In a New Light: The Last of Us Review

Melyna Carter, Print Team Leader

   “The Last of Us” is a nine episode long series aired its first episode Jan 15, 2023 with its last episode airing March 12, 2023. Following the release of each episode there was a podcast episode released on Spotify. On the podcast was Troy Baker, who played Joel in the video game, Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann who were the showrunners for the TV series.  

   The first episode kicked off with the description of what a cordycep was with the rumors of what caused the mass outbreak over the world. Sarah, Joel’s daughter, planned on making him pancakes while Joel was going to pick up a cake later that night for his birthday. Mass hysteria was spreading throughout the day leaving Sarah confused as her father wouldn’t tell her what was going on. Later that night was when the military started to shut down highways in order to prevent the spread of the cordyceps. While Joel, Sarah, and Tommy, Joel’s brother, were stuck on the highway with Sarah injured. Sarah was shot by a soldier when they were stopped on the highway, permanently changing Joel’s perspective on the world. 

   The next episode starts off with a 20 year time jump, leaving Joel in the Boston QZ or Quarantine Zone. The introduction of FEDRA with a totalitarian government, causing the Fireflies who fought to bring back a democratic government. While in the QZ Joel met Tess, who had a protective relationship with each other. After Tess got jumped due to a smuggling deal gone wrong, it led to meeting Marlene who was the leader of the Fireflies. Marlene promised Joel and Tess that if they brought Ellie who was allegedly immune to their base they would get a car battery. While traveling towards the base, Ellie reveals that she has been bit before, two weeks prior, which was unheard of to still be alive. During the route they had to go through a seemingly empty history museum, soon to discover that it was full of Clickers. When Escaping Ellie discovered she was bit again leaving Joel on edge. When the three got to meeting spot they learned all of the fireflies were killed by clickers and Tess revealed she was infected. Tess sacrificed herself in order to save Joel and Ellie. 

    Within the first two episodes I was already extremely involved with the relationship between Ellie and Joel. With playing the game it was extremely interesting to see everything in the game get developed into a new outlet. Seeing the differences as well was interesting to see why they were different and how it changes the story slightly. Listening to the podcast helped me understand the reasoning behind why the characters did what they did, even if I didn’t agree with those decisions it was extremely cool to be able to further develop myself into this world along with my understanding of the world. 

   The third episode started off with an almost Joel in an alternate universe, Bill, who never left his home during the mass hysteria. Bill build up a barrier around his town after the outbreak, leaving the town almost unchanged unlike the rest of the world. Just three years after the outbreak started in 2003 Bill met Frank who had fell in one of his traps. Frank who was only supposed to stay for one night saw something in Bill that he had been suppressing since before the outbreak. His sexuality, which led to the further development of Bill and Franks relationship leading to him staying for 15 years. Coming from hating everyone Bill changed into living just to protect Frank, even from himself and his chronic illness. Towards the end of Franks life he got more and more tired of being sick leading to him wanting to commit suicide, leading to Bill committing suicide with Frank. 

   The fourth and fifth episode really shows the development of Ellie and Joel’s relationship both as the building of trust and the start of a familial bond. Joel taking Bill’s car allowed Joel and Ellie to cover a lot more ground and get to know each other better. While driving in a city Joel and Ellie got attacked by a group of raiders. Joel had told Ellie to hide, after Joel fought off the raiders he got attacked by one last raider from behind leading to Ellie having to help Joel. Ellie saving Joel led to Joel further trusting Ellie and feeling guilty for seemingly taking her innocence away when Ellie had to kill the man who was attacking Joel. Taking shelter Ellie and Joel further grow their bond with Ellie’s jokes from her joke book leading Ellie to fall asleep. Joel fell asleep on his right side, the side he can hear with leading to two people with guns threatening them. Henry and Sam were two brothers, the ones threatening Joel and Ellie in need of help of keeping Henry away from Melanie who was trying to kill Henry and Sam for killing her brother. Sam was deaf which led to a communication issue leading Joel further to not trust them. During the groups time traveling together led Ellie and Sam to form a bond which allowed them to feel normal and like kids again. Henry led them into tunnels which were allegedly filled with infected soon to find out there wasn’t as many as previously thought. Finally leaving the tunnels they entered a culdesac seemingly empty but soon to find out it was filled with infected and Melanie and her followers, narrowly escaping the group walks to a nearby motel to spend the night. Ellie discovered that night that Sam was infected which led to her being attacked in the morning. The attack led to Henry killing Sam to protect Ellie then next killing himself. 

