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HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ Is a Nostalgic Head Trip for Fans of the Video Game

Bella Ramsey as Ellie and Pedro Pascal as Joel in key art for HBO's 'The Last of Us' (HBO)

It’s been a decade since the original video game The Last of Us was released. I was around 14 or 15 then, and I don’t even remember how I ended up with that game in my possession. I’m sure it was a gift from a relative attempting to “relate” to me by picking up whichever popular video game was on display at Best Buy. And while I remember that the game was pretty damn remarkable in many ways, other things took up more space in my hippocampus—crucial things like college and bands.

Memories are funny, though; they sneak up on you when you least expect them. As I hunkered down to watch HBO’s The Last of Us this past weekend, I was immediately hit with whiplash when the opening credits rolled. I’ve heard that iconic theme track so many times that I thought I’d be immune to it, yet clearly I wasn’t. I grabbed my blanket and gaped at the TV like a chimp seeing a magic trick.

To the chagrin of the poor people I was watching it with, I continually made little comments along the lines of, “Oh wow, they’re expanding on that plot point,” and, “Oh my god, yes, that’s right, that did happen. Holy shit, that straight-up happened in the video game. That was literally in the video game? That was literally in the video game. Now watch here, you see, look at the zombies: they run, right? Do you know how much that scared me as a kid??? Oh my god, look at him go!! They’re LITERALLY playing one of the original combat themes, what!! What!! WHAT!!”

It was crazy how much had been stored in my brain. I followed each event of those first 20 minutes as though I were playing the game for the first time all over again. And even during the quarantine zone bit, I had a little moment of reunion with my teenage self, as I once again found that part of the story to be painfully boring. I struggled to remember what even happened before Joel met Ellie because, to quote teenaged Madeline, “Who TF cares???” Thankfully, they kept that part short, and instead focused more on the exposition.

What a testament to how good the show is already! Everything felt utterly baked in the original atmosphere of The Last of Us, and it was all beautifully elevated by the cast. If the game was also a part of your teens and you’re on the fence as to whether or not the show will do it justice, I’m here with a guarantee: it’s doing a bang-up job, and it’s wholly worthy of your time.

(featured image: HBO)

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Madeline (she/her) is a writer, dog mom, and casual insomniac. She aims to use her writing to positively represent mixed-race people like herself. Niche interests include folk music, elves/wizards, and why horses are cool actually.