HBO’s series ‘The Last of Us’ expands backstory of video game



The TV show, The Last of Us is a big hit after being based off a video game.

On the day of its premiere, the HBO series “The Last of Us” was streamed by over 4 million people. Based on the video game by Neil Druckmann, the show explores the beloved story in a new medium.

The “Last of Us” takes place in a post-pandemic world where civilization has been destroyed by a fictional deadly fungal infection. The first two episodes of the show divulge how the pandemic began. 

The story first focuses on 36-year-old Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal), Joel’s 12-year-old daughter Sarah (Nico Parker), and his younger brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna). The outbreak is difficult for the Millers, as their neighbors, the Adlers, are some of the first people to get infected. Through a series of interviews with a renowned mycologist, we learn that the infection started in Jakarta, Indonesia. The game does not go into depth about the origin of the pandemic and only includes only a few minutes of background information. I applaud the show for succeeding in ways the video game failed to by including more information about the science behind the start of the pandemic. 

A time skip takes us twenty years later. We find Joel in a quarantine zone in Boston smuggling goods, most of which are drugs, with his partner Tess Servopoulos (Anna Torv). Quarantine zones are run by the Federal Disaster Response Agency (FEDRA) and are stationed in most major cities around the United States. In “The Last of Us,” a group called the Fireflies revolt against FEDRA with the hope of restoring a pre-pandemic government. Run by Marlene (Merle Dandridge), the Fireflies capture 14-year-old Ellie Williams (Bella Ramsey), with the intention of finding a cure for the infection.

Ellie Williams was born during the pandemic. Her mother was infected shortly before giving birth, granting Ellie immunity. A close friend of Ellie’s mother, Marlene, takes Ellie under her wing and sends her to a FEDRA school. Looking for a way to transport her, Marlene recruits Joel and Tess, sending them on a trip across the barren, post-pandemic world. The story shows how someone can go from a stranger to family in a matter of seconds. 

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey did an incredible job in their character roles and acted out the relationship between Joel and Ellie in a way that made it easy for fans to connect with the characters. Their tight-knit relationship is well-depicted and very clear to see on camera. Viewers also see a lot of returning faces from the games. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who played Joel and Ellie respectively in the video game, made appearances in episodes eight and nine. Baker returned as a man named James in one episode, and Johnson returned as Ellie’s mother Anna in another. Merle Dandridge, who played Marlene in the game, was cast to play her again in the television adaptation. 

Though there are some differences between the game and the show, I believe that the changes made add so much more to the story. While the game has more action, which is important for the player’s enjoyment, the show focuses more on telling the story, which people often miss when playing.

A second season has already been greenlit and should follow the events detailed in the second game. Expectations are high following a wave of critical and commercial success awarded to “The Last of Us.”