This TV series is based on a computer game. This is usually not the best idea but this time it actually works well. It's an advantage to find a game with a great story and this one is not bad. I haven't played the game yet (I have pre-ordered the upcoming PC release that should be out later this month) but I have read quite a bit about the game including comparisons between the episodes and the game.
The show takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where most of the human race has been killed or changed into zombie like beings that are controlled by a fungus infection. Much like fungus can overtake ant brains and then control the ants.
The few remaining human survivors are living in militarized Quarantine Zones or in remote isolated locations. In this world our story follows the uneven pair of seasoned survivalist Joel (Pedro Pascal) and his side-kick Ellie (Bella Ramsey). We learn that Ellie is immune to the infection making her a very valuable person. Joel is tasked with bringing Ellie to a medical facility where they can use Ellie's immunity to try and create a cure.
They go on a dangerous journey to get from Boston QZ to the medical facility. Along the way they encounter a lot of dangers and get to know each other much better and learn to trust and depend on each other. They must survive the Infected (zombies), hostile rebel groups, cannibals and much more. Both Joel and Ellie have done questionable things in the past and it soon becomes clear that you only survive in this brutal world if you are willing to do whatever it takes to survive.
The first 2 episodes are great. There are lots of backstory establishing what the fungus infection is and how it all began. We meet Joel's daughter Sarah and we also meet his partner Tess. In the first 2 episodes there are some super cool scenes when the Infected attack. All in all a brilliant start for the show.
Just when you thought this could be awesome you bump into Episode 3. It is with a runtime of 1h15 the longest episode and it does absolutely nothing to bring the story forward. It is a story about 2 gay men living in an isolated location. What the hell were the writers thinking when they decided to waste a super long episode on absolutely nothing of value for the story? I have read that Bill is also nothing like he is in the game where he is a grumpy old man. It is said to be a really cool part of the game but it is impossible not to fall asleep to this episode.
The next few episodes are better. We get to meet a rebel group in Kansas City. Their leader is named Kathleen and sadly the actress Melanie Lynskey is totally miscast. It is impossible to find her believable as a leader that the rest of the rebels would follow. Joel and Ellie team up with 2 brothers and here is another problem. One of the brothers is deaf and it is super annoying wasting all this time on sign communication. Nothing really happens for a very long time until all hell breaks lose. Finally we get to see a super-Infected known as a Bloater. Sadly we only see it for 20 seconds which is rather disappointing considering how much that zombie suit is said to have cost.
More time wasting is next. Joel's brother Tommy is now living in a commie settlement. It is nothing but super boring. Ellie also has a flashback to Boston QZ. She was visiting a closed Mall with her girlfriend Riley. It is not a bad episode but it sadly needs more action and more Infected. Something that can be said for the entire show. You almost forget that the Infected are a threat when you rarely see them.
The last 2 episodes are among the best. Scott Shepherd is great as the creepy David who may seem friendly at first but is anything but that. In the last episode Joel and Ellie finally reach their destination but of course nothing goes as planned. The ending is quite open. Joel has to feed Ellie a big lie to protect her from feeling guilty and we'll probably hear more about that in Season 2 as the show has already been renewed.
Since I haven't played the game, I don't have any problems with how Joel and Ellie were portrayed on the show. I think both Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey did a good job. Their chemistry is fine and the way their relationship develops is believable.
Not Great, Not Terrible. I wish I could be as positive overall as some of the critics have been but there is simply not enough Infected, not enough action and too much time-wasting along the way. It began really well, then it struggled badly at snail's pace, and then it bounced back to top form in the last 2 episodes. All in all it was an acceptable game adaption but it could have been much better. I'm not sure what to expect from Season 2. Well, in fact I am, as I just read the Game storyline on Wikipedia. I'm not so sure it will be so super great, but time will tell.
You know what game also needs a TV show adaption? Half-Life 2. It had a killer story that we sadly never got the ending to, after the last expansion pack ended with a massive cliff-hanger. Get it done!