Joel and Ellie are two of gaming’s most iconic characters, venturing through tough and trying times as the world falls to a fungus that kills off most humans or worse, turns them into monsters. HBO is adapting this franchise into a television series, releasing on January 15, 2023. As we get closer to the release, questions abound from fans and viewers whether the show can hold its own? A valid question, as previous franchises that are being brought to larger scale productions haven’t exactly done too well, such as The Rings of Power getting lukewarm reviews. Not to mention games like Halo coming to the screen, along with an in production version of Gears of War. Can video games translate well to modern audiences and not leave behind the tragedy and heartbreak that their stories tell so well through gaming media?
Though trailers have not given everything up for the fans to chew off of, faithful recreations from the games are seen in what has been released. The director of The Last of Us, Neil Druckmann, has also helpfully led creative hands in the show from what we are hearing and seeing. Joel (Pedro Pascal), and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), have gone to extensive lengths to impress viewers on their recreations. Everything seems to subtly be there from what we have seen, with the undertones as dark as the game and danger lurking around every corner. This is not to say it can’t fail, but it seems promising as of now.
Take this scene for example, where the world is collapsing and chaos ensues. Not only is this important, but it really sets off the journey for Joel and how he becomes so cold. It depicts that society has fallen and all that’s left is a man’s or woman’s word.
Death is all around Joel and he scrambles with his brother to understand what is truly happening. All he knows is that he has to get his daughter out of town and to safety and evacuation, fighting his way to meet a zone where all three of them can lay low. Plague falls upon his town and all that he thought comes to end, with men and women dying around every corner. Nobody is safe. He takes his daughter to a point in which he thought was safe, only for one of gaming’s most heart wrenching moments to happen. If you know what I’m talking about, you know that this may be difficult to translate to television with the same emotional effect. If you don’t know what I am talking about, I suggest you either play the original The Last of Us, not only because it is one of the greatest games ever, but to get the most out of the show. If not, maybe the show will hit us on the same note, making gamers cry all over again.
Another depiction that was interesting seems to be the showing of Henry and Sam. Once again, for those who have played, these two are a subplot but a major showcase of how effective the bond between two people can be, and just how heartbreaking it can be. Henry and Sam are two survivors that Joel and Ellie meet along the way on their adventure. Through trial and tribulation, the two teams come to trust each other in a world of the untrustable. They play a great part in Joel and Ellie’s relationship, bringing the two together in a closer manner than before. Some would even say that this relationship is the one that hardens Ellie most, showing her the world is not as playful as she once thought it was. The newest trailer has Henry and Sam, both giving wisdom and advice to their new friends. If the show follows closely, we’ll be in for a wild ride of emotions with these two playing a fantastic part.
The last scene I want to speak on is Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal speaking about the infected. There is a charming scene in the two-minute trailer that includes Joel telling Ellie to not mimic the clickers or turning infected. This then involves Ellie to clearly do what she was not supposed to do, as Ellie does, and start twitching around like a new infected. There is then a brief moment of silence, where Ellie brushes it off in a comedic fashion. This scene brought hope to those fans who thought the show would make Ellie too serious or monotone. To me, this one scene stole the entire trailer and got fans interested.
With the introduction of all these characters comes the introduction of the first games villain. While we didn’t get a sizable reveal of David, our big baddie, we did get a slight reveal of him being played by Scott Shepherd. This is where I get curious about the adaptation. It will be incredibly difficult to get the same style of hatred and impurity out of David onto the screen. This is a villain who is universally hated when it comes to gaming, spending a decent amount of time with Ellie. How can Scott Shepherd translate such a vile human being to modern television? I have hope that Scott will do a great job, regardless.
Two main reasons I see this show succeeding are simply atmosphere and music. I feel that music goes unnoticed by many as being an important aspect of gaming and nostalgia. Much thought is given to how a game is developed, but the music behind those scenes that gamers love is often thrown to the side without proper recognition. The Last of Us music brings a certain reaction to those who played, with slow picked guitar strings bringing on the feeling of relative loneliness in a wild world. The teaser trailer and official trailer both brought riveting music design to what we were watching, keeping the pace and feel of walking through an overgrown wasteland of a city.
Onto atmosphere, every scene we have been shown thus far encapsulates The Last of Us as we know it. Whether it is intimate conversation or tense situations, the gritty noise of Pittsburgh, Texas, along with Colorado’s beauty. When in dangerous clicker territory, we get the feeling of panic and dead air, with Joel showcasing just how bad of a predicament they are in. It is necessary to have these dilapidated buildings and spore-filled locations to show the world in disarray and anguish. I think we’ll get everything we hoped and asked for out of this detail, being a key ingredient for success or failure.
The love for Joel and Ellie as characters is phenomenal because both have strengths along with weaknesses that gamers identify with. Whether it is Ellie’s crazy upbringing or her love interests straying to the likes of Dina or Riley, many connect with her due to the fact that she is a lovable and comedic character, hardened by the dangers of the world around her. As for Joel, we love him for his serious nature yet great dad jokes, and his overprotectiveness for Ellie. There are many reasons to love Ellie and Joel, with it seeming that the show will do a great job in showcasing said reasons. The Last of Us television series seems poised to be a make or break debut, with myself hoping and believing it will make it.