As a massive fan of the game, The Last of Us HBO series knocks it out of the park.
What they got right
The Last of Us HBO series manages to do a lot right.
As my wife and I watched the show week-to-week, we also played The Last of Us Part I at the same pace to get an idea of how well the show kept to the original story.
The 9-episode run manages to hit every major story beat very well when compared to the game, but the show is stripped of much of the gameplay-related action. This, unfortunately, means that there are a few in-game moments that TV viewers miss out on, but ultimately the show captures the main plot quite well.
Enhancing the Original
One thing that I think is the mark of a good adaption or sequel is when the folks adapting it use the opportunity to enhance the original. Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann did this in a few ways that I think helped the original story.
In the show, they used cold opens as a way to tell a backstory that wasn’t necessarily present in the game. These additions added a bit more over-arching dread to an already dread-filled story.
They also managed to fix up a few story bits that did not make as much sense in the game.
In the game, Joel and Tess’ main goal in working with Marlene was to get weapons for some unknown reason.
In the show, Joel is worried about his brother Tommy as he has not heard from him in a while, so he and Tess decide to work with Marlene to acquire a car battery to go search for Tommy.
These types of small changes help make the characters’ motivations more believable in my opinion.
It is safe to say that Pedro Pascal might be one of the best actors working right now, and he is working a lot. This past year he has been in The Last of Us, The Mandalorian, The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent, some weird advertisement for a mobile game, and a few other roles.
I’m not quite sure Pedro captured the game Joel’s personality perfectly. The game version of Joel feels more like a father figure than I think the TV show manages. Tonally, in the context of this show, Pedro does incredibly well as Joel however.
I was one of the many that were a bit worried about how Bella Ramsey would pull off portraying Ellie. I had previously only seen Bella as Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones, which was excellent - but I wasn’t sure how that would translate to the snarky, foul-mouthed Ellie. I shouldn’t have worried, as Bella became Ellie throughout this first season.
I was also very delighted to see some of the game’s stars making cameo appearances throughout the show as well. Troy Baker, Ashley Johnson, and Jeffrey Pierce show up as minor characters, Merle Dandridge brings Marlene from the game to the series, and Laura Bailey even manages to get a quick guest appearance in one of the later episodes.
What they got wrong
I think my only real complaint is the lack of clickers, especially in the later episodes. The few instances that the clickers do make appearances are great - especially the museum scene in episode two.
HBO managed to bring the drama and story to life in the show, but I feel like they should have included more horror in the show, as the game is very much horror focused.
This show is incredibly well done, and I’m still surprised they were able to pull it off. One of the best video game adaptions ever made, and I look forward to seeing how they tackle The Last of Us Part II. Highly recommend this show whether you are a fan of the games or not.