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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 Texas chapter.

HBO’s latest hit The Last of Us based on the acclaimed video game has been quite the emotional journey. Although each episode was about an hour of pure depression, I and most viewers ate it right up. Given the unprecedented success and popularity of the game, the live-action show had high expectations from fans.

Most video game adaptations in the last decade have been disappointing. The biggest criticism of these adaptations is that they deviate too far from the original plot and character developments. Surprisingly, the element of not staying faithful to the original source material is why the first season of The Last of Us was spectacular.

I didn’t see Pedro Pascal on the screen, I saw Joel Miller. Pedro Pascal plays Joel in the exact same way he’s portrayed in the game. The character could easily be played without the one-note and nuanced understanding of why Joel has an unbreakable shell around him. This character has been through a lot of trauma, and Pedro Pascal’s performance presents a Joel that is so broken and constantly looks like he is on the verge of lashing out. The performance and writing do a good job of letting the character show his rage and sadness at the proper moments.

Pedro Pascal’s performance is standing on the shoulders of Bella Ramsey, who plays Ellie Williams. Despite many fans being upset with the casting of Ramsey as Ellie, she proved any doubts wrong. Bella Ramsey does such a great job of portraying the edginess and anger that are central to Ellie. Episode by episode, the show starts to peel back the layers of who Ellie is more than the game does. Ramsey fantastically portrays a young girl who’s forced to navigate the harsh adult, apocalyptic world without having the life experience of someone like Joel.

There’s nothing wrong with the game, but the show was able to dig way deeper into the beliefs, pasts, emotions, and overall development of each character. Most of the audience knows what’s going to happen, but we feel like we’re watching the heart-wrenching moments for the first time because of the performances.

The show is not beat-by-beat, but it also doesn’t veer off the rails of the original plot. The showrunners picked the perfect moments to either change minimal plot details or include new characters. The deviations simply show how other people were impacted by and how they respond to the post-apocalyptic world, and these deviations never get in the way of the story. They also picked the perfect moments when they didn’t change anything. All of these decisions feel like they were made purposefully, and to be in service of the themes and overall storyline.

The action scenes are rarer in the show than in the game, but when they do happen, they’re spectacular! The rarity of action allows killing to be more satisfying and the violence to be more anxiety-inducing. The attention to the details of the infected, great stunt choreography, and superb editing make for the rare but golden action scenes. The kills and violence are only satisfying because they’re earned through the build-up. We’d be bored watching the action scenes if every five minutes Joel and Ellie were killing clickers instead of growing their bond.

The Last of Us is one of the few shows that can be and make the audience members feel miserable, but yet have us waiting for the next episode as soon as one ends. Joel and Ellie’s situation is gritty and horrifying, but their endearing and emotional bond makes us return to HBO Max every Sunday hopeful.

she/her Freshman journalism major at the University of Texas at Austin! An Aquarius who has a passion for film, creative writing, pop culture, and figure skating/dance! IG: @sophiasandovall Twitter: @sophiasandovall Letterboxd: @sophisandovall