"The Last of Us" is the best drama on TV

by Charles Gerian

“Save who you can save.”

HBO’s The Last of Us has been a runaway success for the network, and if you’re not watching it...you need to be. Based on Naughty Dog’s 2013 PlayStation game of the same name, the HBO drama follows Joel (Pedro Pascal), a gruff and despondent man tasked with escorting a plucky young girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across the apocalyptic United States for what could be mankind’s last chance at curing a devastating 20- year pandemic.

If the setting of a pandemic-ridden and collapsed United States sounds like it might hit a bit too close to home, that’s just the tip of this atmospheric and heartbreaking iceberg. In 2003, a fungal infection known as Cordyceps evolved and wiped out civilization overnight, turning its victims into crazed zombie-like monsters...and worse.

Now humanity is splintered in various downtrodden quarantine zones run by FEDRA (the in-universe equivalent of a militarized FEMA) and those who didn’t fall under the Federal Government’s thumb campaign as freedom fighters calling themselves The Fireflies.

Pedro Pascal is a household name (or voice, at least) thanks to his work in franchises including HBO’s “Game of Thrones” as Oberyn Martell, DC Comics “Wonder Woman 1984”, and of course Disney’s smash-hit series “The Mandalorian” where he plays the titular bounty hunter.

Here, Pascal gives his all as Joel Miller, a Texas contractor who has lost damn near everything and becomes an unwitting surrogate father to Ellie.

Ellie is played by Bella Ramsey, who also had a bit role on Game of Thrones as Lyanna Mormont, a fiery preteen war leader.

Ramsay also lead one of last year’s best films CATHERINE CALLED BIRDY.

Ramsey is 19 and is already one of the greatest young talents I think television has seen in ages, eclipsing even her Game of Thrones alumni including former child actors Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) and Sophie Turner (Sansa Stark).

This upcoming Sunday, the action follows Joel and Ellie into a war-torn Kansas City where a militant leader is played by Melanie Lynskey, who viewers will recognize from Showtime’s “Yellowjackets”.

HBO’s The Last of Us is a bleak show. It’s depressing, disgusting, grimy, and violent. In that sense, it is perhaps perfect that it is helmed by the same team who did the network’s 2019 series “Chernobyl” about the Russian nuclear disaster.

The video game series, consisting of two mainline entries from 2013 and 2020 respectively, is one of the only videogames I have had to stop myself from playing because some of the scenes and gameplay segments get so heavy and atmospheric that they literally weigh on you as a player and an audience member.

If you have played the games, you know. If you haven’t, I suggest waiting until the show’s two seasons are over before diving in. The Last of Us is a ratings hit for HBO, and drops new episodes every Sunday on HBO and HBO Max.