January 26, 2023

CABLE | 'The Last of Us' Survives the Zombie Apocalypse on HBO

"Save who you can save."
Nick Offerman Murray Bartlett Craig Mazin Neil Druckmann | The Last of Us HBO
Sony Pictures Television / PlayStation Productions
HBO's television drama series based on the acclaimed 2013 Naughty Dog video game franchise The Last of Us is a triumphant screen adaptation thanks to the vivid and compelling portrait of its grounded characters. From episode to episode, we follow an intimate group of survivalists who go on missions to maintain a semblance of life and humanity after a zombie apocalypse.

Created and showrun by Chernobyl writer/producer Craig Mazin, who also directs the pilot, alongside Neil Druckmann, writer and creative director of the original game, the series wisely focuses on creating complex narrative characterizations over its dystopian premise or intense action. Shot across Southern Alberta, there's a massive scale to the size and scope of the sprawling story despite following only a few central characters.

Led by Game of Thrones co-stars Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey as the iconic smuggler pairing of Joel and Ellie, audiences are dropped into the status quo of a world ravaged by war as a result of a climate change-activated global fungal infection ("Cordyceps") after a heartwrenching prologue establishing Joel's pre-apocalyptic life in 2003 Austin, Texas with his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker). Unlike something superficially comparable in The Walking Dead's episodic series adaptation, The Last of Us feels less grim a journey with a slightly more hopeful mood in the face of seemingly endless suffering and desperation. So much time is spent on how characters express love amidst such bleak circumstances.

What's so promising about The Last of Us' faithful translation from PlayStation consoles to television is its core focus on post-apocalyptic storytelling from a user-driven, interactive medium to a passive but cinematic one on the screen. Its rich world-building and high-level production design layer the timeless story of survival and hope through sophisticated, character-driven portrayals.

The Last of Us airs weekly on HBO and is available to stream on Crave in Canada (and on HBO Max in the U.S.).


More | Inverse / Polygon / Verge

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