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The zombie drama is given new life in “The Last of Us,” defying the game-to-screen trend


The zombie drama is given new life in “The Last of Us,” defying the game-to-screen trend

“The Last of Us” provides a welcome boost to the shaky track record of video game adaptations and the glut of zombie/apocalyptic dramas, demonstrating that as long as it is this good, there is room for more of each. The HBO series, which is a roadshow with mini-dramas incorporated into the episodes, quickly demonstrates that it is worthy of the hype and anticipation by delivering a fully realized series with real-life characters.

It is true that we have already traveled this path, which involves a world that is rapidly falling apart as a result of a pandemic that has turned people into zombies and prompted government efforts to stop the spread in the harshest ways possible.

Craig Mazin, who won an Emmy for his work on “Chernobyl,” and Neil Druckmann, who is also co-president of the award-winning game developer Naughty Dog, are the series’ creators. Initially, they build the story around a single family before expanding it to cover the effects of the outbreak all over the world with a 20-year palette.

Because of this ambitious approach, “The Last of Us” sometimes plays like an anthology series, focusing on individual stories and detours. For example, Nick Offerman plays a doomsday prepper who reluctantly takes in a drifter played by Murray Bartlett from “The White Lotus.”

Joel, played by Pedro Pascal without his helmet, is the show’s backbone. He has to reluctantly take Ellie, played by Bella Ramsey of Game of Thrones, to a facility across the country in the hopes that her immunity to infection will contain the means to cure the zombie ailment.

With gradually revealed details about their lives along the way, both leads are excellent. First of all, Ellie was born into the brutality of this post-apocalyptic landscape. As a result, whenever she encounters something that gives her a taste of the normalcy of the past, her reaction typically ranges from wonder to pure delight.

The real threat, unlike the zombies, which aren’t particularly distinctive, is what people will do when society breaks down, as is often the case in these kinds of stories (see “The Walking Dead” at its best early on). From that point of view, the narrative here is completely fearless and unflinching, resulting in horrifying scenes and moments that can be both touching and completely tragic at the same time.

This is not light escapism, and the level of violence is not for the weak of the heart. Nevertheless, Joel and Ellie’s bond reveals a genuine humanity that grows organically from one harrowing encounter to the next and serves as a strong showcase for the guest stars that orbit them.

The timing is perfect for HBO, which recently ended its run of another futuristic science fiction show called “West world,” which began long before things went awry.

The latest version of imagining a world gone mad and focusing on the personal dramas that take place against that backdrop is “The Last of Us.” However, the first season exhibits the kind of delicateness and depth that suggests we won’t see the last of it for some time, despite the limitations of previous game-to-TV/movie translations.

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