HBO Max’s The Last Of Us: The Very Real Possibility Of A Zombie Apocalypse

By: Macy Newman

A rapidly spreading sickness. Mass hysteria. A global pandemic. Sound familiar? 

HBO Max’s “The Last Of Us” follows Joel Miller, a hardened survivor of a global pandemic that destroys civilization, as he takes charge of Ellie Williams, a 14-year-old girl who may be humanity’s last hope as she seems to be the first person known to be immune to the disease that took over mankind. 

What makes the show so uniquely precarious is the nature of the global pandemic that the story revolves around. The fungus that the pandemic is based upon is an already existing Cordyceps fungus that mainly affects insects as it drains its host completely of nutrients before filling its body with spores that will let the fungus reproduce. The fungus then leads its host to expel these spores, infecting other nearby insects in the process. 

Especially in a world that has just lived through the global pandemic that was COVID-19, the opening scene of the show leaves watchers deeply unsettled as a television interview, taking place in 1968, teases the very real possibility of this fungus being able to mutate into a form that would be able to infect humans. 

“Currently there are no reasons for fungi to evolve to be able to withstand high temperatures,” the scientist in the scene, Dr. Neuman, points out, “…but what if that were to change? What if, for instance, the world were to get slightly warmer?”  

It’s within these first few minutes that the viewers’ stomachs drop, and the tone for the rest of the series is set. “So if that happens?,” the interviewer shakes as he addresses Dr. Neuman, who responds chillingly with a simple, “We lose.” Mere seconds later we are flashed forward to a beautiful September day in 2003, where we see this scientist’s hypothesis come to life. 

The Cordyceps fungus has mutated to be able to infect humans, turning them into aggressive creatures, whose only goal is to spread the fungus to all of humanity at all costs. In the middle of the chaos stands Joel Miller, whose life would forever be changed. Watchers click off their television after the nearly hour long episode and are left unexplainably rattled. 

The main plot line of the show takes place twenty years after this horrid day, which is where we meet our other main protagonist, Ellie Williams. The series mainly revolves around Ellie and Joel, but does a wonderful job at incorporating other, very meaningful, side characters, and does an even better job at getting the viewers to become notably attached to these characters themselves without pulling focus from Ellie and Joel’s centralized story. 

Whether that’s Bill and Frank, a couple consisting of a survivalist and an inexperienced traveler who happen to bump into each other, in episode three, or Henry and Sam, two brothers who are just trying make their way through a corruptly run city, in episode five, these side characters are what truly make “The Last Of Us” one of the most well-rounded shows out there today. 

Another testament to the series’ incredible authenticity is that throughout the show, rather than the stories of the great and powerful, the stories of ordinary, day-to-day, people who are just simply trying to make it through the giant mess of a situation that they are presented with are told. This makes the series all the more relatable, and allows the viewers to imagine what they themselves would do if they were placed in a post-apocalyptic society. 

To add on to the growing list of mentionable aspects that exist within the show is the chemistry between Pedro Pascal, who plays Joel, and Bella Ramsey, who plays Ellie. Their playful father and daughter like banter is truly one of the most enjoyable facets of “The Last Of Us” and provides for the perfect amount of comic relief, considering the dark and eerie context of the show itself. Not only do they deliver during the humorous and light-hearted moments, they also are able to convey some of the deepest emotions by just simply glancing at one another. Their eyes are swimming in constant states of emotion, and they are consistently connecting with one another through their characters’ less-than-amiable backstories, which are thoroughly explored throughout multiple different episodes of the show. 

As of writing this article, seven out of the nine episodes of season one are currently streaming on HBO Max, with episodes coming out every Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. As each episode drops, the viewership statistics rise by nearly a million watchers, week after week. The amount of traction that the show has gained since it’s release speaks volumes, especially since it is evident that the viewers that are drawn to the show through social media and the internet are staying, eager and ready to see the new episodes of the weeks to come. 

To anyone planning on joining Joel and Ellie as they venture through the zombie apocalypse that is the Cordyceps fungus, make sure you always have your supply of tissues on hand. Trust me, you’ll need them. 

Photo from @thelastofus on Instagram







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