The Last of Us is attempting to tread water that is chock full of failed attempts. The fabled video game adaptation remains a pipe dream for many companies, especially a live-action adaptation. But if the first episode is anything to go by, Naughty Dog, Craig Mazin et al. finally cracked the code as to how to create a show that is both true to the game while also taking creative liberties.
The first thing, above all else which stood out, was just how spot on all the castings were. From Joel (Pedro Pascal) to Marlene (Merle Dandridge – who reprises her role from the game), everyone plays their role expertly. I was pleasantly surprised with how great Nico Parker is, who plays Sarah, Joel’s daughter.
Having played The Last of Us on release and another time somewhat recently, Sarah’s impact is intense… yet so brief. She doesn’t really serve much of a purpose besides being a personification of Joel’s grief. In the show, she is far more fleshed out, and we get to spend time with her interacting with various characters throughout the neighborhood. It adds such gravity to her intense, yet brief storyline.
Some shots, scenes and dialog were clearly ripped straight from the game. However, it was done with such care that one elevates the other. Gustavo Santaolalla’s soundtrack is also a great carry over from the games. The show makes you feel at home as much as you could in such a depressing world. The big change, how transmission works, has yet to really reveal itself. I get why the change from it not being airborne happened, but there are some tense scenes that are elevated due to their masks in the game. I’ll be interested to see just how they ratchet up the tension without the airborne threat.
I had faith in TLoU as a TV show because Craig Mazin did an amazing job with Chernobyl. While one is obviously based on a real event, you could see the relation between the two properties. Druckmann and the team at Naughty Dog also already did a great job in creating such a strong story for the game itself. Not to say it was an easy transition by any means, but of all games, TLoU was in a prime spot.
It’s far too early to say if they cracked the code of a great video game adaption, but they are hitting all the right notes for newcomers and video game vets alike. If subsequent episodes are as good as the first, we might be talking about one of the next great TV shows regardless of it being a video game property or not.
Newbie Perspective (Jenny)
As someone who hasn’t played the video game, I was curious to see how The Last of Us would pull me in. Would it hold my interest if I have no stake in the game, so to speak? So far, I believe it does.
One of my favorite scenes was actually the opener, when the guests on a talk show in the 1970s were talking about a fungus that could spread and completely take over the world. While it seemed very far-fetched, there was also an underlying terror accompanied with the message. While it’s clear that we are headed to some sort of apocalypse, this was just enough to set up the ensuing story.
A big challenge with TV shows is being able to pull someone in with one episode, especially if the episodes are being released weekly. The Last of Us did a great job setting up the world both before the apocalypse and after. We already feel for the characters, especially after the death of Joel’s daughter. Plus, there are obviously many unanswered questions to explore throughout the rest of this season.
After the first episode, I truly think you don’t need to be a fan of the game to enjoy the show. I’m sure there are plenty of easter eggs for fans of the game, but not knowing it hasn’t minimized my experience watching the show. I’m enjoying the mystery of this world, since I don’t know how this fungus spread or what will become of these characters we’ve started to meet. But with a stellar cast and crew behind it, The Last of Us may have just shown Hollywood how to properly adapt a video game for a live action series.