Well folks, we’re finally here. After nine episodes, we've reached the conclusion of HBO’s retelling of The Last of Us. And now that we've wrapped this story up yet again we're feeling a little… conflicted.
After last week's run-in with a very hungry group of survivors, Joel and Ellie make their way to the hospital to complete their journey to the Fireflies. However, emotions are flying high as the duo consider what's next for them.
As we've gone on, reviewing this series has become increasingly difficult. We opened so strongly that we were sure that this was the beginning of one of the best video game adaptations of all time. It was bold, it captured the spirit of the source material, and it expanded in ways that kept things fresh for those that played the game. Yet as we moved from one iconic scene to the next, it all felt like diminishing returns. Those bold changes suddenly made way for middling ones that neither added anything to the world nor had the same emotional impact. This became especially prevalent as we got into the meatier and more disturbing moments from the series, which for the most part felt hollowed out.
This line of thought continued all the way through episode nine's anaemic 43 minutes. We were painfully aware of all that we had to get through, yet still the show managed to divert from the main story to introduce new aspects. We're certain some fans of the game will be glad to see areas within The Last of Us lore filled out, but we just felt it was taking away from the main story — especially with the limited runtime.
However, on the surface, episode nine is stacked full of heartwarming moments between its central duo. There's a palpable nervousness there as neither are sure what their relationship looks like when they don't need to be with each other. While we felt that the big moments didn't land quite so much, there's a tangible sense of love between Ramsey's Ellie and Pascal's Joel, and infamous scenes recreated for live action bring that love front and centre. There are some changes in there that we reckon will divide the fanbase, and while we won't get into them here, we felt they detracted from the ambiguity of the original that made the world and its characters so intriguing all those years ago. Yet at the same time, it allowed narrative strands introduced earlier in the season to come full circle whilst tying into the development of Joel and Ellie's relationship.
As we coasted to the story's conclusion, we were happy to see that creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann didn't tone down the brutality of its climax. The concluding minutes of the first season are about as faithful as you can get, with near identical shots, editing, and pacing. Despite this, it all felt like a somewhat muted version that severely lacked the emotional gut-punch of the original.
As much as we wanted to be won over by this adaptation, come the credits we felt very unfazed by it all — a shoulder shrug wouldn't have been out of place. More than anything, though, it was a reminder of how powerful a storytelling tool gameplay can be. Episode nine may look and sound like a shot-for-shot remake, but the brisk montages and trimmed back edits across the series undercut the emotional foundation of the story, ultimately making the whole thing feel a bit shallow. It'll no doubt be a great intro to the world and characters for newcomers, but for fans of the game, this finale highlighted that the show is nothing more than a highlight reel of your favourite story.
For more information about The Last of Us HBO, our Full Cast List provides more details about the actors and characters. Let us know your thoughts on this episode in the comments section below, and rate it in our latest Poll.
Felt really short, rushed - and that lessened the impact of Joel’s choices.
This show went to a possible 10 to an 8. Too many cuts of the game for non game things. Acting and scenes felt flat.
Genuinely very glad it was overall well received but I won't miss reading about it on here to be honest! For now, at least. I am sure the fallout for Season 2 will be spectacular!
The show felt rushed since eps 3, spending more than 1h on a side-story that brought nothing to the main plot was a bad choice and you felt the impact on these last 2 episodes.
Also, even though everyone sings praises on Bella's acting, I thought it was quite bad for most of the show, with the exception at the end of episode 8.
Should've been 2 seasons for the first game. Let the story breathe and give us these characters over a prolonged period (year between seasons) so the impactful moments mean something. It's hard to feel any emotion to the TV version of the characters in such a short space of time.
I'm thankful it's not overstaying it's welcome like TWD though. Jesus that show felt like EastEnders with zombies.
Well they could have had more story put in if they didn't waste an entire episode on bill, yeah yeah great story heartwarming, yet whatever it was BS didn't need 60mins of that, added literally nothing to the story and then an hour Ellie and Riley, christ that could have been done in 20mins, so episode 8 and 9 suffered for some reason due to limitations of budget cause the rate at which this episode goes is crazy
Nothing left to interpretation there... 2 points to Gryffindor, what?
