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Why The Last of Us Is an Important Watch

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Coastal Carolina chapter.

The Last of Us is a game released in 2013 as a PlayStation exclusive and it has since gained traction with a sequel and a few remastered editions. However, the most exciting addition to the franchise has been the HBO Max show. The first episode aired on January 15, 2023, and the ninth, and final, episode aired this Sunday, March 13. I did not play the games at all as I am a chronic youngest sibling and my brothers are Xbox users, nor did I know anything about it or the series until it was announced in 2021. Honestly, Pedro Pascal as the lead caught my attention first, and I was hooked ever since. I am also a fan of apocalypse and zombie stories that are fresh and not the same, lacking reused cliches and tropes. This story does that in such a beautiful way that I can only attempt to express. 

As I said, I love an original story, so let’s talk about these zombies and this outbreak a little bit. The outbreak is based on a real fungus called Cordyceps which is parasitic to insects and other arthropods. In this universe, it mutated and caused an outbreak that decimated the United States. I appreciate a zombie story where the cause is known and thought is given to how the zombified people act and interact. Even though it is not reality, the fact that the fungus that causes the outbreak is real grounds the story in a plausible reality.

Our main characters are Joel and Ellie. Joel is a rough-around-the-edges smuggler who lost his daughter when the outbreak started and is tasked with escorting Ellie, from Boston, MA to Salt Lake City, UT. This is twenty years after the outbreak started and society has crumbled. Anyone who has survived lives in totalitarian quarantine zones, independent settlements, or nomadic groups. Raiders and militia groups are rampant, so to go anywhere you must battle people and zombies. Ellie is a fourteen-year-old girl who the main rebel militia group, the Fireflies, believes may hold the key to finding a cure. They travel together for nearly a year while experiencing trauma together, visiting old friends, and making allies. 

The relationships in this series are what make it special to me. Joel is traumatized by the death of his teenage daughter, the continued losses of those he trusts, and by being given the daunting task of delivering this teenage girl across the country with practically nothing. He has walls around him due to his grief, and Ellie has her own fortresses built as well. She has known nothing but the quarantine zone and militia group as she was born during the outbreak. She is forced to grow up too soon when the potential fate of humanity is put on her shoulders so she has a tough attitude about her. They both are supposed to be conducting a deal and then parting ways, but traveling with someone through rough terrain and numerous threats creates a bond between the two. Joel and Ellie are forced to confront the idea of losing each other although they are supposed to be just cargo and a smuggler. Relationships are questioned and examined as those who are supposed to care the most for our main characters, put others and personal values over them. 

I also love the way that the show gives the characters depth with their storylines during the outbreak as time and life did not stop. For example, mental health plays a role with Joel as he has PTSD-related panic attacks concerning the loss of his daughter. Also, Ellie and Bill (a survivalist they get supplies from on their journey) are openly queer. This series sheds light on the brutality of what an apocalypse would do to human nature. However, it also gives us hope as the characters are still so human, and are multi-faceted. We can see ourselves in them even as they live a life that we hope we never have to. This is not a story about those in power; rather, it is about real, every day, heartbreakingly flawed people getting through the apocalypse however they see fit. 

Overall, I loved this show. It is a feat of storytelling that gives every character dimension and meaning, while bringing a fresh look to a genre that desperately needed it. People will hate it for slightly changing the game’s lore, but as a person who did not play the game, it was amazing. Ellie and Joel have a bond that may fray and change with their experiences, but which is so strong and true that it is almost inspiring. If you want to feel heartbroken and cry, and to have deep, emotional attachments to fictional characters, then I cannot recommend this show enough.

Avery Griffin

Coastal Carolina '23

Avery is a senior Marine Science major, with an English minor. She is a queer woman interested in social justice, reading (or increasing her TBR), coffee, tea, and exploring nature and whatever else Myrtle Beach can offer. Her writings mostly consist of book reviews and some culture.