When “The Last of Us” premiered on January 15th to 4.7 million total viewers, it was already HBO’s second-best launch since “Boardwalk Empire” premiered to around 7 million viewers back in 2010. However, the show has only grown in interest in its second week, the 22% surge increased the total viewership to 5.7 million.
So what’s exactly happening here? Aren’t live-action video game adaptations typically doomed to failure? Historically, yes. But, Neil Druckmann, creator of the “The Last of Us” game series, and Craig Mazin, showrunner of another HBO hit, “Chernobyl,” make one glorious dream team. Druckmann, as the creator of the source material, and Mazin, as a sincere fan of the original game with his own ambitious ideas perfectly balance each other out — the result is an adaptation that stays faithful to the original story in broad strokes, but is still willing to take risks to make use of the new medium where it counts.
Having a powerhouse cast of great actors helps. Pedro Pascal (of “The Mandalorian” fame) is big enough to host SNL now, Bella Ramsey has had HBO-level experience on “Game of Thrones,” and guest appearances from Anna Torv, Murray Bartlett, Nick Offerman, and Melanie Lynskey promise there’s always something to look forward for TV fans.
Ultimately, “The Last of Us” has achieved a growing, multiple-quadrant audience. The series is smartly welcoming both to the loyal fans of the game that know every beat by heart, and also those who have never touched a video game controller before. Just today, the show’s been officially renewed for a second season. So, if you haven’t already, be sure to make room for Joel and Ellie in your Sunday schedule.