The Last of Us Episode 1 Review: Fungal Times Ahead

One of the most anticipated shows in a while is finally here with the first episode of The Last of Us. The first episode does a lot of setup that’s tense, dark, and yet somewhat beautiful that captures what gamers fell in love with when we played this game for the first time. It doesn't matter if you don't know the game, you'll still enjoy one of the best premieres in a while.

The Last of Us Episode 1 Review: Fungal Times Ahead

It feels like the video game curse is becoming a thing of the past. With shows like Arcane and movies like Sonic the Hedgehog 1 & 2, gamers are finally eating damn good. So with the aspect of The Last of Us finally getting an adaptation, gamers couldn’t be more excited. To have one of the best games of all time adapted by fantastic people in front and behind the camera gets the hype rising. Luckily, the first episode brilliantly kicks things for a thrilling time.

The Last Of Us Episode 1 is available to stream on HBOMAX.

This review will contain full spoilers for the entire episode.

The Last of Us | Official Trailer | HBO Max

Story: Rise of the Fungi

The episode begins with something so unexpected and brilliant that subverts our expectations. We don’t start out with Joel & Sarah or even Boston years after the outbreak, but a good couple of decades beforehand. The premiere starts off in 1968 as two epidemiologists are talking about viruses and fungi. One epidemiologist inadvertently explains how the outbreak in the show will occur. It’s chilling to hear the detailed description of what will happen when someone is infected. Usually you want to show not tell but to break down in detail how you die and the parasite control you is downright disturbing.

It pays off when we see our first infected person from the show. Of course, the senile elderly next door neighbor who’s bound to her wheelchair is the first person we see turn. To see someone who wouldn’t be that much of a threat getting taken over by the infection as the body creepily runs toward people is frightening. Seeing those movements combined with the elaborate explanation establishes that the threat of the fungi shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Calmingly listening to how humanity will fall.

Calmingly listening to how humanity will fall.

Scene by Scene

It’s a tricky path for adaptations of how much to adapt scene by scene while trying to make their project stand out on its own. The first episode does a fantastic job of adding more depth to the original story while giving some terrific recreations of classic moments. If the show were to just recreate every scene then what would be the point when we could just play the game? This story gets to explore themes like trauma with new additions to Joel’s personality.

Characters & Performances: Brought to Life

When Pedro Pascal & Bella Ramsey were revealed as Joel & Ellie, it felt like the perfect fan casting. And it’s paying off dividends because they’re phenomenal. You watch their performances and go “yep, that’s Joel and Ellie.” We don’t get a whole lot of them together, but for the brief moments we do, it’s like playing the game all over again.

A special mention needs to go to Nico Parker as Sarah. Her extra scenes aren’t a huge addition, but it’s well effective. Seeing Sarah & Joel bond together and seeing their dynamic is special which makes the heartbreak all the more effective. The outbreak is heightened more by Nico as she wonders if she might be infected. And gamers know her of demise, but we don’t care while viewing the show. They still manage to break our hearts again for a 4th time.

You know the pain is coming.

You know the pain is coming.

Cinematography & Sound: The Outbreak

Perhaps the standout sequence from the pilot is the initial outbreak. Maybe because it happened minutes after the game started, it felt like a terrifying slow burn. From the moment we saw the elderly neighbor twitch like a Clicker in her wheelchair, the tension was clear. You knew it was going to happen, but you’re waiting for the dynamite to explode. When it did, it set my anxiety into full gear.

The sheer terror of watching everything fall apart as the Miller family tries to escape the carnage leaves you with a mix of being horrified, nervous, and heartbroken. They managed to pull everything from game opening and add more details that’ll leave your jaw on the ground like a plane going down instead of a gas station exploding. Speaking of details, the production design needs a huge applause from getting every aspect from the game in the show. From the rundown infrastructure of Boston to the fungi itself, it truly feels like the video game came to life.

The Last of Us | Inside the Episode - 1 | HBO Max

A Classic HBO Intro

The excitement of having The Last of Us on HBO is getting an incredible intro. From Game of Thrones to The Sopranos, the opening manages to leave a lasting impression. That’s the case here as the intro is the Cordyceps infecting its host that looks like a city and it ends with silhouettes of Joel & Ellie. That only is breathtaking, but what takes it to the next level is the score. Having Gustavo Santaolalla be involved and using his main theme makes it hauntingly beautiful.

Editing & Pacing: Maybe a Two Parter?

There’s a conflicting thought I have regarding how to advance the story without dragging the show down. This episode was around 80 minutes long and jam packed with a ton of story and character beats. Yet, it ends in regards to the game, we’re still very early in its story. It didn’t drag and felt like filler, but I wanted more of that. I’m on the mindset of you don’t have to have the first game be the first season. Not really a fear I have, but something to keep in mind going forward.

The first episode of The Last of Us delivered everything and more to fans and newcomers alike. On the surface, it's a gripping drama that explores themes of trauma while featuring fantastic sequences. For gamers, it brilliantly captures the essence of The Last of Us through its performances, attention to detail, and great scene recreations. While we can still play the whole game right now, it'll be a long wait for another expectational episode of television.
  • The opening minutes
  • How they captured the game
  • Every Single Performance
  • Outbreak Day
  • Could have split the episode into two parts

1 Comment

  1. So glad that this series seems to be doing the games justice! Will definitely be watching this.


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