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The Last of Us TV show will ‘expand’ source material, not undo it

TV show adaptations of famous video games have a storied history over the years. They can be fantastic (Castlevania, The Witcher) or horrendous (The Legend of Zelda, Donkey Kong Country). While there are high hopes for the upcoming The Last of Us TV show on HBO, there’s no guarantee that it’ll be good.

Series producer Craig Mazin tried to stem those fears on a recent radio interview. Mazin, who wrote and produced the HBO series Chernobyl, appeared on BBC Radio 5 Live’s Chernobyl Special and said his plan for The Last of Us show was to expand on the source material rather than undo what’s already been established.

“I think fans of something worry that, when the property gets licensed to someone else, those people don’t really understand it, or are going to change it,” Mazin said. “In this case, I’m doing it with the guy who did it, and so the changes that we’re making are designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance.”

Mazin is working with Neil Druckmann, the writer and creative director of the game, as well as executive producer Carolyn Strauss and Naughty Dog president Evan Wells. Mazin said that it was a “dream come true” to work on the series.

“We’re creating anew, and we’re also reimagining what is already there to present a different format,” he said. “It’s kind of a dream come true for me. I’m a little bit scared because a lot of emotions connected to this game are rather intense. I think I’m probably going to go hide in a bunker for a while because you can’t make everyone happy!”

Chernobyl was a huge hit for HBO and featured a gritty and dark atmosphere seemingly perfect for the apocalyptic world of The Last of Us. The plan is for the series to cover the original game, with the possibility of content from the sequel. Mazin said it was paramount that Druckmann is part of the process.

“Neil Druckmann is without question the finest storyteller working in the video game medium, and The Last of Us is his magnum opus,” he said when the TV show was announced in early 2020. “Getting a chance to adapt this breathtaking work of art has been a dream of mine for years, and I’m so honored to do it in partnership with Neil.”

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The Last of Us finale makes a subtle change from the game to set up season 2
Joel holds the surgeons at gunpoint in The Last of Us' finale.

HBO viewers were rocked Sunday night by the finale of The Last of Us, which brought the iconic ending of Naughty Dog's critically acclaimed game to life in live-action. It was an extremely faithful adaptation, with no huge deviations from the source material. However, a key change was made that will help the show more gracefully transition into its adaptation of The Last of Us Part II.
Note: Spoilers for The Last of Us TV show and The Last of Us Part II video game to follow.
At the climax of The Last of Us Season 1's final episode, we see Joel annihilate most of the Fireflies and doctors at the Salt Lake City hospital as they prepare to operate on Ellie to get a cure, which would have killed her in the process. It's a chilling sequence that hits the same dubious, morally horrifying notes as it did in the game, and little is changed.
We see Joel kill the surgeon about to operate on Ellie after he picks up a scalpel and says he won't let Joel take her. Joel shoots him in cold blood, but does not kill the nurses assisting him. As he walks out of the room with Ellie, a shot lingers on the face of the now-deceased surgeon, punctuating Joel's massacre.

That may sound like a small cinematic altercation, but that lingering shot is very meaningful to those of us that played The Last of Us Part II. In the original game, we don't think much about Joel's victim; he's just some nameless doctor. In Part II, however, we meet that doctor's daughter, Abby, who's on a quest for revenge. What's a thoughtless action for Joel becomes deeply personal for someone he's never met.
By adding in that extra shot, the finale more confidently sets that up. Even if casual viewers don't know it yet, the groundwork is being laid for something that will be very important in the next season and makes it clear that the show knows where it's going.
The finale further teases what's to come with a smart bit of casting. Eagle-eyed fans may notice that one of the nurses during the scene is played by Laura Bailey, who portrays Abby in The Last of Us Part II. It's likely just the show paying tribute to the game's cast (as it did in episode 8 with Troy Baker, who voiced Joel in the video games), but it's also another way to tease what's to come in the next season. Abby is coming for Joel. Prepare your golf balls.
Of course, when Naughty Dog released The Last of Us in 2013, it didn't yet know that this doctor would play such a pivotal part in the sequel's story, so not as much focus was put on him in the game. The developers retroactively tried to correct this with a retelling of the sequence from Abby's perspective in The Last of Us Part II and updated models in the game's remake.
Showrunners Craig Maizin and Neil Druckmann have the benefit of knowing this moment's importance from the start and not being locked to Joel's third-person perspective. They can now take the time to linger with a shot like this, emphasizing what Joel has done and laying the groundwork for what comes next. It's a short and subtle shot that slightly deviates from the original game, but it's also something that could only be done in this TV show and will certainly be hugely important for the show as we head into season 2.
The Last of Us is available to stream on HBO Max.

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It had to end sometime. Season 1 and episode 9 of The Last of Us just finished, and a lot of people are probably bummed they can't get more postapocalyptic drama. Starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, the show chronicles a lonely man who guides a traumatized teenage girl across an unrecognizable America in the hopes of finding a cure for a fungal virus that has turned most of the world's population into flesh-eating zombies.

With an impressive 96% on Rotten Tomatoes and a steadily increasing viewership week after week, The Last of Us has already become the greatest video game adaptation ever made and now ranks among some of HBO's biggest shows. In case anyone is anxious to see more of the series, here are some shows/films similar to The Last of Us that will make the wait for season 2 easier.
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Here’s how you can get The Last of Us for free from AMD
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AMD has just announced a particularly well-timed bundle. If you're a fan of The Last of Us, be it the game or the show, you might find this deal worth picking up.

Starting today, you'll be able to score a free copy of the upcoming The Last of Us Part I for PC if you buy an AMD GPU. The chipmaker is also throwing in a discount on one of its best graphics cards.

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