10 Ways The Last Of Us Episode 1 Exceeded Expectations

Pedro Pascal's Joel and Bella's Ellie in HBO's The Last Of Us


When The Last of Us was released on the PlayStation 3 in 2013, players quickly discovered its storytelling genius. It then gained serious traction and momentum. The Last of Us got remasters and remakes to keep up with the next generation consoles, and even got a sequel, but these all felt like cogs in the wheel. The franchise then headed toward a live-action adaptation.


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2023 started off with a bang by premiering The Last of Us on HBO, and the first episode did not disappoint. Fans of the games were naturally nervous in the build-up to the series’ release, given that video game adaptations don’t always go too well. Nevertheless, The Last of Us exceeded expectations.

Spoilers ahead for HBO’s The Last of Us Episode 1.

10 The First Episode Was A Faithful Adaptation To The Original Game

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Video game adaptations have garnered a bad reputation over the years, but the likes of Arcane and The Witcher have seemingly started a wave seeking to rectify that. Similarly, The Last of Us seems to be a faithful adaptation to the original material.

Episode 1 of The Last of Us stayed true to the important events at the very start of the game. Sarah was introduced and killed off, which shows the outbreak at its infancy, while other characters and concepts were also introduced. This was the perfect way to satisfy fans of the games while also showing non-game fans what’s to come.

9 There Were Enough Changes To Keep Game Fans Intrigued

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Sarah running her afternoon errands in HBO's The Last of Us.

While “When You’re Lost In The Darkness” has been recognized as a faithful adaptation from the game, there were still variations that added something for those who were already spoiled on certain plot points. The prologue was extended in the HBO series to give fans more time to grow attached to Sarah and Joel’s relationship, which helped make her death more tragic.

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Tess and Joel’s initial tribulations after the time jump include a man named Robert, but the series switched the weapons cache from the games to a car battery. Players of the games will pick up on these changes, but none of them are detrimental to the overall experience. In fact, they help to keep this adaptation faithful but fresh.

8 The Scientific Introduction Was The Perfect Way To Introduce The Impending Doom

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The Last of Us Opening Scene

A major difference between the game and the HBO show is how the Cordyceps infection and outbreak are introduced and explained. While the game gets straight into the Sarah prologue, the series added an interview from the 1960s. In the HBO show, Cordyceps fungus is a potential threat to humanity.

John Hannah appears as Dr. Neuman. He breaks the lighthearted nature of the interview to hammer home what could happen with a fungal outbreak of this nature. It is a perfect way to suck viewers into the show with words, context, and heaps of foreshadowing.

7 The Infected Were Introduced In A Violent And Horrifying Way

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Infected on wall in The Last of Us

Not only does the first episode of The Last of Us immediately introduce the idea of Cordyceps fungal infection, but it also shows the outbreak in action. The Last of Us is known for having its terrifying variants of “zombies,” and the Infected seem to have seamlessly transitioned to live-action.

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The shot of Nana seemingly changing in the background is a chilling moment in itself, but it’s the precursor to the show’s excellent execution of these Infected. These horrifying mutations will be highlighted in later episodes, but their introduction really helped to set the scene in the first episode.

6 There Is Nothing Quite Like The Realism Of Live Action

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Joel and Sarah in HBO's The Last of Us

The Last of Us became a popular video game franchise because of its storytelling, world-building, characters, and phenomenal performances, but sometimes, a live-action adaptation can’t be beaten. The visuals of the games were exceptional, but real landscapes, explosions, and actors help to make the whole experience feel more authentic.

Live-action adaptations of video games have garnered a negative reputation over the years, and it often comes down to poor direction or underwhelming execution. The Last of Us has provided an answer to this issue by getting Neil Druckmann to help recreate his vision from the games into the television series.

5 The Last Of Us Has Received A Quintessential HBO Opening Sequence

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>HBO's opening theme

The Last of Us series was always going to be given an opening credits sequence, but fans are impressed with the results. The opening has the classic HBO feel to it. The flow and cryptic exploration of the content is similar to the likes of Game of Thrones, House of the Dragon, and Westworld’s opening sequences.

As good as the visuals are, the opening isn’t what fans of the games are looking for. The soundtrack for the opening sequence is the same as it was in the game, with Gustavo Santaolalla’s awesome theme returning. This was a quick way to get the returning fans of The Last of Us on board with the new series, and it really has worked.

4 Pedro Pascal Has Already Proven He Is The Perfect Joel

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Joel standing in a crowd of people after the time jump in HBO's The Last of Us.

When The Last of Us television series was teased, it faced the natural scrutiny that any video game adaptation will face, mainly in its casting. Pedro Pascal has impressed fans in shows like Narcos and Game of Thrones, and more recently as the titular character in The Mandalorian. Still, no one thought that he would fit the bill as The Last of Us‘ Joel Miller.

In one episode of The Last of Us, Pedro Pascal proved any doubters wrong. Pascal expertly portrayed Joel’s serious demeanor, the pain he feels after Sarah’s death, and the way he takes his anger out on the world. Just as the video game model and Troy Baker’s voice are forever tied with Joel, so now is Pedro Pascal.

3 The Rest Of The Cast Has Also Been Chosen Well

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Marlene in HBO's The Last of Us

The Last of Us is already filled with great performances. John Hannah gave a captivating performance with Dr. Neuman’s early introduction while Nico Parker excelled in her heartbreaking portrayal of Sarah. After all the time jumps, Bella Ramsey showed why she was cast as Ellie, with Anna Torv proving she really is the perfect Tess.

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Merle Dandridge even returned to reprise her role as Marlene from the games. The casting for the characters in this first episode proved to be exceptional, immediately raising expectations for the rest of the series and its impending new reveals.

2 The Time Jumps Made Sense

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>The child walking towards Boston in 2023 in The Last Of Us

HBO’s The Last of Us immediately threw in two time jumps to act as its prologue, whereas the game only had one. The base years have also been changed in the show. In The Last of Us game, the events leading up to Sarah’s death are in 2013. The 20-year jump then goes to 2033, with subsequent jumps being in seasons.

However, the HBO series showed the interview with John Hannah’s Dr. Neuman in 1968 before leaping to Sarah’s story in 2003, rather than 2013. The next time jump took events to 2023, rather than 2033. These time jumps make sense and don’t feel at all forced. Having Joel and Tommy as the only characters to remain between the latter jump means that there are no jarring recasts.

1 A TV Adaptation Is Perfect For Generating Extra Tension And Drama

<!–[if IE 9]> <![endif]–>Joel and Tess stand over Ellie as Marlene proposes a deal in HBO's The Last of Us

When there were talks of The Last of Us getting a movie adaptation, fans were quick to question this approach, as it isn’t the correct format to tell this story in. The Last of Us is remembered for its exceptional storytelling, and the longevity of a television series makes the most sense. A TV series allows for every aspect to be explored.

However, fans couldn’t have seen how this format would generate so much extra tension, adding to what was already a very dramatic tale. Episode 1’s final moments, which showed the radio signifying trouble with its smuggling code, was the perfect way to end a tense episode. Fans eagerly await Episode 2.

NEXT: 15 Saddest Video Game Endings Ever, Ranked



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