I’m guessing that some of the dissatisfaction with the series around these parts comes from (over)familiarity with the source material. A quick look around the non-gaming interwebs shows that a lot of folks were shocked and impressed with the finale, so the story seems to have done its job. It’s a bit like watching an adaptation of a favorite novel. It’s a lot more fun to enjoy it as its own thing rather than a ‘spot the difference’ exercise.
I liked (and sometimes loved) most individual episodes as isolated stories, but as a whole season, I'm very mixed on how they handled it. This was all over the place for me when it came to its pacing, quality of writing, acting, visuals, faithfulness to the source material, and execution of new bits. Very messy, but (if I'm being honest) this show still ended up being much better than I expected.
@Uromastryx I think both episodes were great. If it hadda been a 12 episode (or more) series.
There needed to be at least one more episode before the Bill and Frank story. It seemed like we only just met the lead characters in the show before they spent a whole episode on a side story. Again, that side story was excellent, in my opinion - just a little jarring so early in the series.
There also should’ve been an episode before the three-month time-skip. The characters got time to process what happened with Henry and Sam - we didn’t. The months-long skip also made it feel rushed to get across the country and meet up with Tommy. It was Joel’s entire motivation for the cross-country trek, but the show just yadda yadda yadda’d over most of it.
And there also should’ve been another episode before the finale. Again, we needed time for the previous episode’s events to reverberate more. At the very least, show Joel still recovering from his wounds before he goes all Terminator on the Fireflies.
They should’ve also made the last episode longer. We needed a lot more story beats between Joel and Ellie’s capture and his decision to screw the world over by saving her. The decision lacked impact, because we never got to see Joel struggle with it - or at the very least talk it over with Marlene a bit more before he killed everyone.
And this comes from someone who never really played the game. These problems I have with pacing issues are not even from a perspective of comparing them with the source material.
I doubt it would be possible, but I think HBO should spend a bit more money and film the three extra episodes I proposed, so the season would work better on a rewatch. They can treat them like flashbacks in season two, or show them in between seasons. Unlikely, I know, but I think it would make for a better show overall.
The show wasn’t bad, I liked what was there quite a lot. There just needed to be more of it.
The end fight was not cool. It was cheap and felt easy for him. Why wasn't there a John Wick style fight, or something like The Raid. A desperate struggle against the world trying to take away your most precious thing. That fight needed to be painful for everyone! 20mins, no edits, utter massacre.
I thought it was just ok overall. There was no chemistry between the lead actors due in part to how short the season was and how rushed the story felt. The characters didn’t feel like real people and the world didn’t feel believable or organic. The lack of infected made it feel like there was no threat. Aside from the flashbacks, I don’t think Ellie and Joel encountered any infected after the episode with Henry. It’s almost as if they have a problem with the infected aspect of the story, like its beneath them or something. The fact that people on set were banned from saying the word ‘zombie’ makes it all seem a little pretentious.
On a positive note, I’m so glad we got the giraffes 😁 and it was great seeing the amazingly talented Ashley Johnson - she knocked it out of the park.
@Impossibilium I didn't haven't a huge problem with the episodes either just they where placed in the wrong place,
It just seems the show suffered for putting them where they did,
The season should have been 12 episodes,.like you said they could have developed more and avoided a what seemed like a random 3 month time jump for the sake of it.
Overall good show for sure, HBO can be quite amazing at doing originals, I just hope rhey slow down for S2 and S3
@Shions_Glasses there was no urgency or desperation in Pascals face. They made him look like a school shooter or something, rather than a person desperately trying to save someone he loves.
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@AdamantiumPriest TWD had some low points but it’s still in another league compared to this imo.
When TWD was on top form, it blew every aspect of this show out of the water.
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@arsmolinarc none of that really occurred to me. Sounds like you’re the one being overly sensitive to this stuff. The point is they’re all just people. Race is no longer a factor when you’re just trying to survive.
