The Last Of Us HBO Show: Characters, Story, And Everything Else We Know

The critically acclaimed story of Ellie and Joel is arriving on HBO. Here’s what we know so far.

On November 20, HBO announced a dramatic series adaptation of 2013 video game The Last of Us. The post-apocalyptic third-person zombie shooter, about a father/daughter relationship and the horrible acts people commit in the name of love, is still considered one of the greatest video games in history.

There’s a bit of irony to this announcement: The original game was already a narrative experience that leaned into cinematic tropes. How would a television series add to this universe? Would it expand on the original characters and their motivations? Would it create new characters and events that we’d never seen before, or would it adhere strictly to its source material? Would it include any material from The Last of Us Part II, the more controversial, harrowing sequel to the original?

We’re slowly getting answers to those questions and more. Here’s everything we know so far about HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us: Part II.

1. Series Release Date

There is no announced release date for The Last of Us on HBO. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has no doubt had an effect on casting, scheduling, and filming. The only new image we have from the production is the above Firefly logo. We will update this gallery as we learn more.

2. Writers

The Last of Us video game was written by Neil Druckmann, the current creative director and co-president of development studio Naughty Dog. Druckmann will be co-writing the HBO show’s pilot with Craig Mazin, who gained critical acclaim for his writing and direction on HBO mini-series Chernobyl.

In an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live, Mazin assured fans that he plans to remain true to both the events and the spirit of the video game:

“I think fans of something worry that, when the property gets licenced to someone else, those people don’t really understand it, or are going to change it,” said Mazin. “In this case, I’m doing it with the guy who did it, and so the changes that we’re making are designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance.”

3. Director

Johan Renck, who directed Chernobyl, was originally slated to direct the pilot, but he had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. It is unknown who will replace him.

4. The Plot

The plot synopsis that WarnerMedia gave in its press release hews very closely to the game’s plot: “The story takes place twenty years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.”

According to Mazin, one of the goals of the series is to show us events and characters that we didn’t experience or meet in the game–implying that they will not alter the game’s central plot, only flesh them out and give them additional context.

If you’re a Stephen King fan, a good way of thinking about this is by thinking about his post-apocalyptic novel The Stand, first released in 1978, and later re-released in 1990 as a “Complete and Uncut Edition.” In his preface for the latter, King made the following explanation to readers who were thinking about purchasing the latest edition:

“You will not discover old characters behaving in new ways, nor will the course of the tale branch off at some point from the old narrative, taking you, Constant Reader, in an entirely different direction. This version of The Stand is an expansion of the original novel. As I’ve said, you won’t find old characters behaving in strange new ways, but you will discover that almost all of the characters were, in the book’s original form, doing more things, and if I didn’t think some of those things were interesting—perhaps even enlightening—I would never have agreed to this project.”

5. Confirmed Characters

Aside from the plot synopsis, which namechecks Joel and Ellie, there are no official reports on the characters that will appear in the drama. But back in March, Neil Druckmann responded to an HBO tweet by namechecking Ellie, Riley, Tess, Marlene, Maria, and a name that he edited out. The tweet was sent several months prior to the release of The Last of Us Part II, implying that the missing name was a character from the forthcoming sequel.

From this, we know that pretty much everything, plotwise, is on the table. Riley’s presence means that the prequel Left Behind is fair game–perhaps there will be flashbacks to when Ellie was infected? And the presence of Maria also implies the presence of Tommy, Joel’s younger brother.

And as for the missing name? Perhaps it could be Dina or Abby, especially if this series is a hit and HBO orders another season.

6. LGBT Inclusion

Ellie is gay, as revealed in the Left Behind DLC. In a response to a tweet by a concerned fan, Mazin gave his word that the HBO series would not change or retcon Ellie’s sexual orientation.

7. Returning Composer

Per a tweet by Neil Druckmann, Gustavo Santaolalla, who composed the scores for The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II, will also be composing music for the new series.

8. Casting

There have been no concrete announcements beyond the report of the series order. Castings have been rumored, but unconfirmed. Maisie Williams and Kaitlyn Dever, whose fans on Twitter have suggested them for Ellie, stated publicly that they would love to perform the role.

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