‘The Final of Us’ HBO Adaptation Pushes Its Universe Far Past the PlayStation Video games

For author Craig Mazin, the scariest factor in HBO TV sequence The Final of Us is not the Clickers, Bloaters or any of the opposite horrors from the legendary Sony PlayStation sport it is based mostly on. It is the second a lone scientist realizes a fungal mind an infection will scale back the world’s inhabitants into savage cannibals. This scene seems in a flashback newly created for the present — it wasn’t within the 2013 sport or its 2020 sequel.

“That is terrifying to me,” Mazin advised me throughout a roundtable Zoom interview forward of the present’s Jan. 15 premiere on HBO Max. “It grounds the whole lot, and the extra we are able to make the peripheral really feel actual, the extra the middle will really feel actual.” 

Mazin utilized that very same curiosity to a real-life catastrophe when he created 2019’s acclaimed HBO miniseries Chernobyl. For The Final of Us, flashbacks and pseudo-scientific supply of the an infection had been derived from speaking to sequence co-writer Neil Druckmann, who wrote the sport and can also be inventive director and co-president of developer Naughty Canine. He relished the chance to develop the Final of Us universe past what we see within the video games by way of an skilled’s response to this apocalyptic revelation.

“Not solely is it scary to listen to the scientist say it is over, however the second the place she accepts it for herself and seeing the drama on her face is one thing distinctive for this [adaptation] that I am so glad we’re in a position to present,” Druckmann mentioned.

The flashbacks aren’t the one change that followers of the sport will discover — the timeline has been shifted so the outbreak occurred in 2003 (reasonably than the sport’s 2013), with the postapocalyptic narrative occurring in 2023 (as an alternative of 2033). As a result of the sport occurred the 12 months it got here out, Mazin and Druckmann agreed that the chronological repositioning made sense because it did not essentially change the story.

“If I am watching a present within the 12 months 2023 and it takes place in 2043, it is just a bit much less actual. I assumed it may be attention-grabbing to only say, ‘Hey, look, on this parallel universe, that is occurring proper now.’ So it was actually nearly serving to individuals join somewhat bit extra,” Mazin mentioned.

“Virtually talking, it did not change a lot aside from giving us a barely totally different palette of props, set design and automotive selection. Apparently, as we go on by way of the sequence, we preserve discovering new locations and new relics of the previous world, [always] coming again to that 2003 vibe.”

Pushed by grief

Additional grounding the story is relatable human drama at its core. Over the primary season’s 9 episodes, we observe curmudgeonly smuggler Joel Miller, who’s been charged with escorting cheerful teen Ellie throughout a postapocalyptic US (we cannot say why, to keep away from spoilers). The pair are performed by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.

Pedro Pascal holds a flashlight in a dark space in The Last of Us.

Pedro Pascal says Joel is “formed by loss.”


Pascal, whom you may know from Sport of Thrones and The Mandalorian, mentioned that the tragic loss Joel endured because the outbreak started continues to drive him 20 years later.

“He is fully pushed by trauma, and the whole lot that he does, for higher or worse, is formed by that loss and never experiencing that sort of loss once more. It is one thing, sadly, so many people can relate to,” Pascal advised me on Zoom. 

“It is superb to step into an adaptation of a beloved supply materials that has such an emotional human story on the heart of it, to make it all of the extra painful. Which we apparently love, as viewers members … we’re masochistic.”

Fellow Sport of Thrones alumnus Ramsey famous that Ellie sees Joel’s ache, which leads to them forming a bond on their journey. 

Ellie sits in a room with grass on the floor as Tess talks to her in The Last of Us.

Mysterious teen Ellie (left) is central to the story, and characters like Tess (proper) quickly learn the way essential she is.


“Ellie is conscious that there is one thing up with this man — there’s extra to him, he isn’t only a grumpy asshole for the sake of it,” the actor mentioned. “She sees a shared expertise; Ellie’s misplaced a really key particular person in her life [as well]. If you see somebody who’s been by way of one thing like that too, you need to join with them [even though] Joel may be very immune to it.”

Greater than surviving

The duo are searching for Joel’s idealistic brother Tommy, who’s discovered a function making an attempt to fix this horrifying world. He is performed by Gabriel Luna, identified for his roles in Marvel’s Brokers of SHIELD and Terminator: Darkish Destiny.

A concerned Tommy holds a rifle and gazes off camera in The Last of Us.

Characters like Tommy discover new function in a ruined world.


“He needs what his brother has firstly, which is household — to plant a seed and watch it develop,” Luna advised me over video chat. “He is searching for a world the place you may dwell with nature, and it is not making an attempt to actively kill you on a regular basis. He believes that we are able to really get again to it.”

Seemingly spearheading that return to civilization are the Fireflies, a bunch of rebels pushing again in opposition to the navy’s harsh authoritarian management over survivors. They’re led by Marlene, who’s performed by Sons of Anarchy and The Flight Attendant actor Merle Dandridge. She advised me that the Fireflies characterize “hope,” as they hunt for a technique to give individuals their autonomy again.

Marlene clutches a gunshot wound in her stomach as her ally looks on in The Last of Us.

Merle Dandridge (left) performs Marlene within the video games and the present.


This casting selection will delight followers, since she additionally voiced Marlene within the video games. (Joel and Ellie sport actors Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson additionally present up in unrevealed roles.) She additionally confirmed that the work she did for the 2013 authentic proved helpful when she was returning to the position within the present, however the legendary standing the sequence achieved within the years since opened up new avenues to discover.

“I completely did revisit the preparation. And checked in with Neil to ensure I obtained it proper, as a result of over time, your reminiscence could erode the precise info,” she mentioned. “The nice present of getting an present supply materials that’s so cherished, broadly performed and broadcast all over the place is that you may return, have a look at it and [immerse yourself].”

Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann will reveal extra in a companion podcast that’ll go behind the scenes of the present, HBO mentioned Monday, with podcast episodes dropping every Sunday. It will be hosted by actor Troy Baker, who performs Joel within the video games.

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