Well folks, we’re finally here. After nine episodes, we've reached the conclusion of HBO’s retelling of The Last of Us . And now that we've wrapped this story up yet again we're feeling a little… conflicted.
After last week's run-in with a very hungry group of survivors, Joel and Ellie make their way to the hospital to complete their journey to the Fireflies. However, emotions are flying high as the duo consider what's next for them.
As we've gone on, reviewing this series has become increasingly difficult. We opened so strongly that we were sure that this was the beginning of one of the best video game adaptations of all time. It was bold, it captured the spirit of the source material, and it expanded in ways that kept things fresh for those that played the game. Yet as we moved from one iconic scene to the next, it all felt like diminishing returns. Those bold changes suddenly made way for middling ones that neither added anything to the world nor had the same emotional impact. This became especially prevalent as we got into the meatier and more disturbing moments from the series, which for the most part felt hollowed out.
This line of thought continued all the way through episode nine's anaemic 43 minutes. We were painfully aware of all that we had to get through, yet still the show managed to divert from the main story to introduce new aspects. We're certain some fans of the game will be glad to see areas within The Last of Us lore filled out, but we just felt it was taking away from the main story — especially with the limited runtime.
However, on the surface, episode nine is stacked full of heartwarming moments between its central duo. There's a palpable nervousness there as neither are sure what their relationship looks like when they don't need to be with each other. While we felt that the big moments didn't land quite so much, there's a tangible sense of love between Ramsey's Ellie and Pascal's Joel, and infamous scenes recreated for live action bring that love front and centre. There are some changes in there that we reckon will divide the fanbase, and while we won't get into them here, we felt they detracted from the ambiguity of the original that made the world and its characters so intriguing all those years ago. Yet at the same time, it allowed narrative strands introduced earlier in the season to come full circle whilst tying into the development of Joel and Ellie's relationship.
As we coasted to the story's conclusion, we were happy to see that creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann didn't tone down the brutality of its climax. The concluding minutes of the first season are about as faithful as you can get, with near identical shots, editing, and pacing. Despite this, it all felt like a somewhat muted version that severely lacked the emotional gut-punch of the original.
As much as we wanted to be won over by this adaptation, come the credits we felt very unfazed by it all — a shoulder shrug wouldn't have been out of place. More than anything, though, it was a reminder of how powerful a storytelling tool gameplay can be. Episode nine may look and sound like a shot-for-shot remake, but the brisk montages and trimmed back edits across the series undercut the emotional foundation of the story, ultimately making the whole thing feel a bit shallow. It'll no doubt be a great intro to the world and characters for newcomers, but for fans of the game, this finale highlighted that the show is nothing more than a highlight reel of your favourite story.
For more information about The Last of Us HBO, our Full Cast List provides more details about the actors and characters. Let us know your thoughts on this episode in the comments section below, and rate it in our latest Poll .