Review: ‘The Last of Us’ – Relationships found amidst chaos


Photo courtesy of HBO Max.

Jesse Illanes, Contributor

“The Last of Us” is one of the hottest new shows, and it was trending on Twitter already during its premiere. The word of mouth before the premiere demonstrated the brand strength of “The Last of Us” with a significant number of initial viewership. Like other video game adaptations including “Arcane” and “Sonic the Hedgehog,” the show found critical acclaim and financial success.

The video game that this show is based on was originally released in 2013, and among the show’s writers are Neil Druckmann who wrote for the original video game. The show’s writers have done eloquent research to realistically and accurately depict how humans would react in desperate situations. When the show debuted earlier this year, it seemed the whole world was invested in the progression and outcomes of the main characters.

Joel, played by Pedro Pascal, is a man who lost his daughter at the start of a viral outbreak of a disease that turns people into horrid monsters similar to zombies. Years after this tragedy, Joel eventually meets Ellie, a young teenage girl who is immune to the disease and has to be escorted across the country to develop a cure.

One of this series’ focal points is the father-daughter relationship between Joel and Ellie. Both characters are missing family members in their lives, as they were taken from them because of the deadly illness.

Joel initially sees Ellie as cargo. He sees the situation as a job he has to do in hopes of finding his brother and, hopefully, also a vaccine. Joel sees Ellie as a vulnerable teenage girl in a grim world, and she sees him as a bodyguard. Ellie breaks the ice as she makes jokes and is appreciative of life.

Joel later opens up to Ellie and forms a bond that helps them traverse their dangerous environment.

The show also gives us a glimpse into Ellie’s past and her relationship with the character Riley, a girl who’s around the same age as herself. Together they have faced ups and downs and horror beyond comprehension in a post-apocalyptic setting, but have prospered throughout their time together. They share various moments, such as Riley teaching Ellie to play a video game and taking pictures in a photo booth together. This relationship even results in them discovering their sexual identities and evolves into a romantic relationship, rather than a platonic one.

Ellie and Riley’s relationship shows that love can bloom even in a world filled with devastating circumstances. The concept of love in this show is seen as a double-edged sword, where it gives hope while also being mentally draining.

Unlikely pairs are able to bond, despite the trials and tribulations of their setting, highlighting the value of human relationships. Living in a post-apocalyptic world brings a lot of mental and psychological pressure, so finding well-mannered people amidst the horrors is rare. Showing how bonding and forming relationships can make those harrowing days seem only temporary is the show’s strong suit.

Morale and positive human interaction are what keep people sane, which is why “The Last of Us” and its showrunners earn praise for highlighting this angle of humanity. It is expected for some viewers to compare the pandemic in the show to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, but the writers provide a beautiful reality with both the bright and grim sides of life and have portrayed these angles superbly.

The first season of “The Last of Us” is available on HBO Max. A second season has been confirmed, but with no set release date yet.