The Last of Us Season 1 (2023-) TV Series Review

Title: The Last of Us.
Season: 1.

Rated: TV-MA.
Number of episodes: 9.
Release Date: 2023.
Genre(s): Post-Apocalyptic, Drama, Thriller.
Created by: Craig Mazin & Neil Druckmann.
Writer(s): Craig Mazin & Neil Druckmann.
Series directed by: Ali Abbasi (2 episodes), Jeremy Webb (2 episodes), Neil Druckmann (1 episode), Peter Hoar (1 episode), Liza Johnson (1 episode), Craig Mazin (1 episode) & Jasmila Zbanic (1 episode).
Composer(s): Gustavo Santaolalla & David Fleming.
Cast: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Anna Torv, Lamar Johnson, Melanie Lynskey, Nico Parker, Merle Dandridge, Keivonn Woodard, Jeffrey Pierce, John Getz, Gabriel Luna, and many more!
My Overall Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.


In a world void of any form of a social contract, survival becomes primordial on the sole basis that everyone must fight for what they believe in, for their survival, and, in some cases, for the people they love around them. Plunged into the terror of the unknown, never safe from prowling creatures or comforted by a plausible future of peace and quiet, one must live out every day either suffocating in an established routine or fighting restlessly for a better day. While the rewards pertaining to survival are oftentimes limited in the short term, it is also oftentimes enough to keep people going, doing everything in their power for what they believe is right, sacrificing anything and everything for that little glimpse of hope that they can taste, even for a little bit, the happiness they once lost. Based on the critically acclaimed video game of the same name, the first season of this HBO series masterfully adapts the first installment in the video game franchise and delivers a breathtaking journey into a devastating and merciless post-apocalyptic world.

What is The Last of Us Season 1 about? In 2003, a mass fungal infection of mutated Cordyceps surges from the unknown and paves the way to a massive global pandemic. Quickly, Joel flees Texas with her daughter Sarah and her brother Tommy, hopefully finding refuge somewhere far from the mayhem. Twenty years later, in the year 2023, Joel now resides in a Federal Disaster Response Agency (FEDRA) quarantine zone in Boston and secretly works as a smuggler with his partner Tess. Desperately seeking to contact his brother Tommy from Wyoming, Joel sets out to find a car battery for his journey but events lead to an unexpected encounter with Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies, a rebel group, who offers him an odd job, one that could secure him a vehicle: smuggle a teenage girl named Ellie to the Massachusetts State House outside the QZ. What follows is an unforgettable and treacherous journey, at times incredibly heart-breaking, but mostly humane and unforgiving.

(c) The New York Times.

Almost falling prey to production hell and ending up like the catastrophic movie adaptation of another one of developer Naughty Dog’s beloved video game franchises, Uncharted, The Last of Us TV series jumped through all the right hoops to find writer and director Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) for this project and were greenlit by HBO to bring the phenomenal video game to life in the form of a TV series. Split into nine episodes almost an hour long each, they cover the events of the first video game’s key plot points, with one entire episode dedicated to the extra downloadable expansion Left Behind, where Ellie’s tragic past alongside her best friend is beautifully explored. Initially worried that the TV series would succumb to all the traditional trappings of adapting a video game, the creators meticulously and masterfully captured the soul of the source material in an astonishing fashion and welcomed well-versed gamers and new viewers on a journey across an outbreak-worn, civilization-destroyed, and callous United States of America.

The heart of this first season lies in the character relationships introduced in this series. Overshadowing most is the chemistry established and developed between Joel (played by Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey), an authentic bond that effortlessly grows on viewers as these two continuously encounter new trials, whether it would be the Infected, humans controlled by the mutated Cordyceps who assault any moving being that isn’t already under its influence, or other survivors along the way to their destination. Not only do they both deliver some of the most impressive performances throughout the series, but they also showcase an incredible range of emotions, from soul-shattering vulnerability to maniacal rage. The beautiful pseudo-father and daughter relationship that is built throughout the season also speaks volumes about the journey they’ve been on, the trust that they had to have in one another, and the fiery fight within them to never again lose what they care about most after everything they’ve through.

