Review: ‘The Last of Us’ episodes 1-4

Nicholas Castillo, Video Team Member

Poster for HBO series ‘The Last of Us.’

HBO’s “The Last of Us” is the latest film adaptation based on a popular video game franchise.  

The show takes place in a post-apocalyptic future of earth with a unique spin on the zombie genre. Rather than a disease turning the world’s populace into man-eating monsters, the culprit is the cordyceps fungus that is naturally trying to grow and spread its roots.  

This is a fungus that exists in the real world but has now evolved to infect humans instead of only insects thanks to rising temperatures. The unique infection gives the world and creatures a distinct look compared to other media in the apocalypse genre. 

Many talented people brought this show to life behind the camera, but those in front deserve a lot of praise. For this half of the season, there are three main characters: Joel Miller, played by Pedro Pascal; Theresa “Tess” Servopoulos, played by Anna Torv; and Ellie Williams, played by Bella Ramsey.  

The former two are a pair of smugglers trying to repair a truck to find Joel’s brother who was separated a few months prior to the events in the series. Their latest job has them meeting Ellie, who is immune to the plague sweeping across the world.  

The pair of smugglers are burnt out and feel numb towards the world. Their main purpose has turned to survival, but Tess is filled with a new sense of hope and purpose upon discovering Ellie could be the source of a cure. Joel remains stoic and empty, but the closer he gets to Ellie, the more humanity he regains.  

Ellie is a delight. She has ferocity from growing up in this world, but she still has a sense of humor that makes her a light in the darkness. 

All three of them bring depth and raw emotion to every one of their scenes. They were perfectly cast, proving why they were chosen to play these roles every episode. Thankfully, the show itself is as entertaining as the acting. 

The show’s first episode serves as a perfect introduction to this world and its characters. The episode opens with a TV interview with a mycologist – a scientist who focuses their study on fungi – discussing how he fears the world could come to an end from the previously mentioned fungus. 

It sets the audience on edge, lets us know what the main threat of the show is going to be and why, and lays the perfect groundwork for the show moving forward.  

The rest of the first half is spent with Joel and his family and friends pre-pandemic. Life the day before the fungus spreads is shown by providing moments of levity and offering a suspenseful progression for when the big event occurs.  

The second half shows the new world 20 years after the infection started, and introduces the audience to four big players moving forward: Ellie, Tess, FEDRA (the US government in this land), and The Fireflies (a group rebelling against the way FEDRA is handling things). It shows the world and the people within it as broken, but not without glimpses of hope. 

The second episode serves as the starting point of the main storyline. Joel and Tess have now been hired by the local Fireflies organization to transport Ellie to a base they have nearby. Due to a series of events, the plan changes to try and find Joel’s brother, who is currently in Wyoming.  

He used to be a part of the Fireflies before this section of the show started, and the group is hoping he can take them to a significant base of operations. This is the main storyline moving forward, but the episode also introduces the biggest infected threat to the show- clickers.  

Clickers have been entirely taken over by the infection and lost sight. They, instead, rely entirely on sound. The entire sequence around the creature is tense and wonderfully shot. If episode one got you in the car, then this episode pressed its foot on the gas. 

The third and latest episode of the show included one of the best love stories I’ve seen in recent media. While I thought it had a rushed beginning, I was rooting for the couple when the credits started rolling.  

You watch the pair meet, fall in love, and spend their life together in the apocalypse. You get to see the ideological differences between them. One has given up on the world and wants to survive despite it, whilst the other finds the beauty in it and wants to survive to restore it.  

The chemistry between the two is fantastic, and it perfectly showcases the show’s central theme of protecting those you love.  

The world is hell, but some people make surviving worth it. The most human thing you can do is take care of them, which will be a major focal point throughout the remaining six episodes. 

The fourth episode of the show continues the main storyline. The group continues their track toward The Fireflies while giving us more looks at the ruined world.  

In this episode, we see the bond between Ellie and Joel grow into more than just acquaintances. They are introduced to a new threat in the world known as The Hunters, and learn more about Joel, Tess, and Ellie’s past. The episode excelled with the character dynamics, as well as moving the main plot forward and hinting at future backstories.  

My favorite aspect of the episode, outside of Ramsey killing every one of their scenes, was learning more about Joel and Tess’ past. In episode 2, they said they were not good people, but getting these hints helps prove that statement as fact and not a line of dialogue meant to pad out the episode. 

The first four episodes of the show are phenomenal. From the writing, directing and acting to the set pieces, special effects and props: this entire show screams high quality.  

It’s clear that fans of the original game are working on this project in the writing room and the effects department. There are so many moments taken straight from the game and changes that beautifully adapt it into the TV show format.  

As it stands, this show is the best game adaptation we’ve ever seen, and it is also a top-tier show in its own right. I highly recommend everyone to check out this show.