Did The Last of Us HBO Series Have Enough Action and Horror?

The Last of Us Season 1 is now over and needless to say, a lot of viewers are still processing (if not grappling with what happened in the show. (MAJOR SPOILERS FOLLOW) The Last of Us Episode 9 saw Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) reach their appointed goal of Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Fireflies doctors who can finally discern how to turn Ellie's immunity into a cure. However, the price of Ellie's life was one too high to pay for Joel, and the final showdown of the season turned out to be a human-vs-human battle, with Joel slaughtering the Fireflies and their leader Marlene (Merle Dandridge). 

While The Last of Us Finale was certainly a source of controversy (for those who didn't know about the game), it was also final confirmation that the TV version would not have any more sequences of Cordyceps infected going on the rampage. And for some fans, that was definitely a disappointing discovery. So let's discuss: 

Did The Last of Us HBO Series Have Enough Action & Horror? 


On the one hand, it's been made clear since the beginning that The Last of Us is NOT a zombie-horror show and/or an apocalyptic survival show, like The Walking Dead. The word "zombie" isn't even used anywhere near the show. The Last of Us is and always has been an intense character study, woven with a thematic exploration of the circular impact of violence, grief, and loss. And, to that end, The Last of Us TV series delivered that – especially in "bottle episodes" like the story of Bill & Frank, or Ellie's final night with Riley from the gaming DLC. The Last of Us arguably nailed character development and thematic complexity as well as any HBO prestige series has – and definitely leagues beyond just about any other video game adaptation before it. 

On the other hand, The Last of Us HBO Series was a TV series, with all fair expectations that a TV show will offer entertainment and thrills through action and spectacle. In that sense, it's fair to argue that The Last of Us HBO series fell a little short. 

The Last of Us TV series pretty much leaves the infected behind after Episode 5's massive setpiece with the battle against a horde of infected, and one big daddy Bloater. That's definitely a long time (4 episodes) to go without another episode or even sequence where the infected are a major threat – almost half the series. And while some may argue it wasn't something that needed to be arbitrarily added to the show just for the sake of beefing up the action/horror quotient, there's another argument to be made about why more scenes of Joel and Ellie fighting the infected were essential to the story.

One of the good things about The Last of Us game, especially in the latter half, is that the gaming elements (having to sneak through and/or fight through hordes of infected) were also tied to the story and character development more so than most games. Ellie and Joel's bond and care for one another, as well as developing Ellie's experience and comfort with violence, gunplay, and fighting. This was key in helping players see how Ellie and Joel are linked by their respective propensities for violence – a key difference in separating Ellie from the image of Joel's dead daughter, Sarah. 


That's subject matter and character development that was arguably important enough for its own bottle episode – one that saw Joel and Ellie working together to overcome any one of the major set pieces in the game, which involved getting through buildings or terrain where mobs of infected attack, and Joel and Ellie have to work together to defeat them. Instead, the 9-episode count of The Last of Us Season 1 speaks to another truncated season of TV in the post-COVID era. 

As fans of The Last of Us: Part 2 video game know all too well, nailing down the foundations of how Ellie is a killer and a survivor are paramount to helping to convey where the story goes next. Showing her cutting her chops fighting a few more Clickers, or outwitting a Bloater, would've been the perfect icing on top of everything The Last of Us TV series was able to do. The infected were also teased to be much more of a factor early on, as The Last of Us TV series invested key expansive scenes to explaining the origins of the Cordyceps Infection, and adding key differences from the game in terms of how it functions (hive mind). It was fair for viewers to expect that buildup was leading to a bigger sort of payoff in the back half of the season. 

Do you feel The Last of Us HBO Series had enough of the horror-action elements of the games, or was more needed? Let us know in the comments! 

You can stream The Last of Us Season 1 on HBO Max.