@Pikki it does seem that way sadly but then they did that gratuitous tendril kiss in episode 2, which you’d think would be even more beneath them.
I thought the First season was very good-much more than a shoulder shrug. The character interactions the show added deepened the world, and the bond between Joel and Ellie was great thanks to great performances by Ramsey and Pascal.
It did feel rushed, although I don't know if that is a complaint unique to those of us who have finished the game. As I have posted here before, I think not having more infected in the show was a significant misstep, The need for a vaccine is what makes Joel's decision at the end have so much weight. In the show, the infected did not feel like enough of a threat to bring this home. When you waltz through a major city like SLC without seeing one infected, that is a problem for the narrative.
Still: I got chills when the show cut to black just like I did in 2013 playing the game. The story of Joel and Ellie was told very well. It just could have used more/longer episodes.
7 or 8 out of 10 for me. Very interested to see what they do with TLOU2-a game I liked, but that will be a challenge to turn into a season of television.
This is not a John Wick TV show were the action is the story. People saying this was rushed are the ones that want Joel and Ellie to act like big Rambo and little Rambo endlessly killing infected and other people. Was the story of Joel and Ellie told? Yes and then some. You don't always have to see the action and the hardship to know it. I don't think long searches through buildings and more killing would have added anything to the story. I am not saying it was perfect, but it was for sure a great run and an excellent first season. I think the second season will be zooming in on the years gone by until the beginning of the second game. The ones we only saw in short flashbacks. So still lot of Joel and Ellie. I hope!
I thought the show was mostly superb. The changes and additions were mostly excellent and smart, the performances, and settings were impeccable and even the omissions were mostly OK.
And yet there was something small missing, I can't quite put my finger on what, but there was just a little magic missing somewhere. But all in all can't complain, it was beyond my wildest expectations and i'm just glad they gave it a REALLY good effort and didn't ***** it up.
I'm looking forward to going back and playing TLOU pt1, and then FINALLY getting to TLOU pt2 which I put off after it was spoiled.
Bruce Strahley was the true talent behind The Last of Us. There, I said it.
Yeah, one of the issues of adapting an already cinematic game like The Last of Us is that the story has already been perfectly told in the best way possible. Why would I watch an inferior version of the story when it offers nothing I couldn’t have gotten from the game. I said it before and I’ll say it again, this show had no reason to exist.
This episode was such a miss.
@Niktaw lol not "sensitive", just calling it as I see it.
Ellie “Swear to me that everything you’ve told me about the fireflies is true”
Joel “I swear”
For so many reasons, opinions, and peoples thoughts on moral values that this represented - what an epic moment in gaming 👏
@Impossibilium spot on, I doubt they can do much more with flashbacks in s2 to make up for s1 though given that there's already a few from the 2nd game they'll have to adapt.
The thought came up to me as well that it should've maybe had two more episodes, somewhere in the middle and towards the end. But overall a great adaptation, looking forward to the 2nd and third series.
Great review, and I agree 100% with the author’s overall sentiment about the series. It’s solid TV, but also a testament to how gaming affords us fresh and engaging ways to interact with storytelling that go beyond watching a show. That said, I’m excited to see how the series progresses, and also happy to play that Part 1 remake once the price drops!
The Last of Us was always a basically decent, but mostly unexceptional, post-apocalyptic narrative that was hard carried by the fact that a lot of people were easily wowed by the game's cinematic stylings and strong technical aspects. The emotional arc this reviewer experienced watching the show mirrored my own feelings while playing the game.
@kyleforrester87 Subversive dramas aren't a terribly unusual thing for HBO, I imagine, and the audience that watches premium network dramas tends not to be as collectively childish as a lot of people in the gaming community.
I'm sure the usual types who like to stir the pot will rant about season two online, but I'm not expecting nearly as explosive a reaction to it as we saw with the actual game.
