The Last of Us’ Season 1 Had Fans Digging Deeper into Game Characters

Matt Fowler
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TV Streaming HBO

HBO’s The Last of Us brought Naughty Dog’s acclaimed video game to the TV-watching masses, serving up a stellar series that was a hit with fans and critics alike. It was also a ratings smash, constantly growing its numbers week over week so that the season finale, “Look to the Light” was the most-watched Sunday episode (there’s a ratings exception listed below).

The story of Joel and Ellie and their cross-country trek through a ravaged wasteland, in a world decimated by a fungal infection that’s transformed most of humanity into monsters, captivated audiences by focusing more on the human characters than the “zombies,” which at this point in the story, 20 years into the apocalypse, were relegated to certain areas of the landscape. But that doesn’t mean the show was devoid of action either, it was just balanced out with a tone of heart and nuance from the cast.

With the first season of The Last of Us wrapped, let’s look at some of the most-searched pages from Fandom readers from the overall run.

The Seasonal Champs

Episode-wise, the winners for Season 1 were Episode 3, “Long, Long Time” – which was highly acclaimed and garnered a lot of attention for straying from the main journey and delivering a beautiful love story – and Episode 5, “Endure and Survive” – which not only had the most “Infected” action of the season but also debuted on a Friday, which allowed it to become an outlier the most-watched episode of the season by default.

The Top 5 most successful pages for all of Season 1, though, break down as follows…

  1. The Infected
  2. Bill
  3. Ellie
  4. Bloaters
  5. Frank

Within these five you can see evidence of Episodes 3 and 5 being popular, as Bill and Frank from “Long, Long Time” has an entire backstory spooled out for us and Episode 5 giving us a monstrous “Bloater,” which is the rarest and most dangerous version of an Infected human. The Infected themselves were at the top, which makes sense for several reasons. Some who played the games did wish the show had more of the Infected appearing, to be sure. But as far as zombie shows go, the horrifying Cordyceps takeover of civilization, which is based on real science, is something new to behold for those who never played the games and many would want to know how it all works.

Don’t worry, Joel fans, our reluctant, grieving hero (or anti-hero) came in a 6 on the list, so just outside of the Top 5. The seventh entry was intriguing though since it was the “Rat King” from the game’s sequel – think Bloater but ten times worse.

Human Nature

If one were to break down the top-searched page by episode though, there are some interesting results. Humans truly were the name of the game, despite the Infected being the overall winner for the season, page-wise. After the first two episodes, where fans were probably getting the lay of the Cordyceps land given this fresh take on the zombie genre, the rest of the season mostly had human characters as the standouts.

Here are the top pages per episode…

Episode 1: The Infected

Episode 2: The Infected

Episode 3: Bill

Episode 4: Henry

Episode 5: Infected

Episode 6: Tommy Miller

Episode 7: Riley Abel

Episode 8: David

Episode 9: Ellie Williams

If you go by episode you can figure out the reasoning for these results. Episode 3 was focused on Nick Offerman’s Bill, who was a character in the game but got a much bigger and satisfying stage here while Episode 4 gave us our introduction to Henry. Episode 5 went back to the Infected, because of the huge massacre at the end (and the Bloater) but then the remaining chapters all went back to people, all of whom got to take on a major role for at least an episode.

It’s also fun to see Ellie, as a character, become the top page for the finale. It may have to do with that episode giving us her birth origin, which also explained why she was immune to the Cordyceps infection. It’s something fans theorized about for years but was never answered in either Last of Us game.

Expanding on themes and characters from the game is what the HBO series was all about, not just delivering the same story beats. And that’s evident from the fastest growing Top Pages…

  1. Bill
  2. Henry
  3. Sam
  4. Frank
  5. Federal Disaster Response Agency

Four out of the five pages here are characters from the game who were given deeper layers and backstories on the show. Readers really wanted to dig into them more and, possibly, see how their TV versions differed from the game ones.

Matt Fowler