   The next three episodes led me to further get attached to the story line as well as the characters. Seeing such traumatizing and sad things happen to people and they have to act unaffected is such a sad thing to see progress. The characters allow the story to feel so much more real with such pure and raw reactions to the events happening around them. These three episodes made me more and more excited for the upcoming episodes to air as each episode gets more and more action packed and emotional. 

   With Ellie and Joel’s final arrival to Jackson, Wyoming after leaving the motel they found a little house in the middle of nowhere. They were warned by the people in the house not to go passed the river, ignoring the warning they went past the river anyways. While passed the river they got stopped by a group of people on horseback and were brought back to their town. In that town Joel found his brother Tommy and was later introduced to his sister in law Maria. While Joel was talking to Tommy he realized he can’t keep putting Ellie in danger. He feels so guilty about everything he has put Ellie through, through all of the fights and near death experiences he wants to leave Ellie safe in Wyoming with Tommy. Joel also learns that Maria is pregnant and expecting a baby. Joel bringing up the idea of leaving Ellie to her, she got upset claiming that everyone she had cared about either left her or died. Ellie in the end went with Joel and they started on their way to the Firefly hospital in Utah. While leaving the hospital they came upon a group of men, who ended up stabbing Joel with a broken baseball bat. Ellie was able to get them away on horseback, while on their way away from the hospital Joel fell off the horse due to loss of blood. 

   Starting off episode seven Ellie was able to get herself and Joel to a nearby town in order to help Joel recover. Joel had told Ellie to leave him, Ellie found thread and was able to stitch up Joel while she contemplated leaving him. While near the door Ellie was hit with a flashback the last time she tried leaving someone she loved. Riley, her best friend who was presumed dead came back to the FEDRA school after leaving three weeks ago. Riley wanted to show Ellie something that she found, a mall that was boarded off due to it being filled with infected. Riley found out the mall wasn’t filled with infected and items filled with things Ellie and Riley never saw because they were popular before the outbreak. Riley admitted that she was leaving to be apart of the Fireflies and that was her last day in town. Upset Ellie decided to leave then ultimately decided to go back to spend as much time as she could with her best friend. While in a Halloween store Ellie did something she always wanted to do, Kiss Riley. While inside the Halloween store they both got attacked by infected. They ultimately decided to go insane together, except Ellie never turned, she discovered she was immune and had to kill her best friend Riley to prevent her own death. 

   These two episodes allowed us to see the further development of Ellie and Joel’s relationship as well as see Ellie’s previous relationship with Riley during the outbreak. Seeing a newer and more vulnerable side of Ellie. Allowing this side of Ellie to be seen allows for viewers to further understand Ellie and her relationship with Joel. 

   Episode eight starts off with Ellie hunting for food, while hunting she comes across David and James who are a part of a religious resort who are starving and running out of resources. Ellie asks David for penicillin in trade for half a venison in order to feed their resort. David recognizes Ellie as the little girl with a man who killed one of his people, after this encounter Ellie runs back to their hideout in order to give Joel the penicillin and warn him. David and his group come to find Ellie and Joel, Ellie goes outside in order to distract them from Joel. Ellie ends up getting taken by David and his people while two of his people were sent to find and kill Joel. Joel ends up killing those to men in order to go find and save Ellie. Ellie was taken to the religious resort for information while there she learns that David is a preacher and a cannibal. When Ellie refuses to give up information and breaking David’s finger he threatens to cut her up into little pieces and feed her to his group. David gets Ellie out of her cell in order to harm her in the process Ellie ends up killing James. Angry David is more motivated to get Ellie following her into the dining hall. While in the hall Ellie throws a lit torch at David missing and catching the building on fire leading to Ellie finding out David is a pedophile and was a school teacher. More motivated than ever Ellie ends up killing David. 

   Episode nine starts of with Ellie’s budding trauma of her experience with David and the trauma of her murdering David. The roles of Ellie being quiet now and Joel being the one trying so hard to make the connection and get Ellie to talk to her. While traveling further Ellie and Joel come along a building where they discovered a giraffe. While walking out of the building Ellie learned where Joel got his scar, attempted suicide. While Ellie started to open up again, they got attacked by Fireflies. Marlene was explaining to Joel what procedure they were doing to Ellie, Joel disagreed and ended up getting Ellie out of the hospital. On the car ride back to Wyoming Joel told Ellie what happened in the hospital. While about to enter the town Ellie and Joel bond further even when trust is broken. That bond slowly diminishing is what ended off the season. 

   The end of the season being so open was great with it leaving you with questions that will be answered in season two. I love every episode and it’s story line, I love how in depth they went in each episode with all of the details and similarities to the video game. Following along with the podcasts, it again helps further develop the story line and understanding of the characters and their choices. As someone who loves dystopian and apocalyptic stories and movies I really enjoyed this series.