The game had a lot of padding but this series was a little short for me. The journey didn't feel epic in scale. Obviously, apples and oranges but Lord of the Rings films felt like a monumental undertaking where as this felt like a road trip with some inconvenience. Not alot seemed to have happened outside the main character narratives. They all seemed to have been transported from place to place.
Great series imho. Joel was excellent throughout and Ellie grew in to the role after the first couple of episodes (not sure if they shot them in order????).
Just so surprised they didnt make it at least a couple of series for the first game. They added two good 'filler episodes' and even then only managed 9 in total.
Really good show, just had so much more potential.
I hope they see the sense of not just doing the second game. They could easily fill out a series with a new story of J&E in the between years.
It was a good adaptation. I'm happy with it overall. Yes there were some low points here and there like episode 3 but it picked it up just fine after that one.
It doesn't stand up there with the likes of Cyberpunk Edgerunners for best video game adaptations but overall it was solid.
It will be very interesting to see how they tackle Part II though. Their main objective should be to make the support cast much more interesting because that's where the game struggled the most for me at least. I still liked Part II and the main cast were generally great but let's just say no one had as much of an impact on me like Henry and Sam for example from the first game.
@BadPlayerOne a lot of people also seem to be confusing "good story" with "good gameplay loop". Battling through lots of waves of infected and lots of waves of regular people throughout the story, makes perfect sense in the game because it's a fun gameplay loop. It makes less sense in the TV adaptation because there isn't the question of "will they die in 5 seconds time" - they don't get to die and restart from the latest checkpoint, so Joel Rambo-ing his way through the series makes less sense because it's just not feasible that his luck would last that long.
It also makes a nice contrast - Joel in Episode 9 really goes off on a rampage in a way that we didn't see (not on that scale, anyway) in the whole rest of the series - whereas in the game, it's just another wave of enemies after lots of other waves of enemies. It's significant in terms of the story, but the gameplay loop is identical to the rest of the game
@danlk1ng I can only agree and I am happy they didn’t listen to any gamers fantasies as it happened so often in the past with game adaptations. And why most of them if not all always sucked. That is also the reason I am confident that the next season will be on the same level. Rule number one will always be: Don’t listen to gamers!
@danlk1ng @BadPlayerOne I partly agree with you, as a lot of the time gamers get really drawn into the whole fun of gameplay somehow converting to film, but the problem with most adaptions is definitely not because they listened to the gamers. It's that they just want to slap the name on something to make a quick buck and don't bother hiring the right people to oversee the adaption. My evidence? ...
Also, I do think the show could have been longer, although definitely not for more action scenes, but for more character building, more time with the world falling to ruin, and just generally more conversations and interactions, and more sense of the time it takes to trek across America, but that's mainly because I love slow drawn out shows that really spend time and immerse you. I do agree and a lot of what makes this show great is the stuff you don't actually have to see on screen, but I'd still like to have spent a few hours more with the characters. And maybe one more infected avoidance scene just to dial up the tension for those who like their suspense
Hmm, this comment almost read like I didn't enjoy the show somehow. I thought it was excellent, but wanted to point out that other adaptions don't fail because of gamers, they fail because there's no passion, whereas TLoU has passion from the creators, quite clearly.
it's fair to say of course this show isn't perfect, it definitely could have fitted more in, my only real issue was with the overall pacing at times, and this is the view of a casual who has no affiliation to the game.
@Korgon @BadPlayerOne Loved the series as well! Season 2 can't get here soon enough, though hopefully I'll have enough time to beat the inevitable native Part 2 PS5 upgrade/remaster first.
@themightyant Same plan here, but I'll be waiting for a dirt cheap sale on Part 1 PS5 and for Part 2 to get a native PS5 upgrade/remaster.
@KidBoruto I wouldn't have paid anywhere near £70, but I got pretty lucky on eBay (£41) it seems the series has pushed prices up generally and I can likely resell it for about the same. I've played TLOU many times, I probably only want one playthrough and I will offload.
@themightyant My price range for TLOU Part 1 PS5 is $25 USD New or cheaper, so I'll be waiting awhile longer.
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