The Clickers, Bloaters, and other monsters from the critically acclaimed Sony PlayStation game upon which The Last of Us is based are not the scariest things in the HBO television series, in the opinion of writer Craig Mazin.
It’s the second time an isolated researcher learns that a fungal brain infection would turn humanity into barbaric cannibals. This is a made-for-the-show flashback, not seen in either the 2013 game or its 2020 successor.
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“That’s terrifying to me,” Mazin told me during a roundtable Zoom interview ahead of the show’s Jan. 15 premiere on HBO Max. “It grounds everything, and the more we can make the peripheral feel real, the more the center will feel real.”
Mazin took his inquisitive nature and applied it to a real-life disaster in the 2019 HBO miniseries Chernobyl. For The Last of Us, we spoke with Neil Druckmann, the game’s writer and the creative director and co-president of developer Naughty Dog, to learn about the inspiration for the game’s flashbacks and the pseudo-scientific origin of the illness.
HBO's The Last of Us is a mostly faithful adaptation of the hit PlayStation game. But just how close to its source material does it get? (1/2) pic.twitter.com/srPKPqhCQk
— IGN (@IGN) January 16, 2023
He was excited by the prospect of using an expert’s reaction to this horrific revelation to deepen the Last of Us universe beyond what we see in the games.
“Not only is it scary to hear the scientist say it’s over, but the moment where she accepts it for herself and seeing the drama on her face is something unique for this [an adaptation] that I’m so glad we’re able to show,” Druckmann said.
Fans of the game will notice more than just flashbacks; the timeline has been altered so that the outbreak occurred in 2003 (instead of 2013), and the post-apocalyptic narrative takes place in 2023. (instead of 2033). Mazin and Druckmann both thought the new timeline worked for the tale because the game took place in the same year it was released.
“If I’m watching a show in the year 2023 and it takes place in 2043, it’s just a little less real.” I thought it might be interesting to just say, ‘Hey, look, in this parallel universe, this is happening right now.’ So it was really just about helping people connect a little bit more,” Mazin said.
“Practically speaking, it didn’t change much other than giving us a slightly different palette of props, set design and car choice. “Interestingly, as we go on through the series, we keep finding new places and new relics of the old world, [always] coming back to that 2003 vibe.”
Compelled by sorrow
The story’s sympathetic human conflict serves to further root the reader in reality. Over the course of the first season’s nine episodes, we observe jaded smuggler Joel Miller as he is tasked with transporting upbeat teen Ellie across the post-apocalyptic United States (we won’t explain why to avoid spoilers). Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey play the leads.
Pascal (from GoT and The Mandalorian) claims that 20 years after Joel’s sad loss at the outbreak’s outset, that loss still drives him.
“He’s completely driven by trauma, and everything that he does, for better or worse, is shaped by that loss and not experiencing that kind of loss again.” “It’s something, unfortunately, so many of us can relate to,” Pascal told me on Zoom.
“It’s amazing to step into an adaptation of a beloved source material that has such an emotional human story at the center of it, to make it all the more painful. Which we apparently love, as audience members … we’re masochistic.”
According to Ramsey, a fellow cast member from the HBO series Game of Thrones, Ellie’s ability to empathize with Joel’s suffering is a major factor in the development of their close friendship throughout the series.
The Last Of Us Part II music 😱#TheLastOfUsHBO pic.twitter.com/nJUgDfHCIk
— The Last of Us TV (@TheLastofUsTV) January 23, 2023
“Ellie is aware that there’s something up with this guy — there’s more to him, he’s not just a grumpy asshole for the sake of it,” the actor said. “She sees a shared experience; Ellie’s lost a very key person in her life [as well]. When you see someone who’s been through something like that too, you want to connect with them [even though] Joel is very resistant to it.”
Greater than just keeping your head above water
Joel’s idealistic brother Tommy, who has found meaning in trying to fix this horrific world, is being sought out by the pair. Gabriel Luna, who also appeared in Terminator: Dark Fate, plays him.
“He desires what his brother had at the beginning, which is family — to plant a seed and watch it grow,” Luna told me over video chat. “He’s looking for a world where you can live with nature, and it’s no longer trying to actively kill you all the time.” He believes that we can truly get back to it.”
The Fireflies, a group of rebels resisting the military’s harsh authoritarian control of survivors, seem to be at the forefront of this effort to return to civilized society. Leader Marlene is played by Merle Dandridge of Sons of Anarchy and The Flight Attendant. She informed me that they stand for hope because they are looking for a method to restore people’s freedom.
The journey continues. #TheLastOfUs will return for another season on @HBOMax. pic.twitter.com/FQNG6vhk1d
— The Last of Us (@TheLastofUsHBO) January 27, 2023
Fans will be pleased with this selection, as she provided the voice of Marlene in the video games. (Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who play Joel and Ellie in the game, also make an appearance, though their specific roles have yet to be revealed.)
She also said that the preparation she completed for the 2013 original helped her in her current role on the program, but that the series’ legendary status has given her new opportunities to explore.
“I absolutely did revisit the preparation.” “And checked in with Neil to make sure I got it right, because over time, your memory may erode the actual facts,” she said. “The great gift of having existing source material that is so loved, widely played, and broadcast everywhere is that you can go back, look at it, and [immerse yourself].”
HBO said on Monday that program creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann would release a companion podcast each week, giving listeners an inside look at what goes on behind the scenes. Hosted by Joel in the games, Troy Baker.
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Frequently asked questions
Will there be a last of us HBO series?
The third episode premiered last week, and the fourth will be released on Sunday, February 5. The first season of the show, which consists of nine episodes, is an adaptation of the classic PlayStation video game series created by Naughty Dog. In addition, HBO announced Friday that the show would be returning for a second season.
Is The Last of Us show an adaptation?
On January 15, 2023, The Last of Us made its debut. A lot of people thought it was the best live-action adaptation of a video game, and they were not wrong.