The iconic adventure of Joel & Ellie is almost on our small screens. HBO’s The Last of Us is just a few weeks away from its January 15th premiere. Despite promising trailers and screenshots, certain fans of the game may understandably still feel a bit skeptical. Film and TV adaptations of video games have been of very mixed quality. 2022’s Uncharted did little to encourage people to feel optimistic about the multiple upcoming projects from PlayStation Productions.
There have been many signs that The Last of Us will break the curse and step in the right decision. HBO and Chernobyl creator Craig Mazin are both at the helm. It’s been marketed like it’s in the same category as Euphoria and House of the Dragon, showing like it’s not just viewed as an adaptation. For fans who are unsure about the series, and others who are happy to increase their anticipation, here are 8 reasons to be excited for HBO’s The Last of Us.
Pedro Pascal & Bella Ramsey
While the casting of The Mandalorian‘s Pedro Pascal as Joel was positively received, the same can not be said for Bella Ramsey. Ellie is the biggest character in the franchise. Bella being chosen to step into her shoes has divided opinion, although some online criticism has turned into bullying. I had my doubts as I wished for years that Kaitlyn Dever would be cast. The latest trailer for HBO’s The Last of Us, though, transformed my thoughts. That one moment where Ellie pretends to turn, then responds quietly to being told off by Tess is perfect. Bella can be trusted to deliver, especially after watching her in Game of Thrones.
Pedro’s experience with father and child relationships is very important for this show. He’s already shown that, visually and vocally, he’s a good fit for the Joel character. Unfortunately, we’ve seen very few back-and-forths between him and Bella’s Ellie but they have looked great and natural together. Ellie’s goofiness and Joel’s seriousness should mesh together on-screen just as well as they did virtually. It is crucial that both actors work to make audiences care about the characters’ developing relationship. The small signs so far are certainly promising.
Old favourites such as Tess (Anna Torv) and Bill (Nick Offerman) will be brought to life in the Last of Us TV show. There will, however, be a few original characters introduced. These include Marlon (Graham Greene) and Florence (Elaine Miles), a couple who Joel and Ellie will encounter in Wyoming. So far, they appear to be experienced survivors who will warn the duo about the dangers lying ahead of them. Other newcomers are known to be Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), a revolutionary movement leader, and Perry (Jeffrey Pierce), a quarantine zone rebel.
It’s great to see more characters added to the world of The Last of Us. In a post-apocalyptic setting, I want to know as much as possible about how people are living. The trailer presents the typically tough Joel as being a bit intimidated by Florence’s presence. How has she scared him? Viewers may find out even more about our protagonists through these fresh faces. Expanding the game’s story should be welcomed. Marlon is already a favourite in some people’s eyes for wisely telling Joel to “go east” when asked for the best way west.
As well as the main story, the writers will be covering backstories of which some fans may not be familiar with. It’s known that the events of the Left Behind DLC will feature in the HBO show. Euphoria‘s Storm Reid being cast as Riley is excellent. Bill’s life before encountering Joel and Ellie will also be shown, with his partner Frank (Murray Bartlett) having a much bigger presence. The more LGBT representation, the better. It’ll be nice to discover more about who Frank is and the kind of complicated relationship he and Bill share.
A recent TV spot hinted at the American Dreams comic playing a part. A quick shot of a hooded Ellie is considered to be very similar to an image from the prequel. It’s likely to be used to add context to the Left Behind story. There was also a clip of a scientist who seems to be looking at some kind of fungus. This could mean that we’ll get to see how the Cordyceps brain infection began, something which certain The Last of Us fans have been calling for. Personally, I would also like to see Ish’s short tale shown some love.
Memorable Moments Recreated
Some people may be dreading the premiere episode of HBO’s The Last of Us. Everyone who’s played the game knows what goes down in that prologue. There’s going to be tears, but one of the best parts of this show will be seeing memorable scenes like that recreated. Troy Baker’s performance was outstanding and it’ll be interesting to see how far Pedro Pascal takes himself. Cinematography is a big thing to look forward to also. The ranch house scene is another moment that will be chilling to witness, as long as the show is of high quality up to that point.
