‘Last of Us’ season 1 review

The newest HBO series entertains and plays with people’s emotions


Camden Anslinger

“The Last of Us” is a zombie apocalypse series on HBO Max.

“The Last of Us” is a TV show set in a post-apocalyptic world ridden with zombies. The series, produced by HBO Max, is based on a 2014 video game that follows Joel Miller and Ellie as they try to survive in a crumbling world. The show consists of nine episodes at about an hour long each. 

Spoiler free/broad review

In short, “The Last of Us” is amazing. The story is crisp and beautifully told. The pacing is solid. The actors are outstanding. The two leads, Pedro Pascal (Joel) and Bella Ramsey (Ellie), have outstanding chemistry. The zombies, called “Infected” in the show, are exciting and terrifying. The setting is potent with the sadness and death expected in an apocalypse and does not shy away from the more gruesome aspects of an apocalypse. Besides a few moments of weak writing and stretched out pacing, it is one of the best video game adaptations to date, and one of the best zombie shows as well. 

Overall, I give the show an 8.75/10.

Episode analysis

Episode 1: “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” and Episode 2, “Infected”
This is perhaps the best episode pair in the first season. These two do everything needed to start a story as world driven as this one. It shows the beginning of the infections, establishes the setting and gives a terrifying glimpse of what the infected are and look like. The last scene of the prologue is one of the best of the show. Pascal is just him. That man can act. In the second episode, they used a token trope of the zombie apocalypse story: a person being infected and not telling the others about it. Even knowing what was happening, I was on the edge of my seat waiting for Joel to find out about Tess. If there is one thing this show knows how to do, it is building tension. 9/10

Episode 3: “Long, Long Time”

This is an episode meant to allow the characters and the viewers some time to process what happened. At least it was meant to. Instead, it had countless viewers bawling their eyes out over a romance story despite it being a “secondary episode.” It is emotionally potent and beautifully told. I was not expecting an isolated love story in the third episode of a zombie apocalypse series, but boy was I glad to get one. Retroactively, this episode is tainted by a lack of screen time for Joel and Ellie. Later in the series, I felt the lack of background behind their story, otherwise it is a nearly flawless showing. 9.5/10

Episode 4: “Please Hold to My Hand” and Episode 5: “Endure and Survive”

Episodes four and five are my least favorite of the series. In particular, four, but their story arcs are intertwined heavily, so I will rate them together. For one, the writing seems to take a dip. Everything that needed to happen for the larger narrative happens, what falls flat is the contained plot in Kansas City, where the majority of these episodes take place. Kathlene, the main villain, is not very well acted, and the dialogue in some places is rough. At one point Kathlene said, “The end is the end.” That hurt. I also have some qualms with how the infected were used in the story. They were not built up enough, in my opinion, but that is a minor complaint. I liked the two characters introduced in episode five. Both of them were great and well acted. To be honest, his brother and he carry these episodes, though Joel and Ellie both put on stellar performances as usual. But, they just did not have much involvement in the localized story. 6/10

Episode 6: “Kin”

This episode allows viewers to breathe, and it hits all the marks it is supposed to. It represents one of the darkest moments in the journey, when Joel is about to leave Ellie. I liked Tommy and Joel’s conversation, which sets up some of the darker moments we see later on in the series. This is a solid episode but nothing spectacular. 8/10

Episode 7: “Left Behind”

This is similar to episode three in many ways. It took a step away from the main plot, and instead doubled down on Ellie and how she came to be where she is. Many critics were not happy with the acting in this episode, but I thought it was fine. It was too slow for a shorter story arc, at least at the beginning. I liked the romance and how it ended, but, again, it did not further Joel and Ellie’s arc, which was felt later in the season. I have to knock it down a few points. 8.2/10

Episode 8: “When We are in Need”

This episode was a thriller. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. The villain was outstanding, and Bella Ramsey is an amazing actress. All of their interactions were tense and made me hate the opposition. Joel going insane against the attackers was great foreshadowing for his brutality in the next episode. The backdrop of the western Winter was visually stunning. And the cannibalism … like I said previously, they did not shy away from the darker aspects of an apocalypse. The ending. Everything about it. From showing off Ellie’s resourcefulness to Joel’s love for his new daughter. I was here for it. 9.8/10

Episode 9: “Look for the Light” – Season Finale

It tied up the story very well, and I think the best scene of the series is Joel walking through the hospital hallways. It was brilliant to give the viewers the love and affection they were rooting for between Joel and Ellie, but in the worst way. There is discourse over if what Joel did was good or not. And, I do not think that is what the writers are going for. I believe they are emphasizing the gray shroud that falls over this world’s moral code. But, the thing that blemishes the finale is how it is the finale. In my opinion, the show could have used one more episode, or maybe even more, to show us the relationship of Joel and Ellie before the finale happened. 8.3/10

This is a great series, despite the rushed finale. If I am asking for more, that means the show is doing something right. I am excited for season two, let us just hope they do not go beyond the source material, like a certain other HBO original … ahem … “Game of Thrones.”