HBO’s The Last of Us Review: A Bleak and Beautiful Masterpiece
HBO’s new series, based on the acclaimed video game, is a beautifully crafted step forward for the zombie genre that manages to be both masterfully tense and deeply emotional. But does it live up to the hype from the game of the year series it’s based on?
The Last of Us takes its time setting up the pre-apocalypse world, establishing a sturdy emotional foundation for the rest of the series. The premiere’s first thirty minutes are a riveting, horrifying set-up, showing us a world that seems normal and peaceful until it suddenly ends due to a mind-altering fungal infection that rapidly turns humans into howling zombies. Two decades later, Joel (Pedro Pascal) is living in a heavily fortified quarantine zone when he’s tasked with escorting a teen girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the zombie wasteland. The two immediately have a strong, spiky dynamic as they face the vividly grotesque and highly lethal zombies together.
The Last of Us treads familiar territory at times, but there’s an elegance and melancholy beauty that sets it apart. Emmy-winning writer Craig Mazin adapts the series with a keen eye for human behavior and chilling parallels to our pandemic times. While the early episodes can get exposition-heavy, the action scenes are breathlessly tense and gruelingly intense. The show doesn’t revel in blood and guts like The Walking Dead; instead, it slowly builds suspense and lets our imaginations run wild.
The Last of Us has some hits and misses in its execution. The third episode is a tiny jewel, with a big detour that takes unexpected turns and underlines how essential the human element is to a show like this. However, the early episodes can be slow at times and may not be for everyone due to its highly graphic content.
Overall, The Last of Us is a highly compelling and artfully crafted addition to the zombie genre that elevates television as a whole. With its gorgeous visuals, human emotion, and thrilling action, it deserves a watch for fans of the genre and those who are up for a strong stomach.
RATING: 5.0 out of 5.0