HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ Spoiler-Free Review: A Story About the Resilience of Love

Lead Photo: Courtesy of HBO
Courtesy of HBO
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HBO’s The Last of Us is proof that love is the most powerful force in the world. It’s more powerful that clickers, who roam the streets of this destroyed world and tear families apart. It’s more powerful than humans, who have lost their way and turned cold in the face of monsters. And it’s more powerful than the time that separates us from our long-gone loved ones or the fact that you don’t share blood with your chosen family. This notion was true in the original game when it came out in 2013. And it remains so with Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey taking on the roles of Joel and Ellie.

For those not in the know, The Last of Us takes place in a world ravaged by a fungus that transforms humans into vicious monsters. And Pascal’s Joel and Ramsey’s Ellie are at the heart of it all, on a mission to get the latter safely across this ravaged land. You see, Ellie is somehow immune to the bite of those infected. And somewhere out there is a place where she is key to the cure that could save humanity. So Joel takes up this charge while keeping his heart closed to this young woman after suffering a loss, just like everyone else has after the outbreak hit.

Nico Parker, Pedro Pascal - Shane Harvey_
Photograph by Shane Harvey/HBO
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What follows for Joel and Ellie is an adventure full of danger while finding the light in each other and for themselves. And it’s because of this, I entered the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us with heaps of hesitation. The actors hired to fill the huge shoes of Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, the original voice actors of Joel and Ellie, were talented. But there was something so special about the way the OG characters got to know each other, had each other’s backs, and became each other’s found family within the game. I wasn’t sure if HBO could recreate that. Fortunately, I was worried for nothing.

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are Joel and Ellie. Through their performances, you come to appreciate the story of these two strangers in a brand new light that still focuses on the love and hope of it all while setting the show apart and creating something riveting, unstoppable, and that you’ll want to watch all over again. And from what I’ve seen of the show, it’s because every single person, on-screen and behind the scenes, understood that the runners, clickers, and bloaters of this world are secondary in comparison to the growing bond between the two main characters. Joel and Ellie are the driving force and this show doesn’t let you forget that for one second.

Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal from HBO's The Last of Us
Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO
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It’s not to say that The Last of Us hasn’t done an excellent job with everything outside of Joel, who is learning to let someone in again, or Ellie, who is getting used to having a father figure like Joel in her life. The monsters of this show are terrifying and transferred so well from the game to the TV screen. The same thing goes for the music, which had a distinct sound in the game that the show didn’t forget about. And there are undeniable aspects of this ruined world that set the tone, from the safe zones to the long-gone cities. But it’s the characters, from Joel and Ellie to Joel’s daughter, Tess, and the love shared between Bill and Frank, that really center this show and make it one of the best of 2023.

Because The Last of Us isn’t about fungus zombies or what we’re willing to do to survive. Been there, done that. It’s about becoming family, reclaiming what was lost, and finding a reason to put one foot in front of the other and keep on living. And it’s all grounded in love. It’s the reason why I fell so deeply for this story when it came out 10 years ago and why I’m so excited for viewers to take in every second of Joel, Ellie, and the rest of the wonderfully written characters brought to life by Anna Torv, Gabriel Luna, Nico Parker, Storm Reid, Nick Offerman, and of course Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.

That’s why you should watch The Last of Us when it premieres Sunday, January 15, 2022 on HBO. And if you want more afterward, it’s the reason why you should check out the game as well.