Every episode of The Last of Us ranked from worst to best
| Last updated
Featured Image Credit: HBO
Here at GAMINGbible, I’m known for being the oracle on all things The Last of Us. As I’m sure you’re aware, HBO’s TV adaptation drew to a close several weeks ago and having now seen the series twice through, it’s time to drop my official ranking.
I have a sense that this may split opinion seeing as it already has within the GAMINGbible team, but I will happily defend my choices. Throughout The Last of Us’ nine episode run, I explored the way in which the series delved deeper into the game’s most intriguing themes - or how the show is a masterclass in bringing gameplay to life. I picked out its flaws, as well the aspects that trumped what we’d seen in the game. I feel as if I know this series inside and out so without further ado, if you’re looking for a bit of entertainment to tide you over until season two, allow me to count down through every episode of The Last of Us ranked from ‘worst’ to best.
The Last of Us Part I was recently launched on PC. Take a look at the game in action below.
9 - ‘Please Hold To My Hand’, Episode Four
I’ll preface this by saying that I don’t think there’s a single weak episode of The Last of Us. That being said, episode four may just be the most forgettable. The main issue with ‘Please Hold To My Hand’ is that it very much felt like a set-up to the excellent episode five. Joel and Ellie’s arrival in Kansas City did result in that impressive store shootout scene. Major props to actor Juan Magana who portrayed hunter Bryan - a gut-wrenching guest star appearance that I don’t think any of us are likely to forget. It was nice to finally see Ellie and Joel unwind around one another, and the episode’s introduction to Kathleen, Sam and Henry certainly wetted my appetite. All in all though, ‘Please Hold To My Hand’ spent most of its runtime setting the table.
8 - ‘Look For The Light’, Episode Nine
Season finales are tricky beasts. Why? Because we go into them with our expectations so high. In the age of ‘event TV’, season finales don’t just draw the story to a close. We’ve come to expect the shows we watch to go out on an all-time high. Having played the game countless times, I knew what was coming and I certainly think the hospital sequence was effective. Through Pedro Pascal’s performance, you saw Joel’s humanity completely switch off - instinct taking over. The tension between him and Bella Ramsey in that final scene was a great tease for season two and yet, I felt somewhat underwhelmed. After the episode, I expressed that one final infected encounter really would’ve enhanced the episode’s themes and those of the season overall - showing all that Ellie and Joel were willing to face and sacrifice to reach the fireflies, and what they eventually condemn humanity to because of Joel’s decision - and I continue to stand by that.
7 - ‘Left Behind’, Episode Seven
‘Left Behind’ is an interesting one. On first viewing, it was one of my favourites - perhaps because I was so excited to see Ellie and Riley’s relationship brought to life in live-action. On second viewing though, I noticed the instalment’s pacing issues. I watched the episode with people who were totally unfamiliar with the game and while the hour does show Ellie’s formative experiences with love, loss and violence, I understand why some were questioning if these needed to be seen in such detail. Personally, there’s nothing I’d take out of this episode, but I wouldn’t have been against an expansion of ‘present day’ Ellie, more akin to what we see in Naughty Dog’s Left Behind DLC. This maybe would’ve provided a greater sense of balance for those who, understandably, don’t feel quite as excited as video games fans about watching Ellie and Riley play Mortal Kombat II for 10 minutes.
6 - ‘Kin’, Episode Six
‘Kin’ is one of the show’s more wholesome episodes, although it still has its fair share of violence. In fact, I don’t think we see a single infected. I hugely enjoyed that time was taken to establish Jackson and its community in the TV adaptation. That’s really going to pay off in season two, easing us back in with a familiar location - something that was lacking in the game seeing as we never really saw Jackson in Part I. Gabriel Luna shines as Tommy (another exciting prospect for season two) and alongside Rutina Wesley as Maria, plus Graham Greene and Elaine Miles as couple Marlon and Florence, this episode was stacked with memorable performances. We were able to learn more about Joel’s vulnerable side, although the episode did end with a somewhat rushed university sequence. I’m all for the show’s realism and grounded approach to violence but even still, this felt a little underwhelming.
5 - ‘When We Are In Need’, Episode Eight
‘When We Are In Need’ achieved exactly what it set out to do. It reminded us just how far humanity has fallen. Expanding on David’s community allowed us to see who this man truly is in far more detail and that really paid off. It’s an episode that once again featured stellar performances from Pedro and Bella. While Bella captured the intensity of the trauma Ellie was experiencing, Pedro portrayed a man who physically was hanging on by a desperate thread. There’s not a lot I can criticise here. It’s a section of the story that’s pivotal in Ellie’s trajectory - and also something that brings Joel and Ellie closer together. Still, it doesn’t quite hit the mark as strongly as other instalments, feeling like a standalone more so than one piece of a larger whole.
4 - ‘When You’re Lost In The Darkness’, Episode One
‘When You’re Lost In The Darkness’ is an exceptional opening episode. Split into two pretty distinct halves, the premiere benefitted from its grounded approach to storytelling. The cold-open established the show’s key scientific principles. Experiencing the prologue through Sarah’s eyes then stopped the episode from falling into any blockbuster pitfalls by grounding us in a single point of view. Nico Parker’s performance, of course, deserves a shoutout. The latter half then managed to introduce us to FEDRA, the Fireflies, Marlene, Tess, and Ellie all without ever leaving us feeling overwhelmed. By the time that money shot of Boston’s suburbs showed at the end, I knew we were in for a wild and incredible ride.
3 - ‘Long Long Time’, Episode Three
‘Long Long Time’ very easily could’ve placed first - and that’s a testament to the quality of The Last of Us on the whole. It’s so hard to split these last couple of episodes. Episode three was the perfect love story. A departure from the main story, yes, but one that taught us as the audience, as well as Joel, a much needed lesson. Happiness is out there. It just may not exist in the form you expect. I’m almost certain that both Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett will gain plenty of awards nominations for their performances and rightly so. It’s also an episode that recognises the benefit of its format. This story wouldn’t have worked in the game but it does here. The writers recognised that and I’m so glad they took the risk of changing things up.
2 - ‘Infected’, Episode Two
‘Infected’ is a masterclass in bringing gameplay to life. To me, ‘Infected’ captured the experience of playing The Last of Us the most effectively, but it did so without experiencing the pitfalls of previous video game adaptations. ‘Infected’ chose not to recreate the game’s action and traversal sequences. Instead, it remembered that all important word: adaptation. The titular infected were lesser in number than their video game counterparts yet posed a greater threat, which was exactly the right call. Even knowing the plot of this story, you can easily watch this episode and find yourself holding your breath at Joel, Tess, and Ellie’s encounter with the Clickers. An expertly crafted instalment.
1 - ‘Endure and Survive’, Episode Five
We’ve made it to the final (and best) episode. ‘Endure and Survive’ is perhaps the season’s most important instalment. While some episodes chose to focus on the threat of the infected, others highlighted the human dangers in this world. ‘Endure and Survive’ chose to explore both in equal measure with an extra focus on the most important threat of all: our ability to lose ourselves. Between the incredible horde sequence, Kathleen’s revenge-fuelled downfall, and the impact of Henry and Sam’s deaths on Ellie, ‘Endure and Survive’ is the episode that feels as if it’s going to have the longest-lasting impact. In season two, I think we’ll analyse Ellie’s actions and look back to so many points of origin within this very episode. Overall, what an incredible season.