TV Series

The Last of Us

War against Fungi

By Maleeha Faisal Siddiqui | May 2023

Starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, ‘The Last of Us’ is HBO’s live action adaptation of the video game. On the face of it, the show tells the story of yet another zombie apocalypse, making one question, how much dystopia, is too much dystopia?

But ten minutes into the first episode, all the aforementioned reservations go down the drain. The plot opens in the 1960s and we are introduced to two epidemiologists being interviewed on live TV. This is a hauntingly beautiful scene, performed masterfully by actor John Hannah. Hannah, as Dr. Newman begins to explain to the host of the show why, to him, fungus is a bigger threat to humanity than any other microbe. It is a haunting picture he paints as he goes on to explain how mankind has always won the war with viruses but fungus is the danger we should all be worried about. This is how the first episode opens with a devastating picture of what the future could hold for humanity.

Living in times of COVID, the viewer is forced to relive the disturbing reality and acknowledge the truth to this man’s words. By this time, the show has done a brilliant job at pulling you in for the long haul and you are too keen to watch what the rest of the episode has in store.

The story moves forward to 2003 and we are introduced to Joel Miller, his daughter Sarah and brother Tommy. Joel and Tommy are both contractors. The Millers’ escape from their fungi-infected neighbourhood in their truck is an outstanding frame by frame adaptation of what it’s like playing the video game. What makes this show standout is the stirring picture it paints of humanity in times of crisis, since when all hell breaks loose, the value of human life is not a matter of empathy, or compassion. It is measured in terms of risk, numbers and ratios.

It may be a little disturbing to some viewers to grasp the gruesome nature of fungus, The Last of Us is not a show that should be missed. It is an extraordinary story of survival, love, hope, friendship and a striking study of humanity. The attention to detail is immaculate. The cinematography is breath-taking, with every frame structured so beautifully, you can almost forget the wreckage. The show wins the heart with the songs that serve as code worked out by Frank and Tess. Songs from the 1960s mean they haven’t received new stuff, 1970s mean there’s new stock, and 1980s songs mean trouble. We see Joel’s panic when Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go by Wham plays on the radio at the end of episode one.

Music is an important theme throughout the show. We see Bill and Frank fall in love with Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time”. It is devastatingly gorgeous and brilliantly juxtaposed as it just goes to show how carefully the entire story is handled. With a season finale bound to leave you questioning your own morality, one cannot wait for the sequel.