The Last of Us: Worth It!

By: Damon Goodrich-Houska (they/them)
Feb 5, 2023

(HBO makes my Gay-mer heart Happy)

Busy Geek Breakdown: 

  • Fungus zombie apocalypse. Gruff loaner takes in orphaned kid. 
  • Epic action, nail-biting suspense, moving scores.Solid LGBTQ rep. 
  • Love the game? Watch the HBO Show. Excellent cast, faithful adaptation.      
  • Like the show? Try the game. Silent Hill mood, 28 Days Later type arc. 

The Last of Us is a critically acclaimed video game released in 2013 by developer Naughty Dog. The game follows the story of Joel (played in the show by Pedro ‘tall drink of water’ Pascal), a grizzled survivor in a post-apocalyptic world overrun by infected creatures, and Ellie, a young girl with a mysterious connection to the outbreak. Together, they embark on a journey across the United States, searching for a group of resistance fighters known as the Fireflies.

The game is a masterclass in storytelling, with complex and relatable characters, a gripping plot, and a powerful emotional core. So it’s not surprising that fans of the game have been clamoring for a television adaptation for years.

Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO

Bella Ramsay (the powerhouse gender-fluid actor of Game of Thrones fame) plays Ellie, an orphaned girl with a mysterious immunity to the Zombie fungus, making her possibly the most important person alive. Ashley Johnson voiced this character in the game (yes, Critical Role fans, that’s right).

The relationship between Joel and Ellie is at the center of the story. Their bond is one of the most compelling aspects of the game, and so far, the show is working to capture that same sense of connection and trust. But, of course, this requires a solid cast to portray their characters’ deep emotions and subtle nuances. And HBO did not disappoint.

The game’s post-apocalyptic setting plays a significant role in the show. The game’s depiction of a world overrun by infected creatures is terrifying and believable, and the adaptation successfully conveys a similar sense of danger and desperation.

Three episodes in, the adaptation has captured the same sense of tension and suspense that the game’s fans love. The game’s story is filled with moments of high stakes and nail-biting action, leveraging a talented team of writers and directors who understand how to create compelling and suspenseful storytelling. 

Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO

The romance between Bill (played in the show by Nick Offerman) and Frank expanded from the game in a lovely way that while it deviates, it is well done and will hit you in all the feelings (I definitely had something in my eye for all of episode 3).

Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO

Fans have long hoped for a television adaptation of The Last of Us. Finally, here is an incredible opportunity to bring this beloved story to a broader audience. So far, The Last of Us television show is shaping up to be one of the most exciting and thrilling series available, and has already been renewed for a second season.

Looking forward to Episode 4, things are not going to get better for Joel and Ellie anytime soon. Once again, fleshing out back stories that were left for the player to wonder about in the game, the HBO show is going to name and humanize Perry and Kathleen, (played by Jeffrey Pierce and Melanie Lynskey) some of the nameless raiders from the game. Needless to say, regardless of how the new showrunners decided to humanize the villains, things are about to get very bleak for our Dynamic Duo.

Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO

So What’s in store for Episode 5? So far all we have in way of a preview is this picture of Joel looking haunted as he stares into the middle distance with an out-of-focus Ellie (probably) waiting for him. That and a warning from the showrunners that as Joel’s past very much informs his future, he is going to have some very traumatic flashbacks.

Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO


(The rest of this article assumes you have played the game all the way through.)

 In 2013, a mutant Cordyceps changed people into creatures known as the Infected. In the Southwest U.S., Joel, his brother Tommy, and his daughter Sarah flee, but his daughter is killed and bleeds out in his arms.

Twenty years later, the remains of humanity live mostly in quarantine zones, which the new government runs with an iron fist. Joel has made his way as a smuggler with Tess near Boston. (Tess was voiced by Annie Wersching in the game, who also played the Borg Queen in Picard, and unfortunately recently died of cancer at 45.) 

Marlene, the leader of a rebel group, the Fireflies, offers them the job of smuggling Ellie to a safe house, as she is possibly the best, last hope for humanity. The voyage is hard, scary, and at times tragic, including run-ins with The Infected, raiders, and even cannibals.

***Now, real spoilers that will ruin the game for you if you haven’t played***

(Okay, you’ve been properly warned …)

When they finally reach the safe house months later, they prepare Ellie for surgery. When Joel finds out they must remove Ellie’s brain to create the vaccine, Joel cannot bear losing another person he was responsible for. In an epic, heartbreaking, and guilt-inducing final sequence, you play as Joel and kill every one of the Fireflies, save Ellie, possibly damning humanity, and then lie to her. This was the first time many players were forced to play and watch and act as the unknown villain, an experience that sticks with you.

Title Image: The Last of Us™ Remastered_20140801152030” by planetfifa14 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

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