‘The Last of Us’ premiere opens to huge numbers for HBO

For the win! ‘The Last of Us,’ a big bet for HBO from creators Craig Mazin (“Chernobyl”) and Israeli-American Neil Druckman, drew fantastic numbers with its debut episode on Sunday night. If the name Neil Druckman is new to you, he’s not exactly a newcomer: he’s one of the most successful video game developers out there, and, indeed, this new series starring Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, and Anna Torv is adapted from the blockbuster game of the same name. (Is this the first true television hit to emerge from the world of joysticks and consoles? How quickly we forget “Q*bert”!)

“The Last of Us” secured an audience of 4.7 million viewers across HBO’s linear network and the HBO Max streaming option, according to the network. This is the second-biggest debut in the last 13 years for the premium network, behind “House of the Dragon,” which, being a prequel to the immensely popular “Game of Thrones,” certainly had its share of interest. (Prior to the George R.R. Martin-produced fantasy epic, the record-holder was 2010’s “Boardwalk Empire.”) 

The series is set 20 years into a civilization-ending catastrophe caused by (uh-oh) a massive pandemic. But in this reality, infection turns people into mindless, bloodthirsty attackers. (Remember: it is based on a video game.) Pascal stars as a tough guy smuggler named Joel who is tasked with escorting a young woman (Ramsey) out of a quarantine zone. The first episode features all sorts of darkness, chaos, and brutality, as well as the unexpected use of the Depeche Mode single “Never Let Me Down Again” from 1987. Martin Gore is currently checking those Spotify stats wondering if he’s the next Kate Bush

“The Last of Us” was shot in Alberta, Canada, and is the largest production ever in the Great White North.

We are thrilled to see fans of the series and game alike experience this iconic story in a new way, and we extend our gratitude to them for helping to make it a success,” HBO big Casey Bloys said, presumably in-between gulps of champagne and high-fives from fellow execs. 

The first season of “The Last of Us” will last nine episodes. While a second season has yet to be confirmed, Mazin and Drucker have hinted at where they would like the story to go. No doubt deal memos are being drafted right now.

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