The Last of Us adaptation breaks the mold


Zach Albitton

The beloved PlayStation video game, which debuted almost 10 years ago, is now a hit TV show, which — so far — has done the impossible trick of pleasing old fans of the game and new viewers alike.

When it comes to The Last of Us, if you know, you know.

The beloved PlayStation video game, which debuted almost 10 years ago, is now a hit TV show, which — so far — has done the impossible trick of pleasing old fans of the game and new viewers alike.

With 4.7 million viewers, its first episode is HBO’s second-most-watched series premiere in more than 10 years. And every week the show’s audience continued to grow, hitting 7.5 million viewers during its fourth episode.

The fact that the audience of the show continued to grow is strong evidence that the show’s creators might have finally broken the curse of multiple attempts to adapt popular video game stories into movies or TV shows becoming disappointing flops. And there are good reasons why this adaption is working where others have failed.

First of all, the producers of the show made the wise decision to bring in Neil Druckmann, the creator of the game, to be a writer and executive producer alongside Craig Mazin, the creator of the Chernobyl HBO miniseries, which won critical acclaim in 2019.


The show has captured the game perfectly, even though there have been changes like the removal of spores that spread a deadly fungal infection. But the change makes sense as it would be difficult to hide the faces of the main characters behind masks all the time.

At first, I was skeptical about the idea of a video game-adapted show as they have a reputation for being done poorly, but then I heard that Naughty Dog, the developer of the game, was helping with the show, which is critical in my opinion. And it is especially noteworthy to have Neil Druckmann, the creator of the game, on board as a writer and executive producer along with Craig Mazin.

The first episode captures the best intro in gaming history perfectly. There were some minor changes, but they make sense for a TV show adaptation. For example, in the beginning, the show doesn’t start immediately with Joel and his daughter like in the game. Instead, the first scene focuses on a television talk show from 1968, interviewing a scientist who explains a situation that foreshadows the events of the future. I thought this change was perfect, as it keeps the newer audience in each of their seats while pleasing old fans of the game.

After the interview scene, we cut to Sarah, Joel’s daughter, getting ready for school, with the episode focusing more on Sarah than Joel, a direction I enjoyed. It builds up more of her character, instead of in the game where it was so fast-paced the players don’t even know about the outbreak. Then we get to the part where everything goes down, and I loved how they kept the camera inside the car like in the game. They made the first episode of The Last of US perfectly and the best intro from gaming history came to life in the live adaptation incredibly well. It still gets me to this day.

The second episode shows Joel 20 years after the events of “Outbreak Day,” living in what is called the Quarantine Zone in Boston, which is now controlled by FEDRA, an agency that enforces the law in the remaining “QZs” in the United States. This episode also introduces Joel’s partner, Tess, and a girl named Ellie after a confrontation with the Fireflies, a secret rebel group that fights against FEDRA.

Leaders of the Fireflies believe Ellie is the key to a better future, and end up asking Joel and Tess to smuggle Ellie out of Boston and transport her to a medical lab.

During their journey through the destroyed parts of Boston beyond the Quarantine Zone, the show presents the first of the notoriously creepy and frightening so-called Clickers from the game. These creatures were once people who are now infected and controlled by the Cordyceps fungus, which has disfigured their faces to the point of losing their sight.

The way they revealed the Clickers was great as the show didn’t just tell the viewers what the creatures were. Viewers just hear the creepy, inhuman clicking sounds of the creatures, which they use to echo-locate victims while stalking the wasteland. The Clickers looked amazing and sounded perfect in comparison to the game. This was important for fans of the game as the sound and look of these enemies are iconic parts of the game.

The Clickers attack Joel, Tess, and Ellie in an old dilapidated building like the one in the game, which heightens the tense atmosphere of the experience. After they narrowly escape, the group arrives at their destination but is disappointed with what they find.

The third episode, which focuses on two characters named Bill and Frank, includes the biggest departure from the game in the released episodes so far. This episode has also received the most acclaim from critics and fans alike as it humanizes two characters whose full stories aren’t told in the game. The game only shows Bill’s character, and only hints that Frank was his lover and died before Joel and Ellie arrive in the small town outside of Boston called Lincoln, which has been fortified by Frank against the infected and raiders.

The changes to the story of Bill and Frank were surprising, but it was a pleasure to see how both of these characters were given more screen time to fully develop their story. In an interview after the episode aired, Neil Druckmann explained the reasons for the changes to Bill’s story compared to the game.

Pullquote Photo

“My philosophy on this show has always been, when should we deviate and when should we come back?,” Druckmann said. “If it’s kind of the same or worse, we stay where the game is. If it’s better, we deviate.”

— Neil Druckmann, Creator of The Last of Us

“My philosophy on this show has always been, when should we deviate and when should we come back?,” Druckmann said. “If it’s kind of the same or worse, we stay where the game is. If it’s better, we deviate.”

The fourth episode focuses more of Joel and Ellie’s growing relationship, showing how Ellie feels when she was in a tough situation, and Joel comforting her when it was over. There are also some new characters and a guest appearance. Jeffrey Pierce, the voice actor who plays Joel’s brother Tommy in the game, plays a new character named Perry, who is a lieutenant for Kathleen, the leader of the rebel group in Kansas City.

This is the new location for the events that occur in Pittsburgh in the game. Kathleen is a new ruthless leader, who is obsessed with locating Sam and Henry, which are characters from the game. Viewers don’t learn why she is hunting for them until the next episode, but she has made their capture the top priority for the Kansas City rebel group.

Overall, I believe the show is great, the changes and the way they brought one of the greatest video game stories to life are amazing, with perfect actors playing our beloved characters.

I have zero problems with the actors. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were great picks for Joel and Ellie, especially Pascal. Pascal is like Troy Baker when it comes to embodying Joel from the game., putting on a great performance. Everything he does feels like the Joel in the game would do. Ramsey is a great pick for Ellie, doing a good performance as Ellie and acting just like her from the game.Ramsey gives a lot of energy, feeling passionate about Ellie as a character, and we can perfectly see her expressing her emotion.

I really believe that this show has the potential to be one of the best video game adaptations so far. I have zero complaints and I can’t wait to wach the full series play out on during the finale on March 12.