Connection within infection

“The Last of Us”: a unique depiction of the human experience


Graphic by Tiger Times Staff.

“The Last of Us”: a unique depiction of the human experience.

Lainey Akins, Reporter

    The new show ‘The Last of Us’ aired its season finale on March 12. It is set in apocalyptic times after a fungal outbreak created a multitude of different types of zombies that the show calls ‘the infected’. The show is based off of ‘The Last of Us’ videogame, although the actors were encouraged to bring their own interpretations into the mix. This show is unique in its ability to show raw human connection in the after-effects of the outbreak. The show follows 14-year-old character, Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey), and her newfound guardian, Joel (played by Pedro Pascal). The show does an excellent job of portraying these characters’ growing bond throughout the show. 

    The first two episodes begin to build up the central characters, while also giving the audience context on the apocalyptic outbreak. When shows build up suspense, they often fail to bring a sense of realness into it. This leaves the viewer saying, “Okay, but this can not happen to us.” However, ‘The Last of Us’ begins the series with a news broadcast that explains the real possibility of a ‘zombie outbreak’. The broadcast describes a fungi that is able to infect an ant’s brain, and control its body. This leaves the ant a prisoner in its own body. The broadcast ended with a quote saying, “One gene mutates and…any one of these [fungi] could become capable of burrowing into our brains and taking control of not millions of us, but billions of us.” This news broadcast, although only three minutes in length, does something that many other “zombie shows” fail to do. It brings the realness and possibility of a zombie outbreak into the viewer’s mind. 

    Episode three centers around a flashback of two men, Bill and Frank, who fell in love at the start of the outbreak. The majority of the episode allows the viewer to follow this couple’s life during the apocalypse, showing daily occurrences such as picking strawberries together in their garden. The montage ends with the couple old and gray, as they choose to die together, in a heartbreaking ending. Ellie and Joel eventually retrieve a car part from the house of this couple in the future, which ties the montage back to the main characters. Some viewers may argue that this short love story was unnecessary because it did not contribute to the plot. However, this is what makes ‘The Last of Us’ so special. Instead of just throwing action at the viewer, it dives into the human connection and love that perseveres even through a zombie apocalypse. This deviation also allows the viewer to see other perspectives of life during the outbreak, and shows that the characters can still live happy lives even in the midst of the chaos. 

    The story continues back with Ellie and Joel fighting their way through the zombies and conflicts they encounter. In episode five, they meet new characters on their journey, a little boy named Sam, and his older brother, Henry. Sam and Ellie become fast friends, and yet again the audience gets to see another unique, human connection during the apocalypse. The show also explores the brothers’ love for each other, and their experience so far. This episode also delves into the political groups that arose due to the apocalypse, and highlights the notion that there truly is no “good” or “evil”, by showing Henry’s encounter with one of the groups and both perspectives. While many zombie shows focus on the ‘good people’ vs the ‘bad zombies’, ‘The Last of Us’ has much more complex conflicts. The end of this episode is also heartbreaking and shows the true realities of an apocalypse. 

    In a later episode, we get a look into Ellie’s past from before she began her journey with Joel, and get introduced to Riley (played by Storm Reid). The episode shows Ellie and Riley hanging out at an abandoned mall, doing things such as playing in the arcade and posing in the photo booth. Ellie has a crush on Riley and the viewer later finds out that the crush is mutual. ‘The Last of Us’ shows the human experience and how while different during an apocalypse, many aspects remain the same. This is shown through the teenagers’ hesitance and shyness that comes with any crush, even during an apocalypse. 

    Much of the show’s appeal is how they portray these human experiences and connections during the apocalypse. In an article done by ‘The GW Hatchet’, the author states that, “‘The Last Us’  illustrates the depth of human relationships – whether it be romantic, fraternal or father-daughter-like – in a way that prompts audiences to find themselves attached to characters like Ellie, Bill or Joel.” While the show is not as jam-packed with action scenes as other “zombie shows”, it provides the audience with something much more heartfelt. The series demonstrates the universal human experience – one filled with both love and sadness, which allows the audience to truly connect and empathize with the characters.