The Last of Us

The Last of Us season 1

Credits

Cast

Network

Reviewer

Kennedy Unthank

TV Series Review

It’s not viruses that scare Dr. Neuman. It’s fungus.

“Fungi seem harmless enough,” Neuman says. “Many species know otherwise. Because there are some fungi who seek not to kill, but to control…Viruses can make us ill, but fungi can alter our very minds.”

Of course, that’s certainly not a concern (Neuman tells us early on), since fungi cannot survive in any host whose body temperature is over 94 degrees. But, Neuman postulates, what if fungi evolved due to, say, the world getting slightly warmer? Well, then it could be a very real threat.

Like most warnings, that 1968 concern faded into oblivion after decades of security left the world complacent. Besides, who has time to worry about fungus? Certainly not Joel Miller in 2003, a single father of one from Austin, Texas. He’s much more concerned about getting his next paycheck.

The reports of rampant aggression in Jakarta are far enough removed that Joel and his daughter, Sarah, pay it little attention. But then Sarah starts to see frequent police cars zooming by. A shop suddenly closes early for the day, forcing her out.

And then her wheelchair-confined elderly neighbor, previously motionless, charges full sprint at her, with intent to kill in her eyes.

Mushroom Kingdom, Here We Come

To call The Last of Us a zombie apocalypse would be a bit misleading, since “zombie” brings to mind undead shambling corpses. No, in this world, anyone infected by the Cordyceps fungus is certainly still alive, as the parasitic fungal host can’t allow them to die. They also just might still be aware of their actions—just unable to control them. (Try not to think about that when you’re shooting at them.)

Because shoot them you can. The show is based on the popular Naughty Dog video game of the same name, and based on its premiere episode, it looks like it’s attempting to be faithful to its source material. That will include an apocalyptic cross-country journey with Joel and a different teen girl, Ellie—the latter who we quickly learn is immune to the infection.

And in a world filled full of fungi and bad guys alike, viewers shouldn’t be surprised if there’s a trail of blood and swear words that follows the duo on their journey.

Also, viewers should be aware that Ellie is canonically a lesbian, as The Last of Us’ DLC “Left Behind” and sequel inform us. Other LGBT characters will make appearances, too.

Those who’ve played the hit video game should know roughly what to expect from this show—provided it continues replicating the game’s plotlines. For those jumping straight into the deep end with the show, however, its fungal funk may be a bit too difficult to swallow.

Episode Reviews

Jan. 15, 2023 – S1, Ep1: “When You’re Lost in the Darkness”

Twenty years after the world crumbles to a devastating fungal infection, Joel, a smuggler, is tasked with safely bringing Ellie to an outpost outside the quarantine zone.

A woman convulses in the background of a scene. A man is found bleeding from a bite on his shoulder, and a woman is dead, her body being munched on by an infected woman. A “runner” charges at Joel’s daughter, Sarah, and it cracks its leg when it falls over. However, it stands back up, and Joel kills it by hitting it in the head with a wrench. Other infected people are hit by a car or shot. People fight in the street as a plane crashes to the ground. Other people are bitten by the infected. A soldier shoots a person, and we watch as they bleed out. The soldier is shot through the head.

A woman says people need to get right with Jesus: “Three nails, plus one cross, equals “four-given,” she says. We hear a reference to LSD. Sarah jokes that she sells hardcore drugs for money. We hear jokes about wearing diapers to counter incontinence.

Twenty years later, we see how the world has changed. An infected kid arrives at a quarantine zone, and the totalitarian FEDRA (the Federal Disaster Response Agency) euthanizes the child. Bodies are thrown into a fire, including the child’s. People are publicly hanged for leaving or entering the quarantine zone without authorization. An explosion set by a resistance group kills a couple people. We see other bodies, too. Ellie stabs a man, and Joel beats the man to death.

Joel smuggles drugs to a guard. He also drinks alcohol while taking pills. We hear a reference to getting intoxicated. A guard urinates on a wall. There’s a jump scare of a long-dead infected man, his body almost entirely overtaken by fungus.

The f-word is used more than 45 times, with “mother” preceding it in three instances. The s-word is heard more than 25 times. We also hear occasional uses of “a–,” “b–ch” and “h—.” Ellie makes a crude hand gesture. God’s name is abused six times, including twice in the form of “g-dd–n.” Jesus’ name is used in vain four times.

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kennedy-unthank
Kennedy Unthank

Though he was born in Kansas, Kennedy Unthank studied journalism at the University of Missouri. He knew he wanted to write for a living when he won a contest for “best fantasy story” while in the 4th grade. What he didn’t know at the time, however, was that he was the only person to submit a story. Regardless, the seed was planted. Kennedy collects and plays board games in his free time, and he loves to talk about biblical apologetics and hermeneutics. He doesn’t think the ending of Lost was “that bad.”

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