There are multiple other scenes that will send even new audiences through a range of emotions. To lighten the mood, I’m hoping for Ellie to whip out her joke book a few times to bring some laughter. God knows it will be needed ahead of the winter episode. Ellie and David’s showdown, if it’s anything like the game, can be expected to be dark, brutal and emotional. It’s so exciting to think of these moments being brought to our screens, that I’ve already been thinking about cutscenes from The Last of Us Part ll!
In what is arguably a fantastic decision, Gustavo Santaolalla will be carrying his musical genius across to the TV show adaptation. It’s unknown how many of the tracks will be from the game, as well as how many are newly composed for the show. A new version of The Last of Us‘ main theme has already been heard in trailers. Santaolalla has good TV and film experience, having worked on Jane the Virgin and Making A Murderer. Fans will be aware of how important his contribution has been in both games.
Santaolalla’s score may not be the only piece of music heard throughout the series. A great remix of A-Ha’s Take On Me was heard in the recent trailer. Could we hear remixes of songs such as True Faith and Future Days also? Or perhaps another classic song will enter the fray? Music will surely play a huge role in telling the narrative, just like it does for the games. Tracks such as Left Behind and All Gone (No Escape) carry so much emotional weight that the inclusion of them, or similar songs, will add so much.
On PC and consoles, post-pandemic USA is a terrifyingly gorgeous world. The image of overgrown residential areas can be somewhat relaxing. In HBO’s The Last of Us, these virtual environments are now the real deal. Winter has been shown off a lot so far and for good reason. Joel and Ellie are clearly venturing through empty, bitterly cold areas. Thanks to a big budget, the cinematography for this show looks to be of the highest quality. That alone creates excitement to see how other environments, whether old or new, are brought to life.
One of the best shots seen so far has arguably been of Ellie in the mall as the lights come on. For a moment I felt like I was also experiencing this spectacle with her for the first time. The Left Behind DLC puts much emphasis on lighting, and it looks like the show will follow the same route. We’ve only got a glimpse of buildings riddled with the infection. It looks like those areas will be as haunting as they should be. The cinematographers likely won’t hold back in showing viewers the creepy effects of Cordyceps.
Neil Druckmann’s Involvement
Naughty Dog’s co-president has been trying for years to adapt The Last of Us, his creation, into a film or TV show. Neil Druckmann has been working closely with Craig Mazin to finally make his dream a reality. He’s co-creator, co-writer and an executive producer for this project. Throughout development, he will have known what works and what doesn’t work. If Joel and Ellie’s chemistry seemed even slightly off, you’d imagine that Druckmann would have been the one to step in. Mazin has also made his love for the franchise well known but having Druckmann on board provides a sense of comfort.
It’s been said by Neil Druckmann that HBO’s The Last of Us has allowed him to include content that was cut from the game. According to Craig Mazin, one piece of this content will make our jaws drop. Fans will know that Druckmann is not afraid of taking risks, which is both exciting and concerning. His heavy involvement, though, is certainly a great sign. It’s difficult to think that he would accept a poor quality version of the story which he penned with Bruce Straley a decade ago.
Ashley Johnson & Troy Baker
Most people would agree that Ashley Johnson and Troy Baker’s outstanding performances as Ellie & Joel were a big reason for The Last of Us‘ success. It seems only right that both actors would be given roles for the TV show. Ashley Johnson, in particular, has much acting experience having starred in NBC’s Blindspot. She will, fittingly, be playing Ellie’s mother Anna in flashback sequences where she gives birth. These scenes could be emotionally powerful, helped by the love that Ashley has for the Ellie character.
Meanwhile, Troy Baker was rumoured to be the villainous David. He is instead playing his right-hand man in James. This means he will have a few run-ins with Bella Ramsey’s Ellie. While Troy does not have as much acting experience as Ashley, he’s done plenty of motion capture work and is passionate about The Last of Us. It’ll be interesting to see the protagonist’s videogame actor playing an ally of the show’s most evil antagonist. There’s not long to wait to find out how Troy does.
What or who are you most excited to see in HBO’s The Last of Us? Let us know in the comments below! The TV show premieres on January 15th on HBO, HBO Max and Sky Atlantic (UK)