“The Last of Us”: Not Just Another Zombie Show

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons | Cast members (from left to right) Neil Druckmann, Craig Mazin, Bella Ramsey, Pedro Pascal, Merle Dandridge and Gabriel Luna answered questions for fans at the 2022 Comic Con Experience.

Andy Kamis | Staff Writer

Feb. 09, 2023

Set 20 years after a global pandemic ravaged almost all of human civilization to extinction, HBO’s “The Last of Us” follows survivors Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie Williams (Bella Ramsey) as they make a grueling journey across the United States.

Throughout their adventure, Joel and Ellie will have to overcome many unforeseen adversities while also navigating through their own conflicting personalities. This new series was adapted from a popular video game title, which shares the same name.

The HBO adaptation was first announced in June of 2020, just as the second installment of the game was being released. So far the adaptation has paid a great tribute to the game, both through the game’s story and through its mechanics as well.

“The Last of Us” premiered on Jan. 15 and had 4.7 million viewers tune in to watch the pilot episode. Every weekly episode afterward has increased in its viewership with the second episode raking in 5.7 million viewers, a 22% increase from the pilot. But it does not stop there: the third episode opened with 6.4 million viewers and the latest episode just reached 7.5 million initial streams on Sunday, Feb. 5. So far, the hit show has grown more than 60% in viewership from its debut release.

Despite showing a post-apocalyptic world full of infected monsters and callous marauders, “The Last of Us” breaks the traditional zombie depiction seen in other forms of media and stands on its own in several different ways.

“The Last of Us” breaks the typical zombie genre in that its outbreak is actually scientifically backed in reasoning.

Unlike most zombie movies and television shows, it is not a virus that infects human hosts, but rather the real-world Cordyceps fungus that infiltrates a person’s brain in order to control their every move. From here, the fungus keeps the host alive and forces them to bite others so that it can spread.

In reality, Cordyceps cannot survive in the human body due to its internal temperature. However, the show begs the question of “what if” and suggests that if the planet’s temperature were to increase—via global warming—that Cordyceps or other fungi would be able to adapt and survive a higher temperature. This is the basis for the show, giving a refreshing—but scary—interpretation of the zombie franchise.

“The Last of Us” has also beautifully expressed many convoluted themes so far, such as grief, love and humanity. For instance, the third episode, titled “Long, Long Time,” elegantly displays the love story between the characters Bill and Frank. Their full relationship is told over a majority of the episode including not just the happiness of being in love, but also the hardships that the characters had to overcome for each other.

The romantic subplot successfully demonstrates the purpose of living after the world has ended and how love has the ability to restore humanity within individuals despite hopeless times and hardships.

Episode 3 also shows that it is important for the characters to truly feel alive in what they do and how they perceive the new world, instead of just merely living to survive. Bill and Frank’s story truly tugs on the viewers’ heartstrings and provides a great representation for the LGBTQIA+ community as well.

Finally, HBO’s “The Last of Us” is polished in its production and attention to detail. Each set displayed so far has been intricate, immersive and has been highlighted by some outstanding shots. The first four episodes have taken viewers through overgrown wildernesses, abandoned suburbs and the ruins of Boston and Kansas City, Kan..

On top of that, Pascal and Ramsey have provided unmatched performances thus far, making their characters easy to follow and connect to.

“The Last of Us” will return for its fifth installment on Feb. 10 at 9 p.m. This episode is premiering two days earlier than the show’s typical Sunday night release schedule so that it will not have to compete with Super Bowl LVII.