Although Joel’s and Ellie’s characters are the driving force of this series, the show does justice to several other key secondary characters throughout this journey, some obtaining just enough screen time to deliver unforgettable tales of survival, loss, and love. Among them is the heart-breaking yet beautiful story centered around Bill (played by Nick Offerman) and Frank (played by Murray Bartlett) as well as the hope-filled yet tragic story of Henry (played by Lamar Johnson) and Sam (played by Keivonn Montreal Woodard). Unlike the video game that allows players to immerse themselves in much more violence with countless more encounters with the Infected, further accentuating the raw and real danger of this post-apocalyptic world, the show focuses on the character drama, creatively and genuinely expands on the lore, and takes the time to plunge into the backstories of these characters to shed light on the motives, the emotions, and the rational behind everyone’s actions in an indiscriminate world ready to put an end to anyone’s life at a moment’s notice.

(c) The Escapist.

On top of unparalleled story-telling and poignant characters, the show also excels visually with breathtaking set pieces, an applaudable use of prosthetics for practical effects, and incredible CGI effects to inject vivid colours into the show. Similar to the video game, there are numerous sequences that gorgeously capture the post-apocalyptic and decaying world in which these characters evolve, beautifully complemented by Gustavo Santaolalla’s and David Fleming’s scores. On some occasions, despite the undeniable artistic cinematography making each frame a picturesque shot, it is difficult not to notice a certain sense of emptiness, discreetly taking away the threat of the world. The desire to focus rather on the humans in this season, greatly cutting down on the violence and number of Infected originally found in the video game, thus comes at a cost, making you wonder how dangerous it all actually is but with a second season and numerous more already confirmed and bound to adapt the second part of the video game franchise, fans are surely going to get plenty more of the slimy and rotting Infected in the near future.

The Last of Us Season 1 is an intimate yet unrelenting journey into a post-apocalyptic world with an engaging and beautiful story that explores tragedy, love, and survival.

All episodes are available on HBO Max or Crave!

Have you played the video games?
Have you seen season 1 of The Last of Us? Will you?
Share your thoughts with me!


42 thoughts on “The Last of Us Season 1 (2023-) TV Series Review

  1. Now, why the bloody blue blazes can’t producers do the same loving thing when they adapt books? I am so mad right now I could swear.
    I mean, I am really happy for you that a beloved game gets the gold treatment, but it just highlights all the other complete and utter failures littering the movie landscape.
    * breathes through nose *

    Ok, done now.

    I’m glad they did such a good job. Hopefully non-video game people will enjoy it just as much if it’s good story telling. And since it’s hbo max, it should show up on prime at “some” point 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahahahaha I understand your frustrations. This is by far the gold standard of TV series adaptation of a video game, that’s for sure. Nothing ever came this close in the past.

      Unfortunately, while I’d love for you to check this out and enjoy most of it, there are elements, which are further explored in the show than the video game ever did, that pertain to things that would immediately make you DNF a book. Consider yourself warned. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Lashaan, glad you enjoyed this so much. I didn’t know anything about the source material going in. I did watch the first episode, and have been reading up on subsequent episodes since. It does sound like they did justice to the spirit of the game, and a lot of people have certainly responded positively whether gamers or not based on the strong viewership numbers.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is indeed a formidable show and I’m quite glad that it quickly gained a lot of attention with each new episode. It always feels nice that a story gamers have adored gets to be adapted properly for countless others to enjoy. Is there a reason why you read up on the subsequent episodes? The way you phrase it makes me assume that you didn’t watch the rest of the show. Is it something that doesn’t interest you anymore, Bruce? 😮

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I was never a consumer of seriously-dark, zombie/virus fare, but I did watch the first episode to get a feel for the series. I then decided to just follow along at a distance and watch the show in the future if so inclined. The finale does sound like a great episode!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That’s good to know, Bruce. I’ll definitely remember next time if I ever want to highly recommend something to you hahaha By the way, did you go check out Shazam! yet? I saw it yesterday on premiere night and I can safely say that, unlike The Last of Us, that was… much more family-friendly than dark, to say the least hahaha 😀


