Connect with us


‘The Last of Us’ TV review (2023)

It may only be January, but there’s already a contender for TV show of the year as The Last of Us has arrived. The series, which stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, is an adaptation of the popular Naughty Dog game of the same name. Set in an alternate time-line, the world has been decimated by Cordyceps – a mutated strand of fungi that has turned those infected into monstrous and deadly creatures called Clickers. Humanity survives in pockets of civilisations known as QZ’s, though all are rife with strife as a rebel group, called Firefly’s, battle against the governmental organisation, Fedra. Amongst this way of life lives Joel (Pascal), a smuggler who has withdrawn from society. His subdued living is interrupted when he is tasked with taking a potentially special young girl, Ellie (Ramsey), across the country. 

THE LAST OF US takes place 20 years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal and heartbreaking journey as they both must traverse the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.

The opening entry of The Last of Us has just premiered in the UK, and as pilot episodes go, it stands with the likes of Lost and Games of Thrones as one of the best. Beginning in the year 2003, The Last of Us shows the initial chaos of the outbreak through the eyes of Joel and his family. It’s a white knuckle prologue that quickly brings everybody, even those that have never set eyes on the game, right up to date. Once the action-packed opening is out of the way, time jumps forward twenty years, and this is where the real story begins…

Those that are familiar with the game will already know where the story is going, but that does not lessen any of the emotional impact. The series isn’t a carbon copy of the game; budget limitations mean less Clickers and action, but it certainly leans into the emotional side of the narrative. Whilst Joel and Ellie remain the focus, the series does stray from them on occasion, allowing further insight into some of the supporting characters. An early episode fills in the history of one of Joel’s allies (played by Nick Offerman) and may just be one of the most perfect episodes of television since Black Mirror’s San Junipero. 

A faithful adaptation, The Last of Us feels entirely authentic to the game. Not only is the tone that beautiful blend of bleak brutality and melancholy that made the game so impactful, the production design is a near perfect replica. Painstaking attention has been spent on recreating all those iconic settings and environments. It’s as if the game has been projected directly onto the screen, and the inclusion of the original game’s composer is the cherry on top. 

The transfer from video game to screen, and the success in those that attempt the transition, have long been a contentious point of debate. Where so many adaptations fail is that they don’t actually adapt them. Instead writers take a popular game character and side-step the existing story in favour of a new one. It always feels strange as there was a popular story right there waiting. The Last of Us corrects this mistake, sticking far closer to the source material than has been seen before.

The television format certainly helps the adaptation. Almost every other video game project has been turned into a film. Very few, if any, have been explored in the long-form method of story-telling. Watching The Last of Us, it quickly becomes clear that this is the absolute best format for these stories. When playing a video-game, players give hours, days, even weeks of their lives to complete it. They connect to the characters, invest in them, and that bond is strong and sacred. No matter the filmmaker, you cannot replicate that length of time within the limited framework of a feature film. Within the medium of television however, the story and characters have that chance to breathe. Furthermore, episodes varying in length from forty to seventy minutes plus, replicate gaming sessions themselves. Not many have hours upon hours to sit and play-through in one sweep, and so the episodic and weekly release of the show captures that element of game-play.  

Although only January, there is no way that The Last of Us won’t still be being talked about by year’s end. A near-perfect representation of what the game itself was, this is a loving reward to those that pumped hours of their lives into the fate of Ellie and Joel. For those that let the characters pass them by when part of the console world, The Last of Us offers a brilliant introduction to the pair. Quite simply the most amazingly accurate adaptation in video-game history, The Last of Us proves that maybe television is the best route for other narrative-driven games moving forward. 

The Last of Us airs in the UK on Sky Atlantic on Mondays at 9pm.

The Last of Us

Kat Hughes

The Last of Us


A beautiful rendering of the popular game, The Last of Us is an astonishing achievement across the board. Heartfelt acting, detailed set-pieces and an abundance of emotional devastation ensure that The Last of Us is an early contender for show of the year.


Kat Hughes is a UK born film critic and interviewer who has a passion for horror films. An editor for THN, Kat is also a Rotten Tomatoes Approved Critic. She has bylines with Ghouls Magazine, Arrow Video, Film Stories, Certified Forgotten and FILMHOUNDS and has had essays published in home entertainment releases by Vinegar Syndrome and Second Sight. When not writing about horror, Kat hosts micro podcast Movies with Mummy along with her five-year-old daughter.


Latest Posts


More in Television