Day 6·Q&A

HBO's The Last Of Us satisfies cravings of new fans and video game die-hards: critic

This week marks the premiere of HBO's latest blockbuster drama The Last Of Us, and the streamer is hopeful it will be their next big hit. And for fans of the original 2013 game, which already was a success, there's a lot riding on this release. 

Entertainment critic Nick Schager weighs in on if the series is faithful to its gaming roots

A still released by HBO shows what was the first-look at the network's adaptation of The Last of Us. (Naughty Dog/HBO)

HBO's latest blockbuster drama The Last of Us is "intensely faithful" to the video game, according to entertainment critic Nick Schlager.

The Daily Beast writer says he'd be shocked if fans of the game don't equally enjoy the television adaptation.

The Last of Us is part of a broader trend in the TV industry— turning to video games as source material.

Sunday marks the premiere of the series, and the streamer is hopeful it will be their next big hit. And for fans of the original 2013 game, which already was a success, there's high expectations on this release. 

The show stars Pedro Pascal of The Mandalorian and Bella Ramsey of Game of Thrones.

The big budget production was shot in Alberta in 2021 and 2022 — including parts of Calgary, Edmonton and smaller communities in the province.

Anna Torv and Pedro Pascal shine flashlights in season 1, episode 1 of HBO's The Last of Us.
Actors Anna Torv (left) and Pedro Pascal are shown in season 1, episode 1 of HBO's The Last of Us. (Liane Hentscher/HBO/WarnerMedia)

Schager says the show succeeds at translating the game into prestige TV.

"I think that all the coverage has been very clear that this show is very faithful to the game," said Schager. "I think certainly gamers are going to have an expectation, given how big the finale was of the game, and are going to be able to infer that things aren't deviating."

Schager spoke with Day 6 host Brent Bambury after watching the series. Here's part of that conversation.

A lot of people are talking about the congruence between the game and the TV series. Set up the storyline for us. What's the basic premise? 

The Last of Us was a 2013 PlayStation title, and its story is sort of like a cross between The Walking Dead and Cormac McCarthy's The Road

It is the story of a post-apocalyptic America that's fallen apart due to a fungal infection that has infected most of humanity and turned them into zombie-like creatures. 

The survivors are navigating this sort of burned-out America in the burned-out world. The story starts in Boston, and it concerns two characters, an adult character and a child character. The adult is a man named Joel. The girl is a girl named Ellie. 

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Joel, through a series of events, winds up being tasked with taking Ellie across much of the country to a distant base run by rebels, where they are hoping that Ellie will play some big part in helping to potentially solve this post-apocalyptic crisis that the country is in. 

And so really, it's the story of these two characters, both of whom are sort of struggling with their own personal issues, forming a bond while also fending off all sorts of opponents. Not just inhuman infected people, but also lots of raiders and other sorts of nefarious humans who are running wild in this unlawful land.

I think this is both the best video game adaptation ever, but it's also in part the most faithful game adaptation ever.- Nick Schager, The Daily Beast

There's an intense relationship between Joel and Ellie, but there's also this quest narrative. And then all of these elements that come in that are potentially fatal in the different kinds of zombies that they meet. Does all that translate to a television show? 

The television show is co-created and run by two people. One is Craig Mazin, who created HBO's Chernobyl, and the other one is Neil Druckmann, who is the creator and writer of The Last of Us video Game. 

And that leads to a television series that is intensely faithful to the game. I think this is both the best video game adaptation ever, but it's also in part the most faithful game adaptation ever. Then you throw in lots of Easter eggs [for] diehard fans.

Will that be disconcerting for people who don't play video games? Is it going to be odd if you're not experienced in that world of gaming? 

What's lucky for The Last of Us is even though it definitely has all these gameplay elements, it was obviously an interactive title. It was very much a narrative driven, dramatic work that lends itself very easily from a narrative position or point of view, to a translation, to an adaptation. 

What really has happened is we have a fleshed out version of the show where there aren't the same interactive elements, but the drama is almost deepened. 

I think the people who have played the games are going to be thrilled by how accurate this adaptation is, but I think that newbies are going to come into it and really not realize that for long stretches that this was never a video game because it really is a character focused piece more than it is a straight forward action extravaganza or horror title. 

A scene from the critically acclaimed video game The Last of Us, which is set in a post-apocalyptic world and focuses on Joel, a hardened survivor hired to smuggle teenager Ellie out of an 'oppressive quarantine zone.' (Naughty Dog/Sony Computer Entertainment America/Associated Press)

The video game is a contained narrative. There is an ending and people who play the game will know what the ending is. But what about the TV series? Is it a limited series? Will it last beyond this season? 

The Last of Us does have a sequel. Part two you can also get on PlayStation. 

I do think there is a limited shelf life here. We're not talking about eight seasons. We're not talking about a Game of Thrones style epic. This is not going to just be one season, even though this first season sticks very closely to the original game. 

I think that will be something that fans both really want to see and will be happy to see is handled in a sort of faithful fashion. 

Do you think this TV show could be a game changer in the world of adaptation of video games being more successful, being more faithful to the material and still managing to make a television show that has quality? 

I think that it's going to stand out for sure as a cut above [the rest]. But when it comes to video game adaptations, the real key is the source material itself. 

The Last of Us is really lucky in that it has distinctive, dramatic scenarios, a real plot with real moral stakes and real deep themes running through it and real characters. That makes it a natural fit for something like an HBO drama. 

Nick, I think I know what you're going to say here, but should [people] watch it?

I definitely think you should check it out when it premieres this weekend. I think it's going to be HBO's next big hit. And definitely, if you're a fan of games, this is one you can't miss. 

Radio segment produced by Annie Bender. With files from Joel Dryden. Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.


Bob Becken


Bob Becken is a producer for CBC Radio’s Digital team. Previously, he was an executive producer with CBC Windsor, and held broadcast and digital news director duties with Bell Media and Blackburn Media. Bob and the teams he has worked with have won several Radio Television Digital News Association awards, including five with CBC Windsor from 2019 to 2020. He also taught digital journalism at the University of Windsor. You can reach him at