I went into The Last of Us never having played the game or its sequel, but with knowledge of most of the main plot. A few years ago I had figured, with my game backlog so large, I’d never get around to playing it and so I did what any reasonable person would do: turn to Wikipedia. During the nine episodes of season one I found its world and characters compelling, but also empty at the same time. While HBO excels at high quality productions, and this is no exception, I was left wanting by the time the credits rolled on the final episode.
The Last of Us is not a story about a zombie apocalypse. Rather, it’s a story about the characters who exist in the aftermath of disaster and all of the conflicts they must face as a result. While the zombies, called Infected, definitely make an appearance, there is not much information about them aside from a couple episodes and flashback scenes. While I enjoyed the story for the most part, I was definitely hoping for more information on the Infected and how the outbreak was caused. I kept waiting for the big reveal on how the scientist being interviewed at the beginning of the first episode set this all in motion somehow, but that never happened.
Once I realized that the payoff with the Infected wasn’t coming, I became less interested in the story. While characters like Joel, Ellie, and Marlene are compelling, I was frustrated that the show was not about solving the overall problem and instead more or less a drama with action scenes. Another thing to take into consideration is that this series is adapted from a game. It is important for games to have story elements, but is is equally important that the game contains exciting gameplay. Since the show focuses only on the story, I found it difficult to retain my interest with each episode. The show has a strong open that got me hooked right away, but that enjoyment came with the assumption that throughout the story the characters would somehow uncover a solution and possible cure.
In the final episode, it felt uncharacteristic for neither Joel nor Marlene to at least allow Ellie to make her choice. While desperate times call for desperate measures, it seemed uncharacteristic for Joel to go on a murderous rampage through the hospital and then lie to Ellie about it afterwards. In the final episode it was shown that Joel began to think of Ellie as his daughter, which happened too quickly and should have been a gradual change over a few episodes, so it is less believable to me that he would choose to lie. Overall, I am glad I watched the show for some interesting characters and surreal views of Boston, but it ultimately is not what I was looking for in a story.