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In One Episode, I Went From Knowing Nothing About ‘The Last of Us’ To Being Obsessed

I came for Pedro Pascal and stayed for everything else (and Pedro Pascal).

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

I’ve always been interested in horror and post-apocalyptic fiction. I also love video games with compelling stories. The Walking Dead in all forms was my obsession for years. Since the video game The Last of Us came out in 2013, it has floated around my periphery. I heard good things about this game that checked off many of my interest boxes. People were telling me they were sobbing over the beauty and heartbreak of this game. Still, I didn’t really spend any time checking it out.

Last Sunday, HBO premiered the TV adaptation of The Last of Us. I was intrigued by the trailers; seeing Pedro Pascal playing the main character made me very interested—especially since he’s playing a dad, and who can resist that? I set some time aside to watch the extra-long first episode, hoping it was at least decent. I’m here to say that I’m a convert.

I can’t get enough!

For a long time, my standard of horror/post-apocalyptic television was the first episode of The Walking Dead. The scenes of Rick waking up from a coma to find the world changed were so well done. As viewers, we’re learning about all of it along with Rick, and we are just as shocked and lost as he is. Now the king has been dethroned. Going into the first episode of The Last of Us, I didn’t have any information about the story besides what was hinted at in the trailer.

The episode opens with a “vintage” interview from the 1960s about the dangers of a fungus called cordyceps that could mutate with global warming. Cordyceps have always terrified me, so this is nightmare fuel. Instead of zombies, which aren’t that scary to me, the fungus takes over people and makes them look like the worst things ever. Then the story cuts to a normal day in the life of Joel (Pascal) and his daughter, Sarah (Nico Parker), in 2003. Because we know something bad will happen, I had low-key anxiety through the entire thing.

When stuff starts going south, the direction and cinematography are so engaging that I couldn’t look away. Over the past week, I watched the episode twice. Somehow, with the second viewing, the story became more nerve-wracking and the emotional parts even sadder. After a bunch of crazy action and gut-punches, the timeline jumps 20 years into the future, where humans are living in fear of their mushroomed counterparts. A government agency has taken their freedoms in the name of providing safety for the remaining humans. There is also a rebel faction called the Fireflies who are trying to end the stranglehold.

A much different Joel is living in this Boston fortress. We see what his life has become in the new version of the world. Then we meet my new feral child, Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Ellie is special and the Fireflies are trying to get her out of town. Begrudgingly, Joel becomes her new protector to get her to one of the rebel safe houses. I can already see that Ellie and Joel are two sides of the same dangerous coin, and they are entering a world full of danger. The last shot shows an overgrown and ruined Boston while a Depeche Mode song plays, probably foreshadowing much more to come.

A week ago I had almost no interest in The Last of Us. Now I have watched the first episode more than once, listened to HBO’s accompanying podcast, and spent hours researching stuff online. As a new fan, I am enthralled by the acting, writing, directing, and music of this show. My only complaint is that I have to wait a full seven days between episodes. I guess that gives me time to rewatch episodes every week to feed my obsession … like a totally normal person would do.

(featured image: HBO)

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D.R. Medlen is secretly a selkie that will one day return to the sea. In the meantime, she spends her days fangirling over anything from comic books to folklore podcasts, and everything in between. She lives that hobbitcore life while teaching her offspring the ways of the nerd.