“The Last of Us” ~ TV TALK with BILL CUSHING

By: Bill Cushing – 3/24

This month’s recommendation is a show that’s been out a whole year, but I missed writing about it when it came out.

It did, however, make my year end Best List, and was very high on the list as well. A lot of people I talk to have not seen it or even heard of it, so I thought I would write about it. That show is HBO’s post-apocalyptic drama ‘The Last of Us.’

‘The Last of Us’ stars Pedro Pascal (Narcos, The Mandalorian) and Bella Ramsey (Game of Thrones) and is based on the wildly popular video game of the same name.

The series opens in 2003 Texas, where contractor and single dad Joel (Pascal), is living with his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) and younger brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna). The outbreak of the Cordyceps brain infection – which turns humans into growling zombie-like creatures, referred to as “infected,” and is later revealed to be caused by a mutant fungus entering the food supply – happens quickly. Once the outbreak happens things get bad for Joel and his family in a hurry.

After seeing Joel’s life on Outbreak Day, the story then cuts to Joel 20 years later, now a man in mourning for what was lost on that day.

Joel is now an older, worn-out survivor with an awful maintenance job in Boston’s Quarantined Zone (QZ) and a chip on his shoulder, having never fully recovered from the events on the day of the Outbreak. Caught between the federal forces that run the QZ and the Firefly rebels that want to overthrow them, Joel plans to escape with partner Tess (Anna Torv) and locate Tommy, who’s gone underground somewhere in Wyoming.

The key to their departure is a car battery, something in very short supply in this world. But plans change when Joel and Tess are offered a surprising new opportunity from the Firefly leader Marlene (Merle Dandridge). They can escort a feisty 14-year-old orphan Ellie (Ramsey), who just may hold the key to a vaccine, to a western outpost in return for all the traveling supplies they need.

I don’t want to give away too much more of the story, as it deserves to be watched and experienced. But ‘The Last of Us’ isn’t only a story of an apocalypse and a teenage girl who may or may not hold the cure. It’s also the story of mankind coming apart at the seams and the challenges of building a new and lasting society from the ashes.

But the real story is that of a father-daughter relationship forged between a teenage girl and world-weary man who have been thrust together by their circumstances and not by their blood. Somehow that makes their bond even greater.

Pascal and Ramsey play brilliantly off each other, as we see the connection between them grow. These are great characters and performances separately, but when they’re together, that’s when ‘The Last of Us’ becomes truly memorable.

The supporting cast and stories are also terrific, including a brilliant episode starring Nick Offerman as Bill, and Murray Bartlett as Frank. This episode explores the idea of how beauty can still exist in this catastrophic world, and becomes one of the most beautiful and poignant episodes of television I’ve seen in a long time.

Created by the video game’s director Neil Druckmann, and ‘Chernobyl’ writer Craig Mazin, it will be the video game adaptation that all others will be measured by. ‘The Last of Us’ is a truly great piece of television.

‘The Last of Us’ has been renewed for a second season and is available to stream on MAX.

Bill Cushing

If you have any questions about TV, you can email me at BillsTVTalk@gmail.com. I will answer all of your questions and will feature some of the questions I receive in a future Mailbag column. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @BillsTVTalk and on Facebook at BillsTVTalk for daily up-to-the-minute TV news and discussion.◊