It’s only March, but the leader for the best show of 2023 is The Last of Us. Based on the best-selling video game series, The Last of Us depicts a post-apocalyptic world after a mass fungal infection in 2003 that leaves people in a zombie-like state. The series picks up in 2023 as it follows Joel Miller (The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal), a ruthless smuggler who tragically lost his daughter in 2003. Joel is tasked with transporting a young girl named Ellie (Game of Thrones’ Bella Ramsey) across the U.S. because she may hold the key to finding a cure for the infection.
From the first episode, The Last of Us instantly became another HBO success as the pilot became the second-largest debut (4.7 million viewers) since 2010 behind House of the Dragon. The series has been praised for its writing, lead performances, and faithfulness to the source material. The Last of Us is already one of the most critically acclaimed video game adaptations ever.
If you need some shows to hold you over until season 2, check out our list of series that fans of The Last of Us will also enjoy.
Before Craig Mazin (The Hangover Part II) co-created The Last of Us, he created Chernobyl, arguably the greatest limited series of the last five years. The five-part event focused on the 1986 Chernobyl accident and the efforts of the brave men and women who responded to the catastrophe. It’s a grim, devastating, and thought-provoking look into how a government tried to cover up a national disaster and how the residents were forced to deal with the consequences.
The ensemble cast includes Jared Harris (Morbius), Stellan Skarsgård (Dune), Emily Watson (God’s Creatures), Paul Ritter (Catherine the Great), and Jessie Buckley (Women Talking). The series scored big at the Emmys, winning major categories such as Outstanding Limited Series, Outstanding Directing, and Outstanding Writing.
If post-apocalyptic dramas are your thing, then Station Eleven will be right up your alley. Based on Emily St. John Mandel’s novel, Station Eleven follows a group of survivors fighting to navigate the world after a flu pandemic devastates the world, resulting in the collapse of civilization. The series is told through the eyes of Kirsten Raymonde, played by Matilda Lawler (Flora & Ulysses) as a child and Mackenzie Davis (Happiest Season) as an adult. Kristen is a member of the Traveling Symphony, a troupe that performs Shakespeare on a tour path called the “Wheel.”
Himesh Patel (Yesterday), David Wilmot (The Wonder), Nabhaan Rizwan (Mogul Mowgli), Daniel Zovatto (Here and Now), and Lori Petty (Free Willy). The series is a beautiful depiction of no matter how bad things get, optimism that things could get better always exists.
What if a percentage of the population suddenly disappeared? That’s the scenario presented in The Leftovers, where 2% of the world’s population (140 million people) disappear into thin air and vanish in the “Sudden Departure.” Similar to The Last of Us, The Leftovers covers the people left behind and how they go on with their lives.
Based on the 2011 novel, the series starred Justin Theroux (The Mosquito Coast), Amy Brenneman (Judging Amy), Christopher Eccleston (Doctor Who), Liv Tyler (Ad Astra), Carrie Coon (Boston Strangler), Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale), and Regina King (Watchmen). Though depressing at times, The Leftovers manages to instill hope by the end of its three-season run.
The Walking Dead
Because of the depiction of the infected in The Last of Us, there are obvious comparisons to The Walking Dead. The horror drama illustrates a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by a zombie apocalypse. How would society move forward? The Walking Dead zeroes in on a group of survivors, initially led by Rick Grimes (Penguin Bloom’s Andrew Lincoln), attempting to restore order in their lives by creating a community backed by rules and laws. Sometimes, it led to violent confrontations with other rival communities, but at the end of the day, civilization was in constant war with the same common enemy, walkers (zombies).
The series also featured Jon Bernthal (American Gigolo), Norman Reedus (Triple 9), Steven Yeun (Minari), Chandler Riggs (A Million Little Things), Melissa McBride (The Happys), Lauren Cohan (Mile 22), and Danai Gurira (Black Panther). Like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead became known for killing off its main cast members each season, making it a must-watch show during its peak years.
It’s hard to talk about The Last of Us without mentioning the series that made its star an international sensation, The Mandalorian. Set in the Star Wars universe five years after the events of Return of the Jedi, Pascal stars as Din Djarin, a Mandalorian bounty hunter hired to retrieve a mysterious prize that turns out to be a baby.
Before Pascal protected Ramsey, he looked out for Grogu, a green childlike creature that many fans refer to as “Baby Yoda.” Instead of turning over Grogu, Din protects Grogu and journies across the galaxy to protect the baby and find its people. The Mandalorian is a fun space western that’s easily Star Wars‘ best project since the original trilogy.