The Last of us Episode 1 review – The apocalypse in 3 parts 

Pedro Pascal and Nico Parker (Picture from the HBO Press Room)
Pedro Pascal and Nico Parker (Picture from the HBO Press Room)

The Last of Us is a show that's been touted as HBO’s next big hit by many a media house. Immediately, it proves that there is comfort in the familiar.

For the uninitiated, the series is based on a popular video game, hailed by many as the best story told in the format. And yes, with a few modifications and certainly a few improvements, the show does remain faithful to the Naughty Dog game. But can it fill the Walking Dead-sized hole that exists following the conclusion of the iconic series?

This question will only be answered as the weeks roll by, but those who believe that the first blow is half the battle should know that The Last of Us certainly makes a great first impression, powered by a great cast, stunning sets and, as has been touched upon already, some great source material.

The end of the world is presented in three parts – first in 1968, with doctors naming fungi as the greatest threat that man could potentially face.

We then fast forward to 2003, where Sarah (Nico Parker) is preparing for her father Joel’s birthday.

There is a sense of foreboding in the domestic bliss of the second part of The Last of Us, even as pancakes are made and watches are gifted. When Sarah realizes that there’s something wrong with the neighbors (The Adlers), we meet the infected. They don’t shimmy and shamble like The Walking Dead, but instead move with reckless abandon at breakneck speed.

There are familiar sights as the apocalypse commences in The Last of Us, but nobody depicts the end of the world quite like HBO. From car-pile-ups to crashing planes, from the infected running amok to soldiers manning the streets, it truly is hell on earth. The moment that every gamer has shed a tear for, where Sarah meets her end when Joel (Pedro Pascal), bearing her in his arms, chances upon a hostile soldier, is just as heartbreaking as the original.

The Last of Us pulls no punches. This brings us to the coda twenty years later, where the actual story begins.

With her foul mouth & quick wit, Bella Ramsey shines as Ellie in The Last of Us on HBO

The Last of Us moves to a post-apocalyptic landscape in 2023, where the last remaining survivors of the human race have to be ruthless merely to survive. Grown-ups and children alike are exterminated if they show even a hint of infection.

The Boston QZ is ruled by dictatorial military forces, who are constantly beset upon by revolutionary forces known as The Fireflies. An older and grizzled Joel has a partner in Tess (Anna Torv of Fringe fame). And the pair of them are tasked with transporting human cargo in the form of Ellie by Marlene (Merle Dandridge), dubbed the ‘Che Guevara of Boston’.

Much was made of Bella Ramsey’s appearance as Ellie when the actor was announced as a part of The Last of Us cast. There may be every chance that critics are silenced from the get-go, because Ramsey is immediately affable.

The chemistry between Joel and Ellie is immediate. The twin protagonists of The Last of Us play a game of cat and mouse, as Pascal’s Joel attempts to find out why Ellie is such a big deal. Is she a bigwig’s daughter, ponders he. Only moments later, the secret is divulged as our characters attempt to flee the Boston QZ, an act that’s punishable by hanging by those in charge.

A security guard spots them, and Joel remembers how his own daughter met her end twenty years ago under similar circumstances. Blows rain ceaselessly upon this hapless soldier as an astonishing discovery is made. Ellie is indeed infected! She protests that she is immune as the end credits roll.

As Depeche Mode plays on the radio to end the premiere, there’s much to process. At a runtime of 90 minutes, The Last of Us does not drag at any point and leaves the viewer yearning for more. Only time will tell if the show will be the next Game of Thrones or Westworld, but given that every ingredient comes together in the magical debut, there's no reason to believe that the quality will wane.

When you’re lost in the darkness, look to the light. Catch the rest of The Last of Us on HBO Max every Sunday night.

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Edited by Upasya Bhowal