HBO’s “The Last of Us” has made headlines recently for its stunning adaptation of the 2013 video game. “The Last of Us” is set in a post-apocalyptic world in 2023, where the world has been overrun by zombie-like creatures known as “infected.” The “infected” result from a fungal infection known as “Cordyceps” that attacks the brain until it takes over the victim’s memories and motives, rendering them horrifying creatures with only one goal: spreading the infection.
The story of “The Last of Us” centers around Joel Miller, who loses his daughter Sarah at the beginning of the outbreak. Joel then gets tasked with keeping Ellie Williams, a 14-year-old girl immune to the infected, alive enough for the Fireflies, a revolutionary militia group, to make a cure out of her.
The relationship between Joel and Ellie becomes a focal point of the story. We see the heartbreaking transformation Joel makes after losing his daughter. Long gone is the kind, sarcastic dad we saw at the beginning of episode one, that has been replaced by a ruthless, brutal man who has seemingly lost all the goodness in him.
Ellie is no stranger to the grief the apocalypse has brought to her either. With each episode, we see how Ellie brings Joel back to life. Joel is not a good man and he makes this clear to Ellie; he has killed innocent people and done horrendous things in the name of survival. But at the end of the day, he is still human and it is no surprise when he comes to see Ellie as a daughter.
The void Sarah left slowly becomes whole again due to Ellie. They both become each other’s support system without even knowing it. It’s no question why Joel makes the choice he does in the last episode. When presented with the opportunity to save humanity or his daughter, there is no question about who he is saving.
That’s what makes “The Last of Us” shine in the zombie genre. Despite zombies being central to the show, the real focus is on humanity. It’s on human connection persisting despite the world the characters live in. Each episode seemingly presents the simple act of love and connection preserving a world that has lost its humanity. The show does this through its side characters, which are beautifully fleshed out. They include small details that make the show even more heartbreaking. From making Sam younger and having a deaf actor play him to Bill dying with Frank, the subtle changes to the video game story make the show even more impactful.
Episode eight of “The Last of Us” shows that other dangerous things exist in this post-apocalyptic world that aren’t infected people. Episode eight had no infected posing a danger to any of the characters but I was still on the edge of my seat when David’s sick, twisted nature was revealed. Bella Ramsey’s performance throughout the episode was Emmy-worthy, which is not an exaggeration.
Even more heartbreaking is that Ellie stops herself from stabbing David, not Joel. Joel must drag Ellie away from David’s dead body in the game. I interpreted this small change because Joel will not always be there to save Ellie, which is a reality she must confront.
Overall, “The Last of Us” is a beautiful adaptation of the video game that does the story between Ellie and Joel justice. The cinematography, story writing and characterization make the show Emmy-worthy and worth a watch.