HBO’s The Last of Us premiered to an astounding 4.7 million U.S. viewers, a number that leapt to 5.7 million for its second episode. Fans are clearly invested in the post-apocalyptic tale of Joel and Ellie, a story that began with the 2013 release of the video game by the same name.
If you’re a non-gamer, you may be quick to dismiss what might appear to be just another gun and violence-filled video game adaptation, and we can’t really blame you for that. Video game-based shows and movies haven’t had the greatest track record—but we urge you to give this one a chance.
Warning: Very mild spoilers for the first episode ahead!
There’s certainly no shortage of bloodshed in The Last of Us, but there’s a lot more to it than that. The story takes place in a dystopian America where civilization has crumbled following a fungus-based pandemic. The main protagonist, Joel (Pedro Pascal) is just trying to survive in a largely lawless wasteland.
The plot follows Joel as he’s coerced into safely transporting a feisty teenage girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the country, defending her from murderous infected victims and other rogue attackers along the way.
While there are currently two video games in The Last of Us series, the first season of the show is based on the first game. However, the show follows the game so closely that there’s no need to have any familiarity with the games to know what’s going on. In fact, the show provides additional details that weren’t in the games, like the exact origins of the pandemic.
Fans of the game are also sure to be fans of the show, but anyone who comes in as a total stranger will find a lot to love here. Joel and Ellie are vibrantly brought to life in the show by Pascal and Ramsey. Other recognizable names in the cast include Nick Offerman and Melanie Lynskey.
The show’s themes that are sure to appeal to anyone, newcomer or not. Although Joel is childless and Ellie is parentless, they form a type of father-daughter bond and find a family in one another. The evolution of their relationship is reason enough to tune in each week.
We may not be living in a bleak post-apocalyptic world (yet), but learning to be vulnerable and open yourself up to love despite past trauma and difficult circumstances is something many can relate to.
Despite Ellie having lived her entire life with the pandemic as a backdrop, she still finds wonder and awe in things we often take for granted, like music. Watching her find beauty in an ugly world is a reminder of the beauty in our own everyday lives.
Millions of people have been inspired by The Last of Us, despite the desolate world in which it takes place. Its depiction of humanity in the face of brutality is something anyone will recognize.