As a “The Last of Us” evangelist, I also worry that the pandemic talk could backfire, turning off viewers who don’t want to engage in yet another story about global sickness. It gives the false impression that the show might be about the immediate aftermath of the Cordyceps infection, or have something to do with any of the characters on screen. On a simpler level, it’s just not as compelling or visually stirring as anything the game has to offer. Of course, anyone who would turn off a show in its first few minutes isn’t exactly the target audience for this character-driven drama anyway. Still, I, like many people, am decidedly un-chill about this game, so it’s hard not to fret about any detail that could prevent new-to-the-franchise viewers from engaging with this story.
The good news is this: after its functionally helpful yet overly-explanatory start, “The Last of Us” kicks into high gear with a premiere that nails one of the game’s most emotional moments and introduces the characters we know and love with care. Pascal is instantly exceptional as Joel, and Bella Ramsey captures Ellie’s stubbornness, playfulness, and kiddish naivety well in the character’s first few scenes. Whether the show’s initial jump decades into the past is ultimately helpful or pointless, the show moves on from it quickly, delivering an action-packed opener that’s sure to be intriguing to both newbies and game-players alike.
“The Last of Us” airs new episodes Sundays on HBO.