The opening title sequence of the HBO series is like a weekly revisit of the chill-inducing opening credits of the original game. Gustavo Santaolalla’s main theme for “The Last of Us” is sweeping and epic. Its use of a Ronroco and other stringed instruments feels like a musical preparation for the journey ahead. The opening sequence with this track is one of the most cinematic parts of the original game, structured like the opening for a movie. When translated to the HBO show, Santaolalla doesn’t miss a beat. Much of the original spirit of the game’s score is carried over into iconic scenes that shouldn’t be changed. Hey, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
However, Santaolalla also manages to strike a delicate balance by using softer, more melancholic music for the quieter moments in “The Last of Us.” A prime example in the first episode is a scene where Tess crawls into bed to hide out with Joel after being savagely beaten, with only music accompanying the bittersweet and tender moment. There is no level design or gameplay to distract from the moment. All that remains is the music to emphasize the dour mood and quiet emotion of the series, and to help illustrate Tess and Joel’s relationship with little of the dialogue that the game used to help players fill in the blanks. The music practically tells its own story, getting room to breathe along with many narrative aspects of the adaptation.