Pedro Pascal - Joel and Bella Ramsay - Ellie Photo accredited to HBO

This despairingly moving drama set in the midst of a pandemic is a phenomenal blend of horror and heart and feels all too close to home.

The Last of Us holds a special place in many gamers’ hearts as arguably one of the most cinematic games ever made. Players find themselves playing each chapter to reach a cutscene. The games provide more than a visual blueprint, they are harrowing to the bone and emotive to the breaking point. So, for those die-hard fans it is a comfort that the game’s essence is preserved like a jar of lemons.

Make no mistake, the show is not frame-for-frame with the game and those not acquainted should feel confident entering this world. Showrunner Craig Marzin – most notably known for his work on Chernobyl – adds some narrative wrinkles to the thread.

These instances of originality add a welcome element of real-world context. For example, the pilot opens with a flashback to a 1968 talk show with two guest epidemiologists discussing the downfalls of humankind – ‘Just to be clear you do think micro-organisms pose a threat?’ / ‘oh, in the most dire terms’ – Bacteria? No. Fungi. What if the threat to human existence wasn’t a virus, plague, or flu, but a parasitic fungus that uses global warming to evolve and switch hosts from ants to humans. That is the chilling premise of The Last of Us.

The show transitions to 2003 where we are introduced to Joel, a Texan construction worker and only father to quick witted Sarah played by Nico Parker. Whilst on the surface, this is a horror tale set in a post-apocalyptic world. The Last of Us is really about relationships. It comes as no surprise that Pedro Pascal plays the gruff and grumpy Joel perfectly – as he does in all portrayals from the Mandalorian to Oberyn Martell in HBO’s Game of Thrones – but what is most striking is how similar his voice and physicality are to the original source material.

The show adopts a similar 20-year time jump to the original game. A more hardened Joel finds himself accompanying Nottingham’s Bella Ramsey who shines as Ellie, the 14-year-old survivor. She is funny, sullen, and sharp. Despite not having the same uncanny physical appearances Pascal has with Joel, her portrayal is authentic to the core.

The Last of Us is violent, brutal, cloying, and maudlin. It depicts people at their very worst, fighting for survival and at times being more terrifying than the zombie-like contaminants. Yet it manages to find compassion in the ruin and makes it worth the heartache. With varying degrees of horror, the first episode ‘When You’re Lost in The Darkness’ does a superb job of setting the tone, it infests the brain and refuses to leave, keeping you up at night with both fear and hope.