When The Strolling Lifeless debuted on AMC in 2010, it was a revelation: a high-octane thriller set throughout a zombie apocalypse that was grimmer and gorier than something we’d ever seen on TV. However after eleven seasons, a number of spinoffs and numerous knockoffs, all the zombie style began to really feel prefer it was on its final undead legs. Because of HBO’s new collection The Final of Us, although, it’s exhibiting shocking indicators of life. Masterfully tense and deeply emotional, The Final of Us (debuting this Sunday at 9/8c; I’ve seen the primary three episodes) delivers all of the nail-biting motion we anticipate from the style, however makes positive to floor it in genuine human emotion, too.
Primarily based on the acclaimed online game, The Final of Us takes its candy time organising the pre-apocalypse world within the premiere, with The Mandalorian‘s Pedro Pascal starring as Joel, a single dad dwelling along with his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) in Texas. Life appears regular and peaceable sufficient, however we discover fleeting hints of hazard right here and there within the background — after which unexpectedly, the world is ending. The offender is a mind-altering fungal an infection that quickly turns unsuspecting people into howling zombies referred to as “the contaminated” which can be frighteningly quick and agile. (These aren’t the limping, lurching zombies we’re used to seeing.) The premiere’s first thirty minutes are a riveting, horrifying set-up, establishing a sturdy emotional basis for the remainder of the collection.
Twenty years later, Joel resides in a closely fortified quarantine zone when he’s tasked with escorting a teen lady named Ellie (performed by Recreation of Thrones alum Bella Ramsey) throughout the zombie wasteland… and she or he’s useful cargo, for some mysterious purpose. Pascal and Ramsey instantly have a powerful, spiky dynamic as the 2 reluctant journey companions, and the horrors they face collectively are very actual. The zombies listed here are vividly grotesque — the panorama is plagued by fungally contaminated corpses, with mushrooms rising out of the eyes, ears and mouths — and extremely deadly, too.
What follows is a bleak, moody mashup of The Strolling Lifeless and Pascal’s The Mandalorian. (Right here he’s, ferrying a gifted youngster by means of harmful terrain once more.) Emmy-winning author Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) adapts the collection with a eager eye for human conduct and laces his scripts with chilling parallels to our pandemic occasions. Whereas the early episodes can get exposition-heavy, the motion scenes act like jolts of pure adrenaline: each breathlessly tense and gruelingly intense. This present doesn’t enjoy blood and guts like The Strolling Lifeless, although; it prefers to slowly construct suspense and let our imaginations run wild.
The Final of Us treads acquainted territory at occasions — it virtually can’t assist it, because of the sheer explosion in zombie content material over the previous decade — however there’s an class right here, a melancholy magnificence that units it aside. (The hollowed-out cities with deserted skyscrapers overgrown with wild vegetation are simply so gorgeously unhappy.) The third episode, specifically, is a tiny jewel, dramatizing a standoff between a paranoid survivalist performed by Nick Offerman and a wayward traveler performed by Murray Bartlett. Their story is a giant detour and takes some surprising turns, but it surely works fantastically, underlining how important the human factor is to a present like this.
Actually, The Final of Us isn’t for everybody: It requires a powerful abdomen, for one factor. (I can’t think about binge-watching multiple episode at a time.) However for many who are up for it, it’s a extremely compelling and artfully crafted step ahead for the zombie style — and for tv on the whole.
THE TVLINE BOTTOM LINE: HBO’s The Final of Us revitalizes the zombie style with gruelingly intense motion and deeply humane storytelling.