What Are You Watching? ‘The Last of Us’


Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

The beauty of the HBO series “The Last of Us” — the reason it is worth watching — is the contrast between its brutal, end-of-the-world setting and the charm of the father-daughter relationship of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey).

The story is ridiculous: It’s based on a 2013 video game; the year is 2023, but it’s 20 years into a fungal-caused pandemic. Instead of a respiratory illness, this fungal disease turns people into flesh-hungry zombies. The result is one part zombie apocalypse and one part Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road.”
But while zombie-apocalypse shows like “Walking Dead” turn into predictable and poorly acted sitcoms, the “The Last of Us” is dynamic and good.

Pascal (“Mandalorian,” “Game of Thrones”) plays a Clint Eastwood–inspired tough dude. He’s a loner with a shady past looking for his lost brother, and he’s reluctantly tasked with escorting rebellious teen Ramsey (“Game of Thrones”) through the barren landscape. There’s a hope that she could save mankind. We don’t need to get bogged down in the details, it’s a zombie show, but she could be the means for a vaccine. And we should say that he’s not actually her father, but he is playing the father figure.

Now, before we pack too much praise on the show, it is violent. It’s not constant violence and gore, like most zombie productions; it’s more tactful and sparse. But it’s definitely present, and sometimes hard to watch even for this zombie fan. But what makes “The Last of Us” worth watching is the acting.

Ramsey is one of those rare child/teen actors who can pull it off. She’s tough — as you would need to be to survive in this world — but she’s also charming.

Nothing better displays her charm than when she occasionally rattles off a good (or terrible) pun from a prepandemic collection that she carries with her. Like: “Why did the scarecrow get a promotion? Because he was outstanding in his field.”

Ellie prods into Joel’s gruff demeanor and gets him to be human again. And Pascal — who is on fire in the acting world right now — is fantastic in a subtle way.

Aside from the acting, “The Last of Us” is a thrilling ride. It’s not over-the-top — except when it knows it can be.

At first, I admittedly wanted to write a negative review and point out our obsession with apocalypse dramas. But after a couple of episodes, even through the violence, it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen in a while.