Popular New Series “The Last of Us” Takes Hold of Popular TV 

Gabrielle Bossart, Editor

HBO welcomed a new tv series recently that is quickly gaining popularity. “The Last of Us” is a post-apocalyptic TV show centered around the aftermath of a global pandemic caused by a sinister fungal infection that takes over and transforms its victims. The show is based on the popular video game by the same name and was originally released in 2013 for the PlayStation. The video game gained popularity for its exceptional storytelling and incredible gameplay. The original game takes players through the start of the apocalypse and then jumps in time to twenty years after its onset to a post-apocalyptic world run by various military groups and insurgents. This post-apocalyptic landscape is likewise littered with “infected,” or people who have been infected with a mutation of a fungus known as cordyceps and are no longer in control of their bodies.   

The game follows Joel, a rough-around-the-edges smuggler, and Ellie, a snarky teenage girl with a unique quality that could potentially change the fate of the world. Joel has been tasked with helping Ellie make it across the now hostile United States landscape. The game has been widely hailed as a masterpiece and has won numerous awards. It is well beloved by many players for its natural dialogue, strong character development, and exceptionally designed storytelling. The attention to detail within the game is also highly regarded, making it a favorite among gamers.   

A unique aspect of the game is the infection that has caused the global pandemic. It is often referred to as a sort of zombie game, though hardcore fans may tell you otherwise. The cordyceps fungus that has mutated to infect the human species in the game does exist in real life, though it is not currently, and hopefully never will be, capable of infecting humans. The concept is likely based around a related kind of fungus, Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, which is commonly known as the parasitic fungus that infects and eventually kills ants. This fungus typically takes control of the ant it infects, changing its behavior and using its carcass as a place to grow and eventually spread its spores.   

This very terrifying and very real concept that occurs in ants makes a perfect base for the story in “The Last of Us.” The game creators bring to life a picture of what could happen should this fungus evolve to infect humans in a similar way to ants, taking control of their bodies and using them as a method to disperse spores and spread its species. The creative result is a host of infected humans that go through various stages as the infection progresses, making for an interesting and horrifying adversary for the uninfected characters attempting to survive in the game.   

When the news came out that the game was to be adapted for the screen many hardcore fans were eager to see how it would be done. It could not have been an easy task for creators to develop the game for the screen, given the famous attention to detail and the large fanbase that continues to hold strong opinions about how things should be done. Pedro Pascal was cast as the main character Joel, which was generally well received likely given his recent popularity for staring in projects such as “The Mandalorian,” his general resemblance to the video game character, and his proven ability to play a tough, stern character who struggles with vulnerability. Bella Ramsey was cast as Ellie, the other main character who accompanies Joel throughout the game. Many fans were initially uncertain of the casting choice, mostly due to differences in appearance between Ramsey and the original animated character of Ellie. Though some are still unhappy with the choice, both Pascal and Ramsey have been generally well received and applauded for their accurate portrayal of each character’s unique personality.   

Neil Druckmann, an original writer and creative director for the game, is involved in the development of the tv show, much to fans’ delight. Because the storytelling was so essential to the success of the game, it makes sense that Druckmann should be involved with the creation of the series. Not many episodes have aired yet, but fans are already pointing out some key differences between the show and the game. For one, the spores that were prominent in the game, typically in enclosed, indoor rooms, are not present in the show for practicality purposes. Another change is the addition of a sort of hive mind among those infected with the mutation, creating new challenges for the characters.   

The most prominent departure from the game as of yet occurred in episode three of the new series. A new story was written for Bill’s character, a surly doomsday prepper from the game. Fans were given a fairly comprehensive backstory for the character, including the addition of scenes with his partner Frank, who was mostly absent from the game. This additional backstory did change Bill’s interactions with Joel and especially Ellie, but the core plot of the story remained mostly intact with fans of the game able to understand where the show was heading towards the end of the episode.   

Fans have received the released episodes well, in fact after only two episodes of the highly anticipated tv show had aired, HBO confirmed that it would receive a second season. This news was met with more celebration as those who have been eagerly watching new episodes are excited to see more of the game adapted to the screen. The original game was followed up by a sequel in 2020, “The Last of Us Part II,” which takes place five years after the events of the first. Though many players were disappointed by a drastic change in the story early in the game, it was still met with excitement and generally received great reviews.   

The second season of the series will likely take up the events of the second game, although as of right now it is difficult to know where the first season will end regarding the storyline of the first game. Additionally, given the story departure in the third episode, it is also possible that the TV show may continue to deviate from the game, either with the addition of new storylines or the omission of certain plot points. Either way, the fanbase for the TV show continues to grow, and the game is seeing a resurgence in popularity as well. Both loyal fans of the game and new fans of the series are eager to see how the story plays out.   

Those looking for something new to spice up their watchlist should consider giving the show a shot, or for those who are feeling extra adventurous, the game has been remastered and is available for the PlayStation. Four episodes of the series have aired already and are available on HBO Max with new episodes released every Sunday at 8pm (CT). Nine episodes are slotted for the first season with the last episode set to air on Sunday, March 12th. The show has received rave reviews, and the audience continues to grow with each new episode released. As the show has just been renewed, there is no planned release date for the second season, but eager viewers are likely to keep an eye on production and filming in anticipation of the continuation of the much beloved story.   


Gabrielle Bossart is a Dakota Student Section Editor. She can be reached at [email protected].