      3. We are planning on seeing Shazam 2 and John Wick 4 next week. That’s quite an “emotional journey” from one film to the next lol.😀 Hey, your recommendation on The Last of Us is duly noted. You might have tipped me in the direction of finishing Season 1 out. Take credit for that!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved the video game and think they’ve done a fantastic job with this TV adaptation. The rich characterisation, great performances, and compelling storyline was gripping. What’s more, the show has been extremely faithful to the original source material. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the second season.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. While I still have to watch the last episode, and without the “support” of any knowledge about the game, I totally concur with you on the wonderful, sometimes heart-breaking characterization and eerie backgrounds. I’m glad to learn that the show choose to focus on the human side of the post-apocalypse rather than on the roaming monsters, although I have to admit that humans can be just as dangerous as the Infected – last week’s episode being a case in point….
    It’s good to know that a second season is already green-lighted: I will look for it with great expectations.
    Wonderful review, thanks for sharing! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s been fun to see how much folks are enjoying this. Do you know if there is any kind of plan for an ending to the series after some number of episodes or seasons? Or is it intended to be more of an ongoing and evolving story until folks get tired of it? I always love when tv writers actually write to an ending instead of the soap opera formula, though those can also be fun for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right now, what both co-creators of the show so far confirmed is that the second video game won’t be covered in just one season but multiple seasons. This makes sense, not only regarding the story featured in the 2nd game which is much bigger, but also because they don’t want to go beyond what the second game has told. That probably means that they’ll have a good 2-4 years to work on the show while the video game developers reflect on IF and WHEN they’ll do a Part 3 for the video game, which isn’t really a necessary installment, but if they do, they’ll clearly have more reason to do more seasons of the show, and so make more money… Only time will tell what the long-term plan is now… I imagine money talks for most of the upper management involved in these projects…


  6. I’ve only watched the first episode, but I’ve promised my daughter I’ll finish the series so we can talk about it. Already I can tell this is a show above and beyond your standard TV offerings.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m not a game (at all!), but I loved this show. Great review! I thought the show was so well done, and loved that the emphasis was on the characters and their relationships, not just non-stop zombie action. So well done! I’m trying my best to avoid spoilers for season 2… but I can’t wait to see more!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Fabulous review, Lashaan:). I watched some of the first episode and absolutely concur with you regarding the strong characterisation and stunning cinematography. Sadly, I pulled away when I realised just how grim much of the story-telling would be. Right now I’m in no place to deal with darker stuff!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Great review Lashaan! I have to admit that from the plot alone I would have skipped this because it is typically the type of stories that I don’t particularly enjoy, but all the rest you mention – and everyone going crazy about this show – makes me think that it is absolutely worth it! Now I can’t wait to start it!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. The relationships really were the heart of this show, and by the end I was invested completely in their new quasi father- daughter bond. I did notice we didn’t get a lot of the Infected- like many of these shows, the real danger is what has become of the humans who are often times worse than the zomboids! And that ending!

    Thanks for your comments on my blog, BTW. Nice to discover yours! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They did a beautiful job with the casting and script, giving us so much more when it comes to all the different kinds of relationships that survive through an apocalypse. It was an interesting choice to limit the number of Infected but I’m convinced they won’t have a choice to give us more of those in the second season with the kind of story it will be covering from Part II. Tell me that “Okay.” didn’t hurt us all on an emotional level!!!

      Thank you for stopping by as well! I’m always on the lookout for new folks to exchange with, especially when their content interests me! 😀


      1. I was like “trust her, tell her the truth” -it felt like they had earned that level of trust- but I’ve been reading reactions online and I can see there are lots of strong feelings both ways!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Great review. I just finished watching the last episode of this season, which was… gosh, so heart breaking. I was surprised to learn it’s a zombie show, which drove me to watch it, and surprised at the limited interaction with the Cordyceps once I started.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Zezee! It really was something else, huh? I’m glad they stuck with the ending from the first game instead of messing things up on that front. While shooting the show, I heard that they actually didn’t want anyone to say the Z word hahah I’m sure season 2 will have much more of the Infected though. 😉


  12. I finished watching this last night and have avoided looking up anything online to make sure I didn’t see any spoilers so this is the first time I’ve heard that is another season planned. After that ending I’m glad to hear that because they just can’t leave it like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When the first game came out, it was always considered a stand-alone game for all of us and that ending was incredible to get us all to think about all the things that happened, the decisions, the motives, the sacrifices. I do look forward to seeing how they’ll adapt the second game in the upcoming seasons now. Thanks for reading and stopping by! It’s very much appreciated! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’ve not played the games but I am about half-way through the season (just finished the Henry and Sam episodes). It’s been interesting so far, there’s definitely a lot of heart to this but the characterisation seems a bit uneven – a lot more infodumping when it came to Henry & Kathleen’s stories compared to Frank and Bill, for example.

    Excited to continue watching, thanks for making this review spoiler free!


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