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The Last Of Us Made Viewership History With Its HBO Premiere

Contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" Episode 1, "When You're Lost in the Darkness"

HBO's "The Last of Us" adaptation takes Naughty Dog's legendary video game and brings its dark tone to glorious live action. The game's writer and creative director Neil Druckmann and "Chernobyl's" Craig Mazin are a good team to bring the Cordyceps apocalypse's visually distinct aftermath to a new medium, and Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay do a great job as grizzled survivor Joel and the irreverent, immune Ellie. 

Though live-action video game adaptations can be a mixed bag, the series premiere of "The Last of Us" fires on all cylinders. With scenes and visuals that are lifted straight out of the game, the lengthy episode spends its first half-hour focusing on Joel's daughter Sarah (Nico Parker), and the full extent of the Cordyceps infection slowly unfolds on the background until disaster strikes, and Joel is left a broken man. After a time skip, the episode then introduces us to the post-apocalyptic world and several major players in the story, making the entire episode more or less a giant heap of world-building and heartbreak.

It's both very faithful to the source material and a bold way to start a new show. Fortunately for the series, the approach has certainly paid off. The first episode of "The Last of Us" arrived on Sunday, January 15, and the show immediately made history with its HBO premiere. 

The Last of Us is one of the most successful HBO premieres in history

No less than 4.7 million pairs of eyes watched "The Last of Us" Episode 1 the day it dropped, according to Deadline. To put things in context, the last HBO show to open to similar numbers was "Boardwalk Empire," which enjoyed a 4.81 million viewer premiere all the way back in 2010. 

In all fairness, neither show can't quite touch the network's record debut by "House of the Dragon," which posted jaw-dropping numbers with 9.986 million viewers across all platforms in 2022. Still, to put the numbers in context, "The Last of Us" is a gloomy, dystopian show based on a video game that explores how humans behave under extreme duress. Meanwhile, "House of the Dragon" is the eagerly-awaited prequel for arguably the most massive fantasy show in history, "Game of Thrones" ... which, it should be noted, only debuted to the tune of 2.2 million viewers (per Entertainment Weekly). 

All in all, it's pretty hard to deny that "The Last of Us'" series premiere has laid the groundwork for what just might turn out to be one of the biggest shows HBO has ever seen. 

Fan hype and critical approval helped HBO's Last of Us become a smash hit

It might seem surprising that "The Last of Us" has attracted such a massive viewership, but if you've been paying attention, its success might not be that shocking after all. When the reviews started dropping, it was very clear that the HBO adaptation is a show for the ages. Critics absolutely adore "The Last of Us," to the point that the show boasts a Rotten Tomatoes tomatometer score of 99 percent. When viewers had the chance to check out the show for themselves, they quickly joined in on the nigh-universal approval choir, and the show's audience score is no less than 97 percent. 

Combine those levels of acclaim with the fact that the show is based on one of the best video games of all time, and it's pretty understandable that many were eager to tune in. It remains to be seen how well "The Last of Us" can sustain its impressive viewer numbers over the course of the season, but seeing as the reviews are saying that Episode 3 is a true sight to behold, it just might be that the show hasn't even peaked yet.