A prescient story in current times perhaps, The Last Of Us is a hotly anticipated TV adaptation of the synonymous PlayStation game. Almost mythical in it's popular reputation, and only ever available on PlayStation, the game remains both loved and coveted by gamers, whether they have played it or not.
Giving us a gradual introduction to the apocalypse in it's feature length first episode, we are presented the possibility of a pandemic began by a fungus. The audience laughs as a mycologist in 1968 suggests that there are no cures for this sort of infection, and that a mutation is only a matter of time. Referencing the ability of some fungi to affect and influence the behaviour of small animals and insects, what is to prevent that from happening to us?
We jump through 2003, to 2023, where Joel (Pedro Pascal) is attempting to survive in a QZ or Quarantine Zone. Food and resources are short so the black market and smuggling is rife. His losses in the early days of infection still hang over his head, but he persists and survives.
He and his partner Tess (Anna Torv) agree to transport a valuable girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey) from the Fireflies, a terrorist group, to another of their factions in another city in exchange for a much needed battery.
What Joel doesn't expect is to develop a real affection for Ellie. They provide each other with something they have both been missing, and each step of their Odyssean journey forces them to test their limits, and their care for each other.
Pedro Pascal is perfectly cast here, playing a character who isn't unfamiliar to him between The Mandalorian and Prospect, both of which require him to take reluctant care of a young and vulnerable charge. But he doesn't feel typecast just yet. Perhaps due to his brilliant chemistry with Bella Ramsey. She embodies the surliness of a 14 year old who has little control over her existence, the attitude of a near adult combined with the playfulness of someone who has not fully moved away from childhood. That's not to say she is helpless or in any way annoying. Ellie is resourceful, intelligent, and at times brutal in her willingness to protect herself and her protector.
Each episode presents a new barrier, threat or friend. With each new group led by a familiar face acting both to and against type. Particular applause going to Nick Offerman and Melanie Lynsky, as polar opposite characters who are both surprising.
Central to all of this though, as mentioned, is the chemistry, warmth and affection between our two leads. You believe this slow growing friendship, and become truly invested not just in them as individuals but as a pair.
Despite there being moments that are clearly lifted from the game, some of which stick out like a sore thumb, there is a reality and a heart to it's core, especially once you are past the first two most “gamey” episodes.
The Last Of Us is a refreshing and brilliant way to start this years TV viewing, let's hope we get a series two.
The Last Of Us will air weekly on Sky Atlantic from the 16th of January