After dealing with clickers, cannibals, and catastrophic heartbreak, a mere awards ceremony was nothing for ultimate survivors Ellie and Joel. The season finale of “The Last of Us” hauled in 8.2 million viewers Sunday night across HBO Max and linear-HBO, a new series high, despite being scheduled against the 95th Academy Awards broadcast on ABC.
“The Last of Us” finale started at 9 p.m. on HBO and HBO Max; the Oscars started at 8 p.m. ET and ended shortly after 11:30 p.m. ET on ABC. We do not have Oscars numbers — yet — but ABC hopes it did significantly better than even the “Last of Us.” The 2022 Academy Awards drew 16.6 million viewers (though the earliest-available data for the program showed 13.7 million); the all-time low for the Oscars was 10.5 million viewers in 2021.
“The Last of Us” has consistently enjoyed strong viewership during its nine-episode first season. The show’s previous high was 8.1 million viewers for last week’s penultimate episode, “When We Are in Need.”
The Oscars isn’t the first major event that “The Last of Us” has competed with over its short lifespan: Episode 4 (7.5 million viewers) aired alongside the 65th Annual Grammy Awards, and HBO Max moved up Episode 5 (11.6 million viewers from Friday-Sunday) so as to not compete with the Super Bowl, which is television’s most-watched telecast of the year, every year. (The Academy Awards were traditionally No. 2.)
“The Last of Us” debuted in January with 4.7 million viewers, making it the second-most-watched premiere for HBO since 2010, behind “Game of Thrones” spinoff “House of the Dragon.” Incidentally, “The Last of Us” is also “Thrones”-adjacent, with the show’s leads Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey having both served as cast members on the George R.R. Martin fantasy series during its eight-season run.
Sunday’s season finale, titled “Look for the Light,” received positive reviews from critics upon its Sunday airdate. In his write-up for IndieWire, critic Ben Travers gave the episode an “A-” rating and described it as a “devastating inversion of what we expect from endings.”
Based on the 2013 PlayStation video-game franchise from Naughty Dog, “The Last of Us” comes to HBO from the game’s original creator Neil Druckmann, who co-showruns with “Chernobyl” creator Craig Mazin. Future seasons will adapt “The Last of Us Part II,” which released in 2020 and follows main characters Joel and Ellie four years after their first adventure.
Along with Pascal and Ramsey, Season 1 of “The Last of Us” also featured Merle Dandridge, Anna Torv, Gabriel Luna, Nick Offerman, Murray Bartlett, Storm Reid, Melanie Lynskey, Lamar Johnson, Keivonn Montreal Woodard, Nico Parker, Jeffrey Pierce, Rutina Wesley, and Scott Shepherd. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who played Joel and Ellie in the original games, also appeared in the series (as different characters).
Mazin and Druckmann executive produce for HBO with Carolyn Strauss, Evan Wells, Asad Qizilbash, Carter Swan, and Rose Lam. Sony Pictures Television co-produces the series with HBO; PlayStation Productions, Word Games, The Mighty Mint, and Naughty Dog serve as additional production companies.