‘The Last of Us’: Everything We Know About the HBO Series So Far

Look for the light, a mysterious post from HBO’s Twitter reads, accompanied by a GIF of a night sky illuminated by a constellation of the symbol of the Fireflies, an organization with mysterious motives from the award-winning hit video game, The Last of Us. 

Nearly a decade after the release of the iconic survival horror video game, HBO has announced that the network is adapting the game into a television series, which will follow the events of the first game and potentially the events of the upcoming sequel, which is set for release this summer. Without casting announcements or a trailer, much of the adaptation is cloaked in mystery, but one thing is for certain: fans of the video game franchise haven’t seen the last of their favorite pandemic apocalypse survivors, Joel and Ellie. 

Keep reading to learn more about the upcoming HBO adaptation of The Last of Us.

Joel, The Last of Us
Joel | Naughty Dog

‘The Last of Us’ takes place in the brutal world of a post-apocalyptic United States 

An outbreak of a mutant fungus has caused a rampant pandemic in the United States, turning the human hosts afflicted by the fungus into cannibalistic, violent creatures known as “The Infected.” After 20 years, the nation has broken apart into a brutally apocalyptic world of violently aggressive quarantine zones built to keep away The Infected, independent communities, and nomadic groups of survivors who will resort to violence as a means to an end. 

At the center of it all is Joel, a survivor turned smuggler, who is living in one of the quarantine zones. In exchange for a stolen cache of weapons, Joel is tasked with smuggling a 14-year-old girl named Ellie across the country to a Fireflies’ hideout in Massachusetts. The Fireflies believe that Ellie could be the key to a cure for the pandemic since she has proven to be immune to the effects of the fungus. 

In The Last of Us, the player controls Joel in a third-person perspective. What began as a simple smuggling job for Joel became a poignant, heart wrenching adventure as the game revolves around the relationship between Joel and Ellie as the two learn to trust and rely on one another for survival against The Infected and other threats that stand in their way. 

Craig Mazin
Craig Mazin | Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for WGAW

The creator of ‘Chernobyl’ and the creative director of ‘The Last of Us’ are teaming up to write the series 

The Last of Us is considered to be one of the greatest video games of all time, beloved by critics and fans alike for its powerful story and relatable, lovable cast of characters. Edge Magazine described the game as “the most riveting, emotionally resonant story-driven epic.” In order to adapt such an emotional powerhouse of a survival video game, the adaptation would need a team of writers familiar with capturing such apocalyptic horror and visceral human emotion in response to disaster. 

Craig Mazin, the mind behind HBO’s wildly successful limited series Chernobyl, and Neil Druckmann, the writer and creative director of The Last of Us, are teaming up as a match made in heaven to develop and adapt the video game into a series. 

Mazin, who had written two Scary Movie sequels and two Hangover sequels, is something of a writing chameleon. His range came as a surprise to fans and critics alike when Chernobyl took HBO by storm in 2019. Mazin’s Chernobyl received critical acclaim and earned 19 Emmy nominations for the series’ gut wrenching, evocative recreation of the events of the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986. Mazin earned the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series for Chernobyl

“From the first time I sat down to talk with Craig I was equally blown away by his approach to narrative and his love and deep understanding of The Last of Us,” Druckmann explained in a statement. “With Chernobyl, Craig and HBO created a tense, harrowing, emotional masterpiece. I couldn’t think of better partners to bring the story of The Last of Us to life as a television show.”

Neil Druckmann himself is a video game developing veteran, having been a part of Naughty Dog, the developer of The Last of Us, for nearly 20 years. He originally came up with the concept for the game when he was a student at Carnegie Mellon University. The Last of Us went on to win a plethora of awards, including “Game of the Year” and sold over 17 million copies since its release. “Neil Druckmann is without question the finest storyteller working in the video game medium, and The Last of Us is his magnum opus,” Mazin said. “Getting a chance to adapt this breathtaking work of art has been a dream of mine for years, and I’m so honored to do it in partnership with Neil.” 

Will HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ stay true to its source material? 

When it comes to adapting a story to the screen, especially a story as beloved as The Last of Us, fans are often concerned with how true adaptations will be to their original source material. A particularly divisive issue regarding The Last of Us is Ellie’s sexuality. Fans expressed concern that this pivotal part of Ellie’s character would be overlooked or erased entirely.

A Twitter user wrote to HBO and Craig Mazin saying, “Y’all better keep the gay gay. Pls and thank you. Do not erase that representation pls. Anyways, I’m so excited for this!” It would appear that Mazin and Druckmann are very conscientious of fan feedback and plan to keep the series as close to the game as possible. Mazin himself replied to the Twitter user saying, “You have my word.” 

On Sunday, Druckmann revealed a list of characters from the video game that will make an appearance in HBO’s adaptation on Twitter. At the top of the list, naturally, are Joel and Ellie. Tess, Joel’s partner in smuggling crime, will be the next addition to the show’s cast, followed by Riley, Ellie’s best friend; Marlene, a member of the Fireflies; Maria, Joel’s sister-in-law; and a sixth mystery character whose name was redacted. 

The series appears to be drawing from the original game, and perhaps elements from the video game’s downloadable content like The Last of Us: Left Behind, a prequel to the first game that follows Ellie and Riley. 

Whether or not the series will include story elements from the video game’s upcoming sequel is yet to be announced or determined. 

Who will be in the cast of ‘The Last of Us’? 

No official casting decisions have been announced yet since the adaptation is still at such an early stage in the production process. In The Last of Us, Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voiced Joel and Ellie, so there has been some fan speculation that the duo could return to play their characters again. 

Fans have already begun to make their own casting decisions known on Twitter and other social media platforms. Some have proposed that Joel and Ellie be portrayed by Hugh Jackman and Ellen Page, who actually accused Naughty Dog of stealing her likeness for Ellie in 2013. However, fans are especially enamored with Game of Thrones’ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and want to see him in the role of Joel. 

While it’s within the realm of possibility that Coster-Waldau or Jackman could play everyone’s favorite tough and gruff pandemic survivor, fans can only wait and see who will bring Joel, Ellie, and the rest of the characters of The Last of Us to life on screen. 

An official release date has not yet been announced for HBO’s The Last of Us, but sources like TechRadar, speculate that the show will premiere in 2021 or 2022. 

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