After Finishing HBO's The Last Of Us Season 1, There Are 9 Emmys I'm Hoping It'll Win

Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us
(Image credit: HBO)

The Last of Us has officially finished its first season on HBO and, like so many people, I’m still thinking about it. Going in, I had faith in co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann (who co-created the franchise), but I never could’ve imagined they’d deliver something so brilliant. The post-apocalyptic drama is easily the greatest video game adaptation of all time and, when it’s all said it done, it may be named one of TV’s finest programs ever. Considering the praise these first nine episodes have received, it’s safe to assume that the show will be in the mix at the Primetime Emmys. And there are a few specific awards I’d love to see it win.

Unlike the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences is a lot friendlier towards genre-leaning fare. So the chances of TLoU scoring an honor or two are solid. This is still a golden age for TV, however, and the series will face some fierce competition. Nevertheless, there are plenty of Emmys that it should seriously be considered for, so let’s discuss those honors, shall we:

Joel and Tess talking, with Ellie behind them in The Last Of Us

(Image credit: HBO)

Outstanding Casting For A Drama Series

At this point, I think most would agree that The Last Of Us includes a roster of exceptional actors. It goes without saying that co-leads Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey excel as Joel and Ellie, respectively, but the supporting cast is also downright impeccable. From Nico Parker (Sarah) and Anna Torv (Tess) to Gabriel Luna (Tommy) and Nick Offerman (Bill), everyone harnesses the essence of their characters while putting their own spin on them. Veteran casting director Victoria Thomas deserves a lot of credit for assembling such a talented group. She’s already won a casting Emmy for her work on fellow acclaimed HBO original Watchmen, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she does it again with TLoU.

abandoned street in HBO's The Last of Us

(Image credit: HBO)

Outstanding Production Design For A Narrative Period Or Fantasy Program (One Hour Or More)

An aspect of the series that constantly amazed me during the first season was the production design. The sets created by John Paino and his team are nothing short of amazing. The group managed to seamlessly recreate locations from the game like moss-covered cityscapes and fungus-infested dwellings (which house infected). The hotel from the second episode is incredibly impressive. and Episode 7's mall (which included stores like Victoria's Secret and an arcade) is one of the most expansive and detailed sets I’ve ever seen. You can’t help but appreciate how Paino and co. zeroed in on the details, and their efforts certainly deserve to be honored.

Clicker screaming in HBO's The Last of Us

(Image credit: HBO)

Outstanding Prosthetic Makeup

Before any footage of this show was released, I was curious as to whether or not the makeup team would be able to bring The Last of Us’ infected beings to life. Needless to say, they absolutely succeeded in that regard. The creatures were beautifully (and terrifyingly) crafted, and look exactly like their video game counterparts. The makeup on the runners is cool enough, but the practical work that went into making the clickers is jaw-dropping. The high quality of work here shouldn’t be too surprising, as Craig Mazin recruited prosthetics whiz Barrie Gower – who won Emmys for his work on Game of Thrones and Stranger Things. Gower and his collaborators really outdid themselves here, and I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get another win at the big show.

David's group and sign in HBO's The Last of Us

(Image credit: HBO)

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series

I mean, what can you even say about Craig Mazin and Neil Druckman’s writing? We’re clearly dealing with two master scribes here. But somehow, the man who wrote Chernobyl and the guy who penned the 2013 game on which this series is based outdid themselves. If I’m being honest, just about any one of the nine episodes that make up Season 1 could be nominated for Outstanding Writing. The premiere, "When You're Lost in the Darkness" is incredibly strong – as are installments like “Endure and Survive” and “Left Behind.” The two that I think have the best chances of getting nods (and winning), though, are the warm “Long, Long Time” and the chilling “When We Are in Need.” The former, which we’ll talk more about later, may be the one to do it, but I’d be pleased if Mazin takes home a gold statue for either one.

Kathleen and Kansas City hunters in HBO's The Last of Us

(Image credit: HBO)

Outstanding Guest Actress In A Drama Series

2023 is still young, yet viewers have already seen some amazing performances by actresses, including several on this show alone like Anna Torv and Merle Dandridge. But when it comes to Outstanding Guest Actress, I have to single out Melanie Lynskey. The Yellowjackets star got a surprising role on Last of Us, that of vengeful revolutionary Kathleen Coghlan. Lynskey appeared in only two episodes, but her performance is certainly one for the ages. On the one hand, she’s totally sincere and, on the other, she’s just terrifying. The New Zealand-born actress has been getting some meaty roles as of late and hasn’t wasted a moment she’s on screen. There’s no doubt in my mind that this is awards-worthy work, and I sincerely hope Lynskey grabs her fair share of them.

Bill and Frank at piano in The Last of Us

(Image credit: HBO)

Outstanding Guest Actor In A Drama Series

While HBO’s newest hit has had plenty of talented male actors pop up on the show so far, the two names that immediately come to mind for this Emmy are Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett. The two stars took center stage in what many consider to be the show’s best episode thus far – “Long, Long Time.” In it, Offerman plays grizzled survivalist Bill and Murray portrays thoughtful artist Frank, and the installment chronicles their years-long romance. Bill and Frank’s story was greatly altered for the series and, as a result, it allowed the two performers to beautifully showcase their talents. If I had to choose one star to grab the award, I might give the edge to Offerman, who’s underrated as a dramatic actor. Though Bartlett, who won an Emmy for The White Lotus, could easily take it as well.

Pedro Pascal on The Last Of Us on HBO

(Image credit: HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

Time and time again, Pedro Pascal has proven his skills as an actor, but he’s a sheer force in the role of Joel Miller. Like in The Mandalorian, Pascal finds himself playing a reluctant father figure, though Joel proves to be much rawer than Din Djarin. The fan-favorite actor plays the more aggressive aspects of Miller to perfection while also lovingly displaying his warmth. Pascal never misses a beat, as his character evolves over the course of the season. He’s a shoo-in for an Emmy nod, there’s no question about that. I’m just hoping he’s actually able to win the gold.

Ellie holding gun on David in The Last of Us

(Image credit: HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

And then there’s Bella Ramsey… Those who’ve seen Game of Thrones or Catherine Called Birdy know how skilled Ramsey is as a performer. However, as Ellie, they give career-best work. It’s honestly scary just how much Ramsey channels the beloved video game character. The star naturally conveys Ellie’s youthful curiosity and sense of wonder – as well as that corny and endearing sense of humor. Of course, there’s the teen’s pent-up rage she possesses, which stems from having to grow up in a world ravaged by a fungal infection. The episode that could undoubtedly earn Ramsey an award is “When We Are In Need,” which gives the young actor some heavy material to work with. And honestly, if they don’t get the award for her work, then I’ll be left shocked and a bit saddened. 

Joel hugging Ellie in the snow in HBO's The Last of Us

(Image credit: HBO)

Outstanding Drama Series

After reading all of my praises of this show thus far, you probably assumed that I would peg it for Outstanding Drama Series – and it absolutely needs to be in the conversation. Sure, it’s a near-flawless video game adaptation that does justice to its source material. But what’s even more important is that it’s just a well-done TV show in general. Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have a masterpiece on their hands and to see it win this major Emmy would be incredible. 

This year’s Primetime Emmys are still a ways off, but these awards are still worth speculating about now. In the months leading up to the awards, you can rewatch every episode of The Last of Us using an HBO Max subscription. Anyone in need of another show to watch now that it’s over can also take a look at CinemaBlend’s 2023 TV schedule.

Erik Swann
Senior Content Producer

Erik Swann is a Senior Content Producer at CinemaBlend. He began working with the publication in 2020 when he was hired as Weekend Editor. Today, he continues to write, edit and handle social media responsibilities over the weekend. On weekdays, he also writes TV and movie-related news and helps out with editing and social media as needed. He graduated from the University of Maryland, where he received a degree in Broadcast Journalism. After shifting into multi-platform journalism, he started working as a freelance writer and editor before joining CB. Covers superheroes, sci-fi, comedy, and almost anything else in film and TV. He eats more pizza than the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.