A traumatized survivor of a zombie apocalypse must face hordes of the “Infected” to protect a teenage girl who might hold the key to a cure in The Last of Us, a new HBO series based on the blockbuster action/adventure game of the same name. HBO just dropped the first official teaser, giving gaming fans their first look at this long-awaited TV adaptation.
(Some spoilers from the game below.)
The Last of Us game from Naughty Dog debuted in 2013 to pretty much universal acclaim for its narrative, gameplay, visuals, and sound design. Ars senior gaming editor Kyle Orland called it “a thrilling, beautiful, exceptionally human zombie apocalypse story” in his 2013 review. The game sold more than 1 million units in the first week of its release and won multiple gaming awards. It’s still often cited as among the greatest video games ever made. Co-showrunner Craig Mazin called it the “Lawrence of Arabia of video game narratives.” Naughty Dog co-President Neil Druckmann, who wrote and directed the original game, co-wrote the first season of the TV series with Mazin.
The game is set in 2013 in the 20-year aftermath of a deadly outbreak of mutant fungus that turns humans into monstrous zombie-like creatures (the Infected, or Clickers). The world has become a series of separate totalitarian quarantine zones and independent settlements, with a thriving black market and a rebel militia known as the Fireflies making life complicated for the survivors. A hardened smuggler named Joel is tasked with escorting a teenage girl named Ellie across the devastated US, battling hostile forces and hordes of zombies, to a Fireflies unit outside the quarantine zone. Ellie is special: She is immune to the deadly fungus, and the hope is that her immunity holds the key to beating the disease.
There were a couple of failed attempts to adapt The Last of Us for a film before HBO Max announced its TV adaptation, which purportedly covers the events of the game as well as some aspects of the sequel, The Last of Us Part II (2020). Unlike the recent film adaptation of another Naughty Dog game, Uncharted—which told a new story within the game world—Mazin said that any changes for The Last of Us TV series are “designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but to enhance.” He also said that some content cut from the game will be included in the series and that some of the dialogue will be drawn directly from the game. The show’s score was created by original game composer Gustavo Santaolalla.
Per the official premise:
The Last of Us 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 the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.
Pedro Pascal was cast as Joel, while Bella Ramsey—so memorable as the fierce Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones—plays Ellie. Gabriel Luna plays Joel’s younger brother, Tommy, a former soldier, while Merle Dandridge reprises her role in the game as Marlene, head of the Fireflies. Anna Torv plays Joel’s smuggling partner, Tess, and Nico Parker has a guest role as Joel’s daughter, Sarah. Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett play survivalists, while Storm Reid plays an orphaned girl named Riley Abel, a character who appeared in a DLC packet for first game (The Last of Us: Left Behind).
Other actors from the game also appear in the series: Jeffrey Pierce (Tommy in the game) plays a rebel in the quarantine zone named Perry, while Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson (who played Joel and Ellie, respectively, in the game) have been cast in as-yet-undisclosed roles. There are also a handful of new characters: Marlon (Graham Greene), who lives in the Wyoming wilderness with his wife, Florence (Elaine Miles), and Melanie Lynskey as a revolutionary leader in Kansas City named Kathleen.