The Last of Us review: HBO series finds secret sauce with Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in terrifying and thrilling adaptation

Fans of The of Last of Us video game can look forward to a TV adaptation filled with dread, thrills and tears that lives up to - and builds on - the classic action-adventure.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 16 January 2023 - 7.02pm
Pedro Pascal in The Last of Us

Stream The Last of Us weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW from 16 January

To say adaptations of computer games into TV shows and movies has been a mixed bag would be a bit of an understatement.

From box office bombs to TV turkeys, there is a long trail of disaster where the adrenaline-pumping action and central premise of the games has been completely missed in the resulting screen adaptation.

So after so many blunders and shoulder-shrugging ‘meh’ misses, why is everyone hyped for HBO’s take on 2013 PlayStation computer game The Last of Us?

The TV show’s writer Craig Mazin – the man behind Sky Atlantic’s Chernobyl – probably put it best: "The way to break the video game curse is to adapt the best video game story ever."

If you haven’t come across The Last of Us, it’s fair to say the game took players through the emotional wringer and even just a brief blast of A-Ha's Take on Me in the trailer was enough to get many shedding tears again.

And it’s the gut-wrenching, emotional core of The Last of Us - the video game - that this TV series perfectly nails.

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are the show’s secret sauce. Pascal oozes soul as brooding smuggler Joel, so much so that you don’t even care that his salt and pepper beard looks suspiciously well trimmed in the middle of an apocalypse.

Ramsey brings a sparkle and black humour as smart-talking teen Ellie, who represents a glimmer of hope in the darkness - if Joel can successfully take her across America.

Alongside the lead duo’s chemistry, the show is also utterly terrifying.

It trades in pandemic anxiety, playing on the fears and extra little bit of knowledge we all have in this post-Covid world.

It is dripping in dread as the show cleverly cuts in sequences in episode 2 that mimic some of the most iconic moments in the game, while layering over the top the haunting soundtrack from the game’s composer Gustavo Santaolalla.

And for horror fans, it also dishes out bone-chilling jump scares and proper hide-behind-your-cushion moments that will leave you with ‘clicking’ nightmares for the rest of 2023. Trust us, episode 2 will shred your nerves and scare the holy heck out of you.

It may only be January, but The Last of Us already looks like an early contender for TV Show of the Year.

Stream The Last of Us weekly on Sky Atlantic with NOW from 16 January

BT.com review rating

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