The Last of Us hit our screens on Sunday evening and has already become HBO’s best hit since House of The Dragon. Expectations were high for co-creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin.
Mazin is best known for his work on Chernobyl. He won a primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for the series and a Writers Guild of America Award for Best Original Long Form.
Chernobyl went on to win several other awards as a series. Mazin knows success and how to achieve it.
The Last of Us knew they would be facing criticism from the gaming universe. A video-to-television adaptation is always a risky one.
One that doesn’t always reach the acclaim of desire. But as The Walking Dead ended, a new apocalyptic universe emerged and is already flourishing from day one.
The highly anticipated apocalyptic drama starts out with two scientists being interviewed during a talk show in 1968. One scientist believes microorganisms pose a threat.
The other scientist doesn’t believe that’s true. He believes fungus poses the real threat.
Fungus seems harmless enough, but many species know otherwise. Some fungi do not seek to kill the planet, but to control it.
Viruses can kill, but the thing about fungus is it can alter the mind of a human. It’s where LSD comes from as the scientist explains to the annoyingly egotistical interviewer.
They go into great detail about the science of how the fungus can latch onto a brain, however this is not something they’ve seen in humans, as a human host has too high of a temperature. If the global elements on Earth changed so that the temperature is higher, that changes everything.
“Billions of puppets with poisoned minds,” is how the scientist worded it. It would spread the infection to every last human alive, but any means necessary.
There is little that could ever be done to combat it or eradicate the problem. The series sets off on Joel’s birthday.
You can tell that to him, it seems like just another day. He’s focused on getting to work but promises he’ll pick himself up a cake after he works a double shift.
Sarah, his beautifully intelligent daughter, get’s annoyed with him easily in the cute way that teens do. Joel’s brother Tommy and he and Sarah make an interestingly warm and humorous family unit.
Sarah and Joel take fun stabs at each other back and forth. She’s a good-hearted kid who just wants to celebrate her father’s birthday.
She takes some money and her father’s watch to have fixed for a birthday present, knowing he would never take the time to fix it himself. Upon getting the watch fixed, the shop owners wife rushes Sarah out the door, telling her she should get home now.
Something bad is coming and it gives her a confused look as to what. She comes home and spends some time with her neighbors, the Adler’s.
Sarah stays very kind to the family even though they give off a bit of a creepy Christian vibe. On her way back her house, she sees jets flying overhead.
Between that and all the police cars in the city, she knows something can’t be right. Joel, of course, forgets the cake on the way home and is late.
He’s a good father and a good man. You can sense he’s always putting everyone else’s needs ahead of his own.
Sarah teases him saying no cake, no present. He’s adoringly surprised his daughter got him a present and promises with all his life he’ll bake them a cake tomorrow.
Joel opens the box and pulls out his watch, teasing her that it wasn’t really fixed. The two have such a loving and ball busting relationship.
He puts on the watch proudly, touched that she did that for him. They end the mini birthday celebration watching television together until she falls asleep when suddenly Joel gets a call from Tommy from jail.
He got in a bar fight and needs his bro to bail him out. It sounds like this is a regular occurrence.
Sarah wakes up in the house alone with more aircrafts flying overhead. She worriedly goes and looks for her father throughout the house.
Cars are racing down the street and a national alert system is going across the television telling people to stay indoors. She doesn’t take the advice when the Adler’s dog comes and scratches on the door.
Sirens are surrounding the area and Sarah tries to take the dog home. But Mercy runs off and away from her, not wanting to go back in that house and Sarah soon finds out why.
Gun shots are heard in the background as she nears her way to the noise in the house. Slipping on blood she sees Mr. Adler covered in it and Nana Adler has turned into something not human.
She starts to come after Sarah, just as Joel pulls up with Tommy. It’s the first time the three of them see this zombie-like creature of someone they used to know.
Joel kills her quickly and gets his daughter in the car. They are off in the truck, now having to run over people on the way.
Tommy says people are saying it came from a virus, some kind of parasite turning people into monsters. Ellie asks if it comes from terrorists.
Nobody really knows but the world seems to be collapsing all around them. It seems to be affecting more people in the city.
Houses are on fire and highways are blocked off. Joel is very smart to not pick up people along the way.
You don’t know who you can trust at this point. The army is all around, blocking of access points to the highway making it nearly impossible to get out.
The only way to go is north. Sarah is worried that this is everywhere and there’s nowhere to go.
Huge planes are flying low, more streets are blocked off. There’s a mixture of infected and uninflected roaming the city.
Tommy and Joel are trying to get through. They witness looting and people panicking, planes crashing and blowing up like a bomb.
The cinematography and visual effects are top notch. There could not be a more perfect actor to play the role of Joel.
Pedro Pascal checks all the boxes. Joel gets Sarah out of the truck after it crashes and flips over.
Tommy gets stuck on the other side of them after a sheriff car crashes into it. He tells them to head to the river and get Sarah out of here.
Joel picks her up and carries her as her leg was injured in the crash. He starts to run when they are being chased.
These are not the zombies of The Walking Dead, they are quick and agile. Joel and Sarah are saved just in time by a soldier, but he’s no hero.
The soldier points his gun at Joel, who tries to plead with him that they aren’t sick. The soldier calls it in, getting some kind of order from his superior.
He just wants to get his daughter somewhere safe, but this is all very much bigger than them. He shoots at them causing Joel to jump and roll them down a hill.
The soldier clearly had orders to shoot. He comes up on Joel who begs for mercy but Tommy saves his brother just in time.
However, Sarah was shot in the process. She won’t make it.
Tommy knows it. Joel loses his little girl in the most heart-breaking way.
The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 1 – 20 years later
The series fast forwards to 20 years after those traumatic events, in present day Boston where we see a little girl coming upon the Quarantine Zone. She collapses and is taken inside.
It comes across that they will take care of this girl and give her treatment. We soon see Joel tasked with body removal.
They are a group burning the bodies of the dead. He picks up the little girl we just saw and tosses her in the flames.
Boston has been kept safe by an organization called FEDRA. They pay Joel for his work but he’s looking for something else.
He desires a job like that won’t take a toll on your mind and heart. FEDRA is a severely strict organization where if you break a rule, you can be subject to death quickly.
We see four people being hung for their crimes such as unauthorized entry into the Quarantine Zone. Showing this kind of act in public and out in the open is probably something that helps keep the people in line.
It shows them that if you decide to go against the rules, this will be you. Joel goes to a secured FEDRA area meeting with a soldier, where he makes some kind of a drug deal.
He looks to be some kind of middleman working for a supplier. It’s evident that FEDRA barely pays people enough to survive.
So, this is a job Joel has to take in order to pay for a battery for his truck. In today’s society it’s such a simple thing to buy, but in an apocalypse, it feels like a diamond.
His goal is to get it and go look for Tommy. Before leaving the soldier gives Joel a warning to stay off the streets for a little while.
The Fireflies have been all over. The Fireflies are a group of rebels against the regime of FEDRA.
You could see some of the workers painting over their red symbol.
The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 1 – “When you are lost in the darkness, look for the light.”
Joel has a partner and ally in Tess. She’s a tough and strong woman, who we see face to face with a man who ripped her off named Robert.
Her face is battered and she seems to be held captive in a dark room with two men behind her. She paid for a truck battery that Robert sold to someone else and spent her money.
Tess seems to want to back down and just let it go. She’s done worse things.
But Robert seems to be afraid of Joel and what he will do to him when he sees her face. Tess gives him her word that she’ll give Joel a story.
She just wants to move on and drink herself to an oblivion until the pain stops hurting. But all that comes to a screeching halt when something blows up one of the walls.
Tess steps out of the rubble to see a hummer on fire. FEDRA is under attack by the Fireflies.
She becomes arrested by FEDRA who assume she’s a Firefly. It cuts to our first glimpse of Ellie, who we see in an empty room chained down with a tray.
She is given simple tasks to perform daily to see if there are any changes, claiming that her name is Veronica. She was taken from FEDRA by the Fireflies.
On the wall we see the words again, “When you’re lost in the darkness” in red paint. We first saw those words against the brick wall at quarantine zone.
Joel is worried when he’s no longer getting radio messages from his brother. It never takes him more than a day to respond but he hasn’t heard from him.
He asks where the tower is, which is in Wyoming. Tess claims that she got jumped by a couple of teenagers to Joel.
She admits that Robert sold the battery to someone else. He wants to get the battery soon, afraid that Tommy will die out there if he doesn’t get to him.
They plot their revenge on Robert, whom Tess promised that Joel wouldn’t go after him. But that’s not a promise Tess was never willing to keep.
They’re going to hunt him down to get their money, the battery, the truck and head off to find Tommy.
The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 1 – Marlene, you’re the prettiest girl I’ve ever seen
Marlene is one of the leaders of the Fireflies. They have been blowing up FEDRA targets for weeks now.
One of her members asked what the point was, but she, doesn’t care. It’s her job to follow orders and that’s precisely what she’s going to do.
Her member Kim keeps asking a lot of questions, feeling that some of this is wrong. Marlene explains this as a war against a military dictatorship to restore democracy and freedom.
But after 20 years, the war against FEDRA has been a failure. They are going to take Ellie out west.
She got some information from the radio guy in Salem. The same radio guy we saw Joel talking to.
When Kim saw the radio message, that was written down on paper, her attitude completely changes. Whatever it takes was her new motto.
Joel and Tess find out who Robert sold the battery to, while being in the same building that Ellie “Veronica” is chained to. Marlene comes in to see Ellie.
We learn that Marlene is the one who saved Ellie’s life. FEDRA was going to shoot her.
Marlene unchains her and Ellie asks if she’s going to change. She tells her no, but she also won’t let her leave.
She knew Ellie as a baby and was the one who put her in FEDRA. She thought it was where she would be the safest.
The Firefly leader tells Ellie that she has a greater purpose than any of them could have ever imagined. She tells her they are leaving tonight and taking her with them out west.
You can tell that Marlene carries a soft spot for the young girl. Meanwhile, Joel and Tess are breaking into the building for justice.
They come across Robert who has been shot in the head. The battery was no good and he tried to sell it twice.
It’s the greed that killed him. Down the hall they hear some noise.
He see’s Marlene struggling with a wound and out of nowhere Ellie comes at Joel with a knife, who he easily slams into the wall to bring her down.
With all of them pointing guns at one another, Marlene immediately recognizes Joel. They soon find that both of them were screwed over for the battery.
They both need to go out west. Joel claims that Marlene turned his own brother against him.
These two clearly have a heavy history. She goes on to tell Joel that they were going to move Ellie out of the zone tonight but now they can’t, so he needs to do it.
Marlene and Kim are shot and not in the shape to do it. Joel wants out anyway.
There’s a team of Fireflies waiting for her at an old State House. Marlene knows what Tess and Joel are capable of.
They seem to have a reputation, good or bad. Ellie questions what exactly Joel is capable of, in an almost fearful way.
Tess wants to know why she is so important. If he takes her, Marlene promises that her people will give her anything he wants; guns, supplies, fueled up trucks with a real good battery.
Marlene already has the knowledge Joel wants to go find his brother. Tess and Joel agree to it, but but Marlene doesn’t hold true to the promise Tess will kill the girl.
Marlene has only explained why to Ellie. Before Joel leaves, Marlene tells him not to mess this up, in a pleading way.
It would surely help if he knew why for better efforts to protect her. Ellie wastes no time going through Joel’s things.
She quickly decodes his radio messages asking who Bill and Frank are. Ellie remarks that his watch is broken but he never takes it off.
Perhaps it’s a lifeline to Sarah as something to keep her memory alive. Ellie is full of questions for Joel.
The only question he has for her, is why she’s so important. She doesn’t provide a complete answer.
Trouble is coming and they have to get on the road, and so the escape from FEDRA begins. The soldier Joel does dealings with catches the three of them.
They are unauthorized and Ellie ends up stabbing the soldier in the leg when he tries to scan her, as she knows what will show up. Joel takes him down to end the threat.
Bella Ramsey may have gotten some negative criticism about her as the casting choice for Ellie but she is putting all that negativity to a rest. She is Ellie.
Tess sees the red scan on Ellie and yells at Joel. Ellie claims that she is not sick.
Her wound is three weeks old and scarred over now. But there’s no time to explain the rest.
Soldiers are coming and they have to move.
Watch an all-new episode of The Last of Us to see what happens next on Sunday 9PM ET on HBO Max.