Look for the light in HBO’s The Last of Us

Artwork by sophomore Maria Brandao-Lacerda

Artwork by sophomore Maria Brandao-Lacerda

Lydia Winstead, Staff Writer

For the past nine weeks, I haven’t been available on Sunday nights. Why? HBO’s new TV show, The Last of Us. Whether you like video games, spend any time on the internet, or are just a fan of good TV, you’ve probably heard of the extremely popular show. 

The Last of Us is based on the first part of a video game of the same name released in 2013. The second part of the game was released in 2020. Because I was six when the first game originally came out and I am absolutely terrible at any video game besides Minecraft, I haven’t played the game. But after watching a few episodes of the show, I started watching a decent amount of gameplay on YouTube, and I think I have a feel of what the game is like. 

Because I haven’t played the game, what really drew me to the story was its concept. The main part of the story is set in a “zombie apocalypse” world where instead of eating brains, the zombies (called “clickers” in the show), are people infected by a mutating fungus. Ellie, a 14 -year-old girl living in a quarantine zone in Boston, is bitten by one of these infected people, but mysteriously, is immune to the effects of the fungus. After realizing her immunity, she joins forces with a man named Joel to travel across the country to find a lab where doctors will supposedly study her to find a cure for humanity from the rapidly spreading fungal disease. 

I’ve always loved dystopian-like stories from Hunger Games to The Giver, so like I said, the concept of navigating a world like this was immediately very interesting to me. And right away, I fell in love with the story and its characters. 

Compared to what I’ve seen of the game, the show takes inspiration from its source material well, including many of the fun elements that balance out such a heavy story, while still including the elements that make the story so intense. But, one of my favorite parts of the show was where it did stray from its original. In place of much of the sneaking around and fighting that comes with a video game, we receive much more time to focus on the characters. Episodes three and seven are almost entirely devoted to the backstory and growth of a few characters in the strange world they find themselves in. But don’t get me wrong, as much as carousel rides and strawberry snacks replace some of the fighting from the game, this show is very violent when it wants to be. 

And by its final episode, its mix of action and character development across the season will have you equally crying and laughing. If you haven’t seen it yet (first thing, what are you doing?), I would honestly suggest not binge-watching it if you’re interested. Maybe I’m just mad about having to wait every week for a new episode (something “kids these days” don’t have to do as often), but I think that a show like this does need some time in between to process what happened. 

One thing I do think is weird about the show is the sudden, and fairly large time jumps that happen across the story. But maybe that’s because I love it so much. I would watch a million episodes of Ellie and Joel wandering across the wilderness to know every little detail happening in between. Other than that, I really can’t think of any other problems I have with it. 

The Last of Us has been renewed for season two (yay!), so I definitely think it will hold up for a rewatch before the second season comes out. 

Now stop, if you haven’t seen the show, or don’t know what happens in the game, do not keep reading. I’m not really going to try to spoil anything, but if you haven’t watched the show, go watch it already!

Spoilers below!

Okay, maybe I’m freaking out because I just finished watching the last episode but oh my god! First, I loved Ellie and Joel in this episode so much. Okay, maybe not everything Joel did in this episode. But the dynamic between them was so good. In the beginning, Ellie is obviously very affected by the events in episode eight. She isn’t like her previously talkative self. Joel has to take on Ellie’s role to try to get her to open up. Then he offers something that makes the ending even more heartbreaking: a choice. A choice for Ellie to turn back on everything they have gone through to get to this point and go live with Tommy, meaning to not try and save the world. Ellie refuses and wants to continue their journey. 

It’s as Joel descends the stairs while being forced to leave Ellie and the Fireflies that any of the possibilities that him and Ellie held in his previously proposed choice fly out the window. It’s as Joel kills the first two men in the stairwell that he makes a choice for himself and Ellie, and arguably the whole world. 

Then Joel’s actions and decisions play out until we get the final scene between Ellie and Joel. I’m not a very dramatic person, I haven’t cried nearly as much as my friends have while watching the show, but the cut to credits after Ellie says the last word of the season made my mouth actually drop. I think ending the season looking into Ellie’s uncertain eyes watching her make the decision to believe Joel was the best way to end it. It felt unfinished and I think it was supposed to. We’ve seen terrible human behavior in many different characters in the show but to see our main characters really be changed by the circumstances and the effects of the world they live in was so interesting. 

It of course got me, and many other people thinking, was what Joel did right? 

I would say no. And not really because there was a possible chance that the cure might not work. (Because c’mon, would one doctor be able to create a cure just from Ellie? And then you think about how a cure would be distributed…everything in their lawless time couldn’t really go back to normal…) No, I think Joel wasn’t right because it wasn’t what Ellie would have wanted. We spend explicit time where Joel gives Ellie the opportunity to make a decision and she gives him her answer. Ellie, no matter how small a chance that a cure could be made, would’ve wanted to try. 

Then what will happen in season two? I’ve heard some spoilers of what happens in the game, but I am no less excited for The Last of Us’s return.