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The First of Us - A Last of Us Show-down

In November of 2020 the world was ramping up to hit the first major milestone in the Covid-19 pandemic with roughly 600,000 new cases reported every day. As we were all finding our own ways of adjusting to this new world, there was little to be excited about and even less to look forward to. In comes Naughty Dog with the announcement that would help distract us, however briefly, from our current circumstances. While we were living out our own real life viral outbreak, news of a television adaptation for our favorite fungal outbreak game gave us hope. We'll get to see Joel and Ellie, our dear old friends, again.


Image: HBO

Earlier, in June of that year we had been gifted The Last of Us Part II, a continuation of the wildly popular 2013 game, The Last of Us, where we were introduced to Joel, the antihero who helped smuggle Ellie, an orphaned kid who was immune to the unknown disease, across the United States in search of a cure. The sequel took all the things we loved about the original and mangled them violently into something even more beautiful. Saying it was an "emotional rollercoaster" doesn't come close to what that game did to so many players. THAT review, however, is for another day.


This past Sunday, the 15th, we finally got to visit with our favorite duo but this time in a whole new light. I'm going to touch on a few things I loved about how they translated the game into the show. This review is intended for those who have already played the games, but I will refrain from any major spoilers for those who haven't played them.


The first scene made me crack a smile because it was completely outside of the video game world. A new scene. A new approach. A new element. We will not be getting a step-by-step reenactment of the game and thank god for that. Not because it wouldn't be a great story, but because we already HAVE that story. This is a whole new beast. A beast I'm already excited about 3 minutes in.


As we meet Sarah and are introduced to the world pre-outbreak I couldn't help but call back to the game when Sarah wakes up to chaos and confusion all around her. It's at that point we, the player, then assume control and begin actively trying to figure out our world. The show wasn't able to jump into that because we had no control over Sarah here- we were simply observing her. A new angle needs a new story line to draw you in. Man, oh, man did they draw us in nice and snug. Already knowing the end of Sarah's short storyline I found myself tearing up at the loss of this new version. She was funny, and smart, and caring, and did her best to make her dad have a good birthday even though he's forgetful and they didn't get to have pancakes for his birthday breakfast. Now we've gone through two Sarah deaths and we definitely cannot take any more.


Joel's introduction was perfect. Rushed, frazzled, stressed about work, but still finding those little moments to be the charming and frustrating Joel we all came to quickly love in the game. When it comes to adaptations, the look and sound of the actor in relation to the character is where you can win or lose a lot of the fans. Though there are obvious differences between game Joel and tv Joel, Pedro Pascal manages to capture him effortlessly. It's not always about casting a look-a-like, though ever since I first played the game I was doing just that, it's about finding the person who can embody the characters presence, their swagger, and their humanity. As far as I'm concerned Pedro = Joel now.


Then comes Ellie. If there's one characters storyline that I completely fell in love with, it's Ellie's. Was this because TLOU2 threw me full force into decisions with Ellie I never wanted to make? Absolutely. So this was definitely the scariest moment for me. When she comes on screen will it be her? Will it be "my" Ellie? Nope. But that's not a bad thing. She was a whole new Ellie, with all the best parts of the game, but something else sprinkled in there. I don't think I'll be able to know what it is until I see the rest of the season, but I know it's going to be special. I, for one, cannot wait for this new, yet familiar, story to unfold and find it's own place in my heart nestled up to where the games already live. Overall, the excitement for what the rest of this season brings has gone up exponentially. Now that we know our favorite duo are in good hands, we can sit back and fall in love all over again with the story of Joel and Ellie. Oh, and the Infected, too. Gotta love those creeps.


Favorite Moments:


- The grandma "turning" in the chair while Sarah looks at the movies.

- The airplane. Holy moly.

- Ellie breaking the radio code.

- The flash of Joel holding Sarah when he stepped in front of Ellie- Brilliant.

- Depeche Mode's "Never Let Me Down Again" playing the show out


TLDR; The HBO adaptation looks to expand certain stories, strengthen others, and adjust the perfect amount of ones to do the game justice while creating a brand new beautiful telling of Joel and Ellie's journey. Two cordycep thumbs up.


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