MINOR SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 1 OF THE LAST OF US AHEAD
I don’t want to get too high on a show after only seeing the pilot but I’m about to get too high on a show after only seeing the pilot. I missed The Last of Us on premiere night but after watching the pilot a day late it’s safe to say that I know where I’m going to be Sundays at 9:00 moving forward.
The Last of Us is an adaptation of a famous video game that shows a world recovering from a zombie apocalypse. Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) is a smuggler tasked with escorting an important teenage girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), beyond their city’s borders as they trek through post-apocalyptic America. The show comes from Craig Mazin who was the showrunner on Chernobyl, widely regarded as one of the greatest mini-series of all time. The cast also includes Gabriel Luna (Terminator: Dark Fate), Merle Dandridge (Station 19), Anna Torv (Mindhunter), Nick Offerman (Parks & Recreation), Murray Bartlett (The White Lotus), and Jeffery Pierce (Bosch.)
Everything about this first episode was incredible. It was split into essentially two chapters, a prologue and a present-day storyline. Both are incredible in their own regards. The opening half of the episode focuses on what Joel’s life was like before the outbreak as told through the eyes of his daughter, Sarah (Nico Parker), and is done so brilliantly. More on this in a little bit. The second half, which shows a militarized slum-like Boston, does an incredible job of showing the world’s dynamics in a short amount of time. The characters are clear, the way life works in the city is complex yet never confusing, and the arc we’ve seen from Joel works perfectly.
Before I get into spoilers, let me just say that I love zombies though I somehow never watched a single episode of the The Walking Dead. It feels a lot like saying “I love dragons and incest but never bothered with Game of Thrones.” The Last of Us will likely draw some comparisons to The Walking Dead but personally I’m glad that I don’t have a baseline TV show to compare this too because this pilot is one of the best I’ve seen in a while and I’d love to just enjoy this show on its own. Now let’s get to those spoilers.
What I really loved about this episode was the decision to tell Joel’s origin story through the eyes of his daughter. Any of us who watched the trailer or played the game (I haven’t) or had any general idea about what the show was knew that Sarah was a goner from the first moment we saw her. Despite the lack of surprise when she died, the how was just flat out amazing storytelling. Seeing her death come at the hands of a soldier and not one of the infected was a great way for the show to illustrate not only the severity of the disease but the harsh reality of the extent those in power will go to to contain its citizens.
Watching the build up and the madness of the night of the outbreak was insane. That seen of the old woman turning into a zombie behind Sarah’s back was legitimately terrifying. Once Sarah, Joel, and his brother, Tommy (Luna) began their escape its as amazing as any zombie sequence ever made. Them frantically looking for a way out and driving through town was pure madness. We never got a great look at the infected but that’s obviously part of what makes them so terrifying. All that leading up to Sarah getting shot and ending the sequence just as Joel loses his daughter perfectly set up Act II.
I watched the director’s commentary after the episode and they made a great point about the reactions that Sarah and Ellie have to seeing Joel kill somebody. Sarah is obviously shook by this but Ellie almost enjoys it. Surely this speaks to the juxtaposition of the world’s they grew up in but it was also a cool way to close the arc of Joel losing one daughter and gaining another.
Anyway, get used to Pedro Pascal TV shows to be at the top of the weekly watchlist from now through May as this show will overlap with the premiere of season three of The Mandalorian. Between those, Game of Thrones, and Narcos, Pedro Pascal needs to be in discussion of greatest TV actors of this generation. But that’s a topic for another day.
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