Predictions for HBO’s 'The Last of Us' TV Series
Yes, I know it's early to be doing this.
Ironically amidst the spread of a virus that has the world panicking, Naughty Dog vice president Neil Druckmann revealed that a The Last of Us TV series is in production at HBO. Joining Druckmann on the creative end is Chernobyl creator and writer, Craig Mazin. It’s two names you absolutely do want attached to a TV adaptation of The Last of Us as both have had experience in pulling heartstrings and crafting horrifying imagery.
Since the series is set to cover the events of the first game, we already know the basic story before it starts filming. Joel and Ellie set out in search of a band of survivors that believe they can use Ellie’s immunity to the cordyceps strain to create a cure. Along the way, the duo battles against the perils of the infected world, including the ravenous Clickers and camps of ruthless hunters.
In general, we know what to expect from a TV adaptation of The Last of Us. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not worth going through my list of predictions for the upcoming HBO series. Read through my thoughts on what we can expect from a The Last of Us adaptation and see if they line up with any predictions you may have.
Oh, and heads up. There are major spoilers ahead for The Last of Us.
We’ll See Sarah Die… Again
You have the man that wrote the very real, gut-wrenching drama of Chernobyl and the mind that killed Sarah off in the first place. There is no way that the HBO series will sidestep this tragic event in Joel’s life in lieu of something far less upsetting.
If you have doubts, it’s worth noting that Sarah’s death is an important factor in the relationship between Joel and Ellie. Especially when it comes to Joel’s decision to save Ellie from the Fireflies. Not only did Sarah die amidst the initial spread of the infection, her death was the catalyst for Joel’s hardened and callous personality. Without her, we wouldn’t have the dynamic of Joel and Ellie, and her passing is a necessary step to reach that point.
If the showrunners really want to devastate viewers that don’t know what they’re in for, they should pull the same trick that Naughty Dog did on players. Start with the series focusing on Sarah and make viewers feel the weight and pain of her inevitable demise.
Ellie Will Be a Late-Season Arrival
The Last of Us was pretty quick in introducing us to Ellie, forcing Joel and Tess’ relationship to the side. There was clearly something between the two, but players really only got a surface-level look at their complicated past.
Pushing Ellie’s arrival further down the line allows another pivotal relationship of Joel’s to have more depth. It was because he was close to Tess that he even met Ellie, so their pairing is pretty important to the core story. It would also be nice to know Tess a bit better. In the game, her death is impactful only because we watched it through Joel and Ellie’s eyes. Players didn’t feel much about it because we really never got to know Tess that well, save for her no-nonsense demeanor.
Maybe Druckmann will even dig up that alternate ending where Tess returns as an antagonist. That, of course, would require more of a backstory for her.
The Universe Will Remain Small
Yes, the cordyceps infection affected the entire world, but in the game, we only see a fraction of its reach. The Last of Us kept the story pretty focused around Joel and Ellie, so we only ever saw what was happening in their immediate vicinity. For the game, it worked wonders in making the story feel more personal. Unlike The Walking Dead, which got too big for itself, The Last of Us will likely be just as focused as its video game counterpart
Don’t expect to see much of the world beyond where Joel and Ellie travel. It’s really not necessary to branch out, especially since Naughty Dog was able to convey the chaos the fungal outbreak caused by sticking close to the game’s protagonists.
Don’t Expect Hugh Jackman
Immediately after Druckmann’s announcement, I saw posts asking for Hugh Jackman as Joel. While I disagree and would love to see someone relatively unknown in the part, I also don’t think it’s a possibility. First and foremost, there’s the issue of budget. HBO is going to want to see its money diversified across the production. Bringing on Jackman would be a large blow to the casting budget and may require cuts elsewhere.
Second, we’ve already seen Jackman in this role. Logan, as many have pointed out, is Marvel’s version of The Last of Us. There are entire Reddit threads and editorials dedicated to pointing out the similarities between not just the two stories, but also between Logan and Joel. Outside of Joel’s keen fashion sense and Logan’s mutation, the two could be interchangeable. While the comparisons to Logan would be flattering to Druckmann, Mazin, and company, they should also want the series to be able to stand on its own without Wolverine’s last ride constantly being brought up.
It Will End at Joel’s Lie
That abrupt ending we got with The Last of Us left us with our mouths wide open. No matter how many times we play it, we feel the weight of the decision Joel makes. It’s too perfect an ending for the game and is incredibly difficult to top. The death of a fan-favorite character would, of course, leave us sad, but it’s a different kind of shock. One that isn’t underlined with betrayal and a question of morality. Unless, of course, it was an unexpected murder, but that’s cheap and doesn’t quite fit within the tone of Druckmann’s creation.
So, that leaves the showrunners with the near-impossible task of topping the game’s ending - and I don’t think they’ll even bother. Whether you watched it play out in-game or are experiencing it for the first time in live-action, that final exchange is devastating and will make for great TV.
HBO Will Learn from Past Mistakes
Remember how everyone loved The Walking Dead, and then suddenly, it was one of those “Oh, that’s still on,” shows? Or how everyone was so into Game of Thrones before that polarizing eighth season? HBO is going to learn from the mistakes of its own production and AMC’s zombie drama going into The Last of Us.
That’s not to say The Last of Us and The Walking Dead are one and the same, but let’s be honest. Infected people, post-apocalyptic worlds, and bands of survivors are going to lead to frequent comparisons. That will push showrunners to be smarter about the decisions they make. The same goes for Game of Thrones, which greatly veered from fan expectations when David Benioff and D. B. Weiss stopped listening to their advisers and fans.
Fans of The Last of Us are going to be expecting something very specific. Stray from it too much, and it will take them no time to start turning on the production. Thankfully, with Neil Druckmann manning the keyboard alongside Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin, we can be confident that intelligent choices will be made along the way.
Though this announcement is exciting, especially after the planned movie fell into production hell, The Last of Us fans have a long road before we’re binge-watching a TV series. Along that road, though, we have The Last of Us: Part II, launching May 29, 2020, to tide us over. Excited to see where Ellie’s journey will take her? Why not try to win your copy of The Last of Us: Part II through my Twitter giveaway?