HBO’s “The Last of Us”: captivating to most, controversial to some


photo provided by IMDb

Creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann bring the original Naughty Dog video game “The Last of Us” to life through this thrilling adaptation.

Clare Heupel, Perspectives Editor

HBO has released yet another incredibly entertaining series: “The Last of Us.” Quickly becoming a favorite for many with its incredible storyline and characters, the series has unfortunately faced significant backlash for various reasons.

Based on a video game of the same title, “The Last of Us” is set in a modern United States ravaged by a pandemic. The pandemic was caused by a fungal virus that infects the body of its host extremely quickly and to the point that the host behaves similarly to a zombie. Easily spreadable and resulting in dangerous behavior, the infection quickly sent society into chaos and left the after-effects that the characters in “The Last of Us” face, 20 years after its initial outbreak. The story follows young teenager Ellie, played by Bella Ramsey, and her reluctantly father-figure-like companion Joel, played by Pedro Pascal. 

As a screen adaptation of a popular survival video game, the series was initially met with a large audience. Like with any adaptation, fans of the video game wanted the new version as close to the original as possible. This has created problems with the cast of the series as many sources have stated that fans believe the castings of Pedro Pascal as Joel and Bella Ramsey as Ellie do not look similar enough to the characters in the game. While this may seem like a large factor to fans of the original game, its significance is minimal when observing the performance of the selected cast. Pascal, Ramsey and the other cast members bring life to the characters of the beloved story along with their takes on being survivors in such a violent world. Seeing the chemistry between Ramsey and Pascal as a child and parent figure is especially entertaining, and has likely contributed greatly to the exponential growth of the fanbase. 19-year-old Ramsey’s acting is especially impressive for her age and should indicate to viewers that the HBO team put the necessary thought into deciding who would be best suited for the roles. The actors themselves have claimed that they enjoyed playing the game and portrayed the characters as close to the game as possible while also giving their personality to their performances.

The biggest issue that viewers have expressed with the series is its LGBTQ+ representation. This continued issue that many modern television shows and movies face is especially surprising for this series considering the representation of queer characters is in the original game. The main character Ellie is quickly revealed in the game as being attracted to women and even has a romantic relationship with a girl later on.

The initial backlash for the LGBTQ+ representation was first spouted after the release of the third episode, “Long, Long Time.” The episode primarily explores the relationship between two side characters: Bill, played by Nick Offerman, and Frank, played by Murray Bartlett. Though the nature of the relationship between these two men was not explicitly stated in the game or as thoroughly portrayed, it was hinted at, and its inclusion is essential for showcasing the emotional depth of the series. It brings humanity to the action-packed apocalyptic tale and highlights how much is at stake for these characters.

According to a Cosmopolitan article, Ramsey stated that she is unfazed by the criticism in her interview with GQ magazine.

“I know people will think what they want to think. But they’re gonna have to get used to it. If you don’t want to watch the show because it has gay storylines, because it has a trans character, that’s on you, and you’re missing out,” said Ramsey.

Despite the backlash, the series continues to draw in incredible audience turnouts and was renewed for a second season after only two episodes had been released, as stated by Variety. The second season will follow the storyline of the second part of the game. The final episode of season one was released Mar. 12 on the HBO Max streaming platform. The finale shocked fans with impressive acting and a gut-wrenching conclusion. Anyone who is craving such a show should not hesitate against turning their attention to this one.