played by Pedro Pascal, as they struggle to survive on an Earth overtaken by anarchists and the decaying undead. Originally bound together unwillingly, the two characters develop a father-daughter-like relationship that brings warmth to their cold and destitute situation. 

The characters themselves are opposites. Ellie is a representation of how everyone acted as kids: always telling jokes and making confident comebacks to adults, while Joel is a reasonable and cold-fronted man who just wants to do what is right.  

These characters, as well as the mood of the show, deeply impact viewers. 

The initial outbreak in “The Last of Us” reminds us of an all-too-familiar Covid-19: chaos breaking out and people scurrying to stock up on any supplies they could get their hands on. Unlike the Covid-19 pandemic, a much more ominous villain than bacteria is amongst the shadows: zombies.

I had a nightmare after I watched the first episode, but that is what makes this show so effective and captivating— its ability to completely soften your guard and then horrify you. 

Senior student, Fiona Martin, played “The Last of Us” games the summer the show was announced and described her first thoughts about the show.

“When it comes to recent adaptations of games or books, they all suck, so I was really worried about it. But just based on the first episode alone, a lot of the camera angles and the action shots are identical to the game,” Martin said.

In video games you can move around in the space of the setting as you please; whereas in a TV show, you can’t get the same immersive environment because you’re watching the characters experience it for you. But Martin and many other fans feel powerful, conflicting emotions of fear and comfort from the show. “The Last of Us” has completely faded the veil between fantasy and reality.

Years after the initial outbreak in “The Last of Us” the now abandoned, urban cities of America have been covered in dense foliage.  The dystopian world of  “The Last of Us” causes viewers to feel a sense of longing for how the world used to be. When we are able to imagine a world where all of the things we love are gone, it allows us to be more grateful. The strange setting of the show evokes reminiscence for a world long gone.             

With outstanding costumes, cinematography and music, “The Last of Us” completely captivates its viewers. “I really appreciate that they made it more enjoyable for a viewing audience,” Martin said. 

Another element contributing to the amazing atmosphere of the show is the unique soundtrack by Gustavo Santaolalla. The soundtrack perfectly accompanies the mysterious environment. Santaolalla created the original soundtrack for the game, and the same enthralling melodies are used in the show. His music is unique because he pairs an acoustic sound with an electric guitar, making it both edgy and eery.

Senior student, Bella Riella, explains, “It [the show] shares similarities to the game. There are also many new aspects that tie the whole show together.”

The actors are the biggest aspect that has changed the story and show in an extremely positive direction. Recreating an already existing character is a very hard task, and Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are performing perfectly according to viewers. 

Martin says, “Even though Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey don’t look like the video game characters, they still harness their energy, and I think that is far more important.”

The relationship shown through these characters is relatable to every viewer because we were all kids once. Riella says, “You can see between Joel and Ellie that they are slowly growing to really love and care for each other as the episodes progress and I think that the actors captured that beautifully.” 

Although the environment is destroyed and the characters’ situation is horrible, the light-hearted and sassy spirit of Ellie makes the viewer feel comforted and nostalgic.

Everyone is enamored by the intricate CGI effects, heart-warming relationships and  beautiful soundtrack of “The Last of Us.” There are new episodes every Sunday on HBO Max, plus a companion podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. As the story and relationships expand, so does everyone’s excitement and curiosity about what is going to happen next.