People that were bullish on HBO’s “The Last of Us” Season 1 were happy to find out the early buzz was more than hype.
Sunday’s Episode 9 (“Look For The Light”) wrapped up Season 1 of the ratings juggernaut with a satisfying conclusion to Joel and Ellie’s journey in search of a cure for the post-apocalyptic world.
Best Video Game Adaptation (Ever?)
“The Last of Us” faced an uphill battle as a video game adaptation heading to television’s No. 1 content factory (HBO). After decades of under-produced video game adaptations that were egregious misfires, TLOU approached its source material and took it seriously.
The result: a zombie drama that quickly ascended into week-to-week appointment television and a critical hit, even among skeptics.
While Season 1 had its filler along the way, Joel (Pascal) and Ellie’s (Ramsey) overarching journey pulled in viewers’ interests.
The formula for this successful, 1:1 adaptation of TLOU was its compelling characters, tense action and real human drama.
A bleak vision of a world taken over by Cordyceps, fungi that (fictionally) turn its hosts into various styles of the undead, is the groundwork laid out before viewers. Then come the characters.
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Pascal’s version of Joel feels loyal to his video game self: a man broken down by decades of surviving in the Cordyceps-ruled America. Joel’s had family and friends die in front of him, and Pascal pulls off his jaded demeanor.
When Joel is tasked with transporting cargo, young Ellie, to a Fireflies camp, it sets him on a quest where he must fight infected and human characters looking to kill him, often in order to reach Ellie.
By the end of Episode 9, the majority of loose ends left as bait to viewers ended up with a satisfying payoff, while also setting up a consequential Season 2 ahead.
One Major Gripe
The enemies are terrifying, ranging from blood-thirsty raiders to preachers and Cordyceps-infected zombies.
Where the show could have truly cranked itself up to a bonafide 10 for most viewers is including more zombies. “The Last of Us” creator Neil Druckmann and showrunner Craig Mazin put a heavy emphasis on the prosthetics and effects of the undead, and the results are phenomenal.
But by the end of Episode 9, it was hard not to long for more screentime by the dangerous Clickers or more than one appearance from the tank-like Bloater. Considering HBO put $500,000 into making a realistic Bloater outfit for its real-life actor, we certainly needed more than one scene of the alpha zombie in clear view.
Human drama is the heart of the show and the zombie factor is its shiny exterior. And in the end, it works.
The Last of Us, Season 1: 9/10