As a result of all this, we know that “The Last of Us” is never going to run as long as “The Walking Dead.” Even if there weren’t only two video games for the show to adapt, this would still be clear. When a show is this focused, when it’s continually barreling forward through its story instead of gradually establishing a status quo, it’s clear that it has no intent to stay around for as long as it can. Even when Ellie and Joel aren’t on screen, it doesn’t ever feel like a moment’s being wasted. 

“The Last of Us” feels like a clear indicator of how much prestige TV (or at least, shows that are aiming for prestige TV status) have changed over the past 15 years. “The Walking Dead” aired at a time when it was normal for successful shows to go on for as long as the ratings allowed. Director Joel Coen recently complained about the medium of TV, saying, “So much of television has a beginning, a middle, a middle, a middle, a middle, until the whole thing dies of exhaustion,” but honestly, the criticism feels about 10 years too late. 

Whereas sitcoms like “Friends” and “How I Met Your Mother” went on for 9-10 seasons, today’s acclaimed sitcoms like “Ted Lasso” and “The Good Place” have been content to end on seasons 3 or 4, with the episode counts of each season being far lower. The writers of “Lost” famously had to fight ABC to get them to end the show after “only” six seasons, but the acclaimed series “Succession” is now happily ending of its own accord in season 4, even though no one would’ve complained if they’d chosen to keep going.