‘The Last of Us’: The downfall of humanity


The Last of Us. Image from HBO.

Quézia Arruda Cunha, Reporter

“The Last of Us” is a promising HBO Max series that premiered in January 2023 and was written and created by Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin, based on the video game of the same name that was released in 2013.

The fact that we don’t have the remote control in our hands, as we would in while playing a video game, makes us feel what the show seeks: suffocation and fear for the human species.

The series takes place in a primitive and wild environment in the aftermath of a pandemic caused by a widespread fungal infection in the United States.

In the first episode, we only understand what is truly happening in this chaotic society through the characters’ eyes. 

Unlike most post-apocalyptic drama productions, Druckmann and Mazin intentionally don’t show the turmoil, the screams of despair and frantic car crashes –– none of that.

In fact, the beginning of the first episode of the series shows the scientific side, depicting interviews with scientists from the 60s and their thoughts on the biological and social impacts a pandemic could have on humanity.

What comes after this prologue is reality.

This is a detail that I admire in productions with fictional content. It is important to build an earthly and human bond in a fanciful and fictional world — one the audience can deeply connect with. 

The biggest post-apocalyptic anguish we feel is being trapped in the minds of the main characters who are just living their ordinary lives without worrying much about what goes on outside their windows.

In the episode on, the first character to be introduced is Sara (Nico Parker), a girl around 13 years old who is the daughter of Joel (Pedro Pascal), a single father who only has help from her brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna). 

Still tracing another ordinary day in the life of this small family, we notice a beautiful relationship between father and daughter, especially when we feel Sara’s intense desire to buy Joel a nice present.

The scenes outside their home are light brushstrokes of chaos. 

Chaos that paints a journey the audience is about to embark on.

Sara’s venture from school to the watch store is filled with police cars and siren noises. But that’s just a background, a light soundtrack while she tries to get her father a gift.

When she arrives in her residential area after being expelled from the store, a moment of greater tension and a preview of the fear and dread that will begin to be more intense, Sara goes to the neighbor’s house to pass the time.

In this neighbor’s house, there is a lady with an advanced level of dementia. And here begins a scene tat, for me, is one of the greatest details of the series.

While Sara analyzes a shelf in her neighbor’s house, behind her a lady appears completely out of focus.

Druckman tells us in a very subtle and intelligent way that this lady is blurred in comparison to the macabre virus which has not yet been revealed.

I find it impossible to talk about the first episode without commenting on one of the most emblematic scenes so far: the escape scene after they discover the seriousness of the pandemic.

Once again, we’re confined to the viewpoint of the characters. The intensity they feel increases when Joel, Sara and Tommy get into a pickup truck to escape

We can only understand the chaos of the city through the car’s windows and windshields because that’s the most they can see, too.

As expressed by journalist Isabela Boscov in her analysis of this first episode, Sara’s death in the midst of this painful movement in the series is seen as the greatest apocalypse that Joel could face. 

It’s an internal infection for which there are no vaccines to cure.

With this death, we get the introduction of Ellie (Bella Ramsey).

Ellie is a young 14-year-old girl who was born and lived all her life within four walls in total quarantine. The world for her is confined by many limits.

Everything that comes out of this quarantine is exciting and curious at the same time. She’s the powerhouse we need to generate that video game that takes our breath away.

And a crucial point: Ellie is immune to the infection. This will be valuable in the course of the next episodes.

Ellie isn’t afraid, even though she’s never been out there to face the world for what it is. She is irreverent with sharp humor always on the tip of her tongue.

Joel and his partner, Tess (Anna Torv), take care of Ellie and try to get her out of that unhealthy place.

We end the episode with the feeling that humanity is on the brink of a tightrope and appears to be as dangerous as the pandemic infection.