REVIEW: The Last of Us S1 E1

Last Updated on January 17, 2023

I’ve been waiting for this series perhaps more than any other in recent memory. Based on the best-selling video-game series, The Last of Us E1 follows the grim and weary Joel as he attempts to block out the grief of his past and move forwards in dystopian world filled with quarantine zones, rival factions, and the monstrous infected. The first season is designed to follow the path of the cinematic first game which was first released back in 2013. There has been a lot of anticipation for this series and The Last of Us E1 does not disappoint.

The Last of Us E1 starts with familiar beats to those of us who love post-apocalyptic series. The pandemic hits with a mutant fungus turning humans into aggressive creatures and the army respond by shooting pretty much anyone they can as Joel does his best to get his brother and daughter out of the city. It’s a slow build with powerful bursts of action that follows the game close enough to please the gamers whilst horror fans will spot similarities with The Walking Dead and A Quiet Place. We then skip forwards twenty years to find Joel living in a quarantined zone working odd jobs for ration cards and having built up a reputation as a man not to be crossed. Meanwhile, we are introduced to Ellie, a young girl recently bitten by one of the infected. She is chained to a wall but curiously, she hasn’t turned into one of the monsters. Rebellious factions do their best to fight against the oppressive regime enforced by soldiers and through it all, Joel and Ellie are drawn together though neither of them seem too happy with it.

In any adaptation, casting is difficult and the main players could make or break this series. Based on the evidence of The Last of Us E1, Game of Thrones alumni Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay are perfect in their roles as Joel and Ellie. Joel is the grumpy, weary fighter I wanted to see and Ellie is the mature, witty, foul-mouthed battler all gamers will recognize. The costume design, setting, and music are all familiar (I love Gustavo Santaolalla’s soundtrack to the game and he provides the score here too!) and they also feel ready made for the screen. The first episode captured the mood of the game and had that rare gift of satisfying gamers whilst enticing newcomers who are ready to dive into what will be gut-wrenching journey.

The Last of Us E1 is the perfect start to what could be SKY/HBO’s next big hit. We have become more aware of pandemics and quarantines since the game was first released and that only makes the horror of the first episode that much more real and tangible. The Last of Us E1 is a 90-minute introduction to a story full of interesting characters and scenes that will stab you in the gut and twist the knife without a moment’s hesitation. Best put your seatbelt on as this is going to be one hell of a ride.

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Aaron Jones

Aaron Jones

Aaron S. Jones is the author of Memories of Blood and Shadow, and The Broken Gods trilogy. He is Head of School at a school in Kent, UK and when he is not tearing his hair out at students struggling with their, they're and there, he is tearing his hair out as he dies for the thousandth time on Elden Ring. You can find him on Twitter @HereticASjones where he is most likely procrastinating for hours at a time instead of focusing on his Orc murder mystery.