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The Last of Us TV review: this brutal zombie thriller ain’t no game

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey head out of the QZ zone in The Last of Us

The Last of Us isn’t just a great video game to TV adaptation, it’s a remarkable piece of television in its own right. You’ll be gripped from the get-go. 

The nine-episode horror thriller from HBO lands on Sky Atlantic and Now January 16, and will drop new episodes weekly.

Each instalment will be available in the UK at the same time as its US premiere, playing out at 2am and on demand thereafter.

TLR was invited to an immersive screening of the pilot at the newly refurbished BFI IMAX theatre, and got to experience the Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey thriller on an awe-inspiring scale.

For the London launch event, the BFI IMAX was turned into a literal quarantine zone, complete with Firefly graffiti, slavering monsters, photo ops and lootable vending machines!

The show is based on the hit PlayStation video game of the same name, and if the first episode is anything to go by, follows the source material remarkably closely. The visuals are on point and the score will be familiar; even the dialogue echoes the game!

For the London launch event of The Last of Us, the BFI IMAX was turned into a literal quarantine zone…

For those not in the know, The Last of Us is set 20 years after a parasitic fungus has wiped out civilization, turning those affected into fast-moving zombies, or worse. The opening episode begins with a harrowing prologue that introduces Joel (Pascal) and his family.

Joel is doing what he can to survive in a futuristic Boston run by the authoritarian FEDRA (Federal Disaster Response Agency).

The inaugural season follows Joel’s mission to smuggle 14-year old Ellie, who’s DNA could save humanity, out of this Quarantine Zone and into the hands of the Fireflies, pro-democracy freedom fighters. 

Both in setting and tone, it’s not too dissimilar to Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead, although in this survival horror, zombies are just the tip of a festering iceberg of monsters. Visual effects, particularly the sweeping vistas of a ruined Boston, are impressive.

The lead duo are supported by a strong cast, including Anna Torv (best known for genre favourite Fringe), Gabriel Luna, Nico Parker, Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman.

There’s heavy hitters behind the drama too. The Last of Us is written and executive produced by Craig Mazin (responsible for multi-award winning grim-fest Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (The Last of Us video game).  

It may be low on laughs, but The Last of Us will delight fans of dark fantasy. It may well be your next big telly obsession.

The Last of Us origins

The Last of Us video game, developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment, was first released for the PlayStation 3 in June 2013 and more recently remastered as The Last of Us Part 1 for the PlayStation 5, using Naughty Dog’s latest PS5 engine technology. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic world where most of humanity has been wiped out by a fungus-based infection. Players control Joel, a smuggler tasked with escorting a young girl named Ellie across the country in order to find a resistance group.

The game received widespread critical acclaim from the outset, winning plaudits for its story, characters, and emotionally charged gameplay.

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