The Last of Us series finale might have raised questions about Joel's choice and his morality, but it also takes away our weekly fix of the emotionally-traumatised Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey's misadventures. Luckily for us, there's more to their story; HBO has aleady greenlit a second season, with co-creator Neil Druckmann confirming that it would chart the events from 2020's The Last of Us: Part II game. Craig Mazin, who directed a few episodes of The Last of Us series, previously hinted that an adaptation of the sequel was likely if enough people tuned in to watch the first season. Now with all nine episodes out, it has broken records and is a critical and commercial success.
As per HBO, The Last of Us finale drew a series high of 8.2 million viewers, despite competing against the 2023 Oscars ceremony, airing at around the same time. Episode 9 ‘Look for the Light' slightly beat out last week's record of 8.1 million viewers and marks a 75 percent increase in traffic when compared to the series premiere, which amassed 4.7 million viewers. The figures were tallied based on Nielson and first-party data across HBO Max and linear telecasts, and is now averaging 30.4 million viewers across its first six episodes. Notably, this does not include Disney+ Hotstar viewership.
HBO Content Such As The Last of Us Will Be Unavailable on Disney+ Hotstar From March 31
With the second season confirmed and the co-creators revealing new information on the same in a GQ interview, here's everything you need to know about The Last of Us season 2:
The Last of Us season 2 expected release window
A second season of The Last of Us was greenlit merely two episodes into the first one, which is emblematic of the trust HBO has in this video game adaptation. In an interview, lead Pascal said that filming for season 2 might begin this year, and seeing HBO's track record with their prestige shows, we could expect to see season 2 drop sometime in 2024.
Speaking to The Washington Post earlier this year, co-creator Craig Mazin claimed that filming on The Last of Us season 1 took 200 days and that it followed a 'feature-film-like production schedule', which is something he was used to with his 2019 drama series Chernobyl. The crew spent 18–19 days working on and perfecting each episode unlike network television, which according to Mazin demands you shoot 7–8 pages of script a day. “We shot more like 18-19 days per episode — two and a half pages a day, maybe three,” he said in the interview. Months of additional work followed in order to get the special effects right. Filming began in July 2021, in Alberta, Canada.
The Last of Us Season 1 Review
Co-creator Craig Mazin was adamant about telling The Last of Us' story in just nine episodes
Photo Credit: HBO
The Last of Us season 2 tone and approach
Despite the size and scope of the original 2013 video game, Mazin was adamant about telling that story to the TV audience in exactly nine episodes. The slow process involved a lot of ideas being thrown towards the original writer Druckmann, as to what lore should be preserved and any deviations from the original.
However, The Last of Us: Part II is a lot longer with brutal action sequences driving the story forward, exploring the tragedy of revenge and the human ability to forgive. All of this is directly tied to specific conflicts in the game, so unlike the first season, it might be difficult to offer sporadic action. Speaking to GQ, the creators confirmed that depicting the events of Part II will take longer than one season. While Mazin stopped short of discussing whether the arc will be completed with season 3 — suggesting the possibility beyond — he noted that some of the events in the show might get entirely flipped when compared to the game.
“There are going to be things that are going to be different, and there are things that are going to be identical. There are things that are going to be added and enriched. There are some things that are going to be flipped,” he said in the interview. “Our goal remains exactly what it was for the first season, which is to deliver a show that makes fans happy.”
One of the complaints stemming from The Last of Us season 1 was the lack of infected clickers (zombies), versus the game. Mazin claims that he has observed the audience's reaction to the sparse appearance of the zombies, and “noted how much they liked those encounters.” Without spoiling much, he promises some “interesting things” coming in The Last of Us season 2.
The Last of Us season 1 was lacking in clickers and more action sequences
Photo Credit: HBO
The Last of Us season 2 cast
The two central leads Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey will reprise their roles as Joel and Ellie, respectively, in The Last of Us season 2. Speaking to Elle magazine earlier this year, Ramsey claimed that if allowed to, she would love to play Ellie 'forever'. Co-creator Druckmann holds similar views on the subject and would only recast Ramsey if she didn't want to continue playing the role anymore. “We are extremely lucky to have Bella… and the only way we would ever consider recasting Bella is if she said, ‘I don't want to work with you guys anymore',” he told TheWrap, earlier this week. “And even then we're not sure we would grant her that. We might force her to come back this season.”
While Ramsey's casting as Ellie was initially met with criticism from fans — because her face didn't match the character in-game — the general consensus has grown to love her portrayal. The only concern — albeit tiny — is that Ramsey might appear too young for Ellie's arc in The Last of Us Part II, despite being the same age in real life — 19. Meanwhile, Joel will probably appear a bit skinnier with more grey hair and wrinkles.
While not explicitly mentioned, Gabriel Luna is expected to return as Joel's brother Tommy in the sequel, alongside Rutina Wesley as his wife Maria, both of whom had key roles to play in the 2020 game. Currently, there is no word on new characters in The Last of Us Season 2.
Bella Ramsey's casting as Ellie was initially met with criticism
Photo Credit: HBO
The Last of Us season 2 plot
The critically-acclaimed yet polarising sequel The Last of Us Part II is set four years after the first game, which indicates that the second season also kicks off with a time jump. Ellie is now 19, continuing to live life in Jackson, Wyoming with Joel, Tommy, and her girlfriend Dina, who was briefly teased in episode 8 ‘When We Are in Need,' shyly observing her from behind a pillar before getting yelled at. Her relationship with Joel, however, has gotten a little strained, owing to the events at the end of the first game/ season, where Ellie continues to suspect whether Joel was telling the truth about the events that transpired at the Fireflies' base.
Spoilers for The Last of Us season 1 finale ahead: The Last of Us season 1 finale saw Joel (Pascal) and Ellie (Ramsey) finally making their way to the Firefly base, after which the latter got put into surgery, so the Cordyceps chemical messenger that makes her immune can be removed, multiplied, and be used to make a cure. Unfortunately, Cordyceps grows inside the brain, which would mean that Ellie would die in surgery. Joel, who has now formed a father-like bond with her, retaliates against the Firefly soldiers, slaughtering them all before heading inside the pediatric operation theatre to save her. Inside, there are three individuals — a male doctor and two female nurses. The former grabs a knife in self-defence, and Joel, numbed by pain and determination pops a cap in the doctor's head and manages to pick up and leave with a heavily-sedated Ellie. Little does he know, that final, unneeded murder opened up a whole can of worms it shouldn't have.
Spoilers for The Last of Us Part II: If Druckmann and Mazin intend to follow The Last of Part II closely, let me warn you that Joel will have much less screen time in season 2 — because he dies. As it turns out, the aforementioned doctor had a child named Abby Anderson, who seeks revenge against Joel for her father's death — brutally beating him to death with a golf club as a grieving Ellie is forced to witness it all. This kickstarts a revenge story that cuts back and forth, having the player intermittently take control of both Ellie and Abby, oftentimes going through the same paths and offering differing perspectives on each character. It is unclear how the creators intend on tackling the character switches in the show — a feature that's easy to pull off in a video game — but Mazin claims he's got it all planned.
The vengeful Abby in The Last of Us Part II
Photo Credit: Naughty Dog
Personally, I feel like Oscar-winning director Alejandro González Iñárritu would be a great candidate to helm at least some of the episodes, given his expertise in telling interconnected stories that converge in time — akin to Babel and 21 Grams.
“I think we know what we're doing on this one. I'm not saying that in a snarky way, I'm saying that in a hopeful way,” he said in the GQ interview. “We've got an incredible returning cast. It's a daunting task. But Jesus, so was the first season. You can't make everyone happy.” The way Joel's death was handled in The Last of Us Part II and its message about revenge and forgiveness drew ire from fans, making it one of the most polarising titles in video game history. The game was the subject of review bombing on aggregator websites, with some complaining about its take on politics and LGBTQ+ characters.
“I don't care. How they react is how they react, that is completely outside of our control. So how do we make the best TV show version of that story? That's the problem that we wrestle with every day,” Druckmann said in regard to the negative reaction to the game, and how it translates to his work in The Last of Us season 2.
Here's a fun fact to close out: One of the nurses in The Last of Us finale was played by Laura Bailey, who originally provided voice and motion capture for Abby in The Last of Us Part II. It's hard to tell in the show because she was wearing a surgical mask, but the secret was unveiled in some behind-the-scenes photos after the episode aired.
All nine episodes of The Last of Us season 1 are available to stream on Disney+ Hotstar in India, and HBO Max wherever available.
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