Skip to main content

The Last of Us season 2 may fix The Last of Us Part II’s biggest flaw

The general consensus surrounding season 1 of The Last of Us seems to be that it was a resounding success. The HBO series’ first 9 episodes faithfully adapt the original Last of Us video game, which was first released 10 years ago in 2013. Now, Last of Us showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann are set to start working in earnest on the HBO show’s second season, which Druckmann has confirmed will adapt the events of 2020’s The Last of Us Part II.

Anyone who has played that divisive sequel will know it isn’t nearly as easy of a game to adapt as the original Last of Us. To their credit, Druckmann and Mazin seem to be aware of that. The pair have, in fact, already said that they believe The Last of Us Part II‘s story will need to be told across multiple seasons of television in order to be adapted faithfully.

While that will do a lot to help The Last of Us avoid the risk of releasing a second season that feels narratively rushed, it isn’t the only creative decision Mazin and Druckmann will have to make in order to address the problems that dragged The Last of Us Part II down when it was originally released.

The Last of Us season 2’s biggest challenge

Ellie holds a guitar in the forest in The Last of Us Part 2.
Naughty Dog / Naughty Dog

The Last of Us Part II is a very different game than its 2013 predecessor. Unlike the original Last of Us, which tells a fairly linear story, Part II spends huge portions of its runtime bouncing around in time. The game is full of more flashbacks than it knows what to do with. Not only does it frequently flash back to some of the moments Joel and Ellie shared in the 4 years between it and the original Last of Us, but it also features flashbacks dedicated solely to fleshing out the life and perspective of its deuteragonist, Abby.

Abby is introduced early on in The Last of Us Part II without much fanfare or explanation, which makes her actions at the end of its first act all the more shocking. Unfortunately, the game’s decision to introduce Abby that way also forces it to spend huge portions of its second half flashing back in time to moments that are meant to help explain her actions throughout The Last of Us Part II. In case all of that wasn’t ambitious (or confusing) enough, the game’s second act is also divided into two chapters that explore the same 3-day period from two characters’ dueling perspectives.

Suffice it to say: The Last of Us Part II makes a lot of narrative decisions that not only barely work within the confines of a video game, but definitely wouldn’t work on a TV show. The good news is that Craig Mazin, who received widespread acclaim several years ago for his work on HBO’s Chernobyl, seems fully aware of the structural problems with The Last of Us Part II.

A potential solution

Abby stands in the rain in The Last of Us Part 2.
Naughty Dog

On the final episode of HBO’s official Last of Us podcast, Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin talked briefly about their plans for the series’ second season. In specific, when they were asked about their approach to adapting The Last of Us Part II, Druckmann said, “We will look at what made that story special and what is the soul of that story, and that needs to remain intact. And then the moment-to-moment beats and characters, they might stay the same, they might change. We will do what needs to happen in that story as it transfers from one medium to another.”

Mazin, for his part, added, “We will also take advantage of the freedom we have in television that wasn’t there in the games — specifically, the advantage of changing perspective. So we will use what we can use in a new medium to tell that story and we will go through the same process of adaptation.”

Mazin’s comment, notably, suggests that future seasons of his and Druckmann’s hit HBO show won’t necessarily need to rely on as many non-linear storytelling tricks as The Last of Us Part II does. That’s an extremely good thing, especially given just how disjointed The Last of Us Part II’s structure is, as well as the uneven pace at which it tells its story.

Joel and Ellie look at each other on a rooftop in The Last of Us Episode 9.
Liane Hentscher/HBO

Some of The Last of Us Part II‘s flaws aren’t the result of its overambitious story, but the fact that video games require their stories to be told from the perspectives of the characters their players are inhabiting. On the one hand, that requirement imbues games with a greater level of interactivity than movies or TV shows. On the other hand, it also means that they can’t bounce between multiple perspectives nearly as easily. In The Last of Us Part II, that fact becomes so apparent that it very nearly strangles all of the life out of the game’s story.

Based solely on Craig Mazin’s recent comments, it sounds like The Last of Us‘ future seasons won’t suffer the same fate. Instead, the show may very well end up throwing out Part II‘s non-linear structure altogether. Doing so would make the next chapter of the show’s story flow far more smoothly than it does in video game form and would give The Last of Us the chance to bounce between Ellie and Abby’s stories as they progress at the same time and pace.

Viewers may not, in other words, ever have to worry about HBO’s The Last of Us spending five episodes building up to a major turning point in its story only to spend its next five episodes exploring the same period of time that it literally just did. Thank goodness.

Season 1 of The Last of Us is available to stream now on HBO Max.

Alex Welch
Alex is a TV and movies writer based out of Los Angeles. In addition to Digital Trends, his work has been published by…
Yellowjackets season 2 episode 1’s shocking ending, explained
Shauna carries a tray of meat into a cabin in Yellowjackets season 2 episode 1.

The Yellowjackets season 2 premiere, titled Friends, Romans, Countrymen, picks up where the show’s first season left off.

In the past, the surviving Yellowjackets are still struggling to make it through a difficult winter. In order to cope with the increasing darkness of their reality, Natalie (Sophie Thatcher) and Coach Ben (Steven Krueger) have begun using the former’s daily hunting trips to put together a map of the wilderness around them. In case it wasn’t bad enough that Natalