The new HBO/HBO Max series “The Last Of Us” is the first post-apocalyptic drama of the new year, but it is unlikely to be the last.
Call it a sign of the times. As far as TV is concerned, the times call for dramas depicting our planet after world-destroying cataclysmic events that many are imagining now such as wars, the consequences of climate change and pandemics deadly to millions and, in some cases, billions.
“The Last of Us” is one of the latter. It depicts the condition of a world gone haywire 20 years after a fungus-borne illness infects human beings in all four corners of the world.
The year of the outbreak is 2003, which puts the show’s present-day time frame in 2023 -- an apocalypse right now.
Episode One of “The Last of Us” actually starts with a brief scene in 1968. It’s a talk show in which two scientists are being interviewed because of their research into the potential for newly mutated disease strains growing strong enough to decimate the Earth’s population.
One of the scientists believes such a pandemic to be possible given a unique circumstance -- namely, the incubation of the virus or bacteria in the context of the gradual warming of the globe.
Thus, the show sets the stage for the present day, in which all of us have been experiencing a pandemic (although not a cataclysmic one) and many are worried about global warming.
The show then travels forward to 2003 and the outbreak of the pandemic, which very quickly kills millions in horrible ways and leads to the complete breakdown of society.
In “The Last of Us,” the main characters at the outset are a man and his daughter (Pedro Pascal and Nico Parker, pictured above) and the girl’s uncle, who live in a Boston suburb.
In the premiere, they are seen making a desperate attempt to escape from the swift-moving scourge in a pickup truck, but at every turn they encounter either roadblocks or ordinary people running amok.
The show then shifts to 2023, where survivors of the pandemic are seen living and working in safe zones separated from the outside world with huge walls and gun turrets.
The authoritarian state in which they live, under the watchful eyes of heavily armed guards and police, is reminiscent of the Warsaw Ghetto of World War II, a parallel that one assumes is being made on purpose.
The intensity of “The Last of Us” is not to be believed. And that is a compliment. It is a high-quality, high-octane, edge-of-your-seat action thriller that never lets up, at least in the first hour-and-20-minute episode previewed by the TV Blog.
TV dramatizations depicting a variety of end-of-the-world scenarios have been numerous in the last few years, many of them predating the Covid-19 pandemic that changed our world in 2020.
The ones reviewed here in the TV Blog have been about pandemics, technology run amok and the future colonization of the moon and planets far, far away.
“The Last of Us” premieres Sunday night (January 15) at 9 Eastern on HBO, and also streaming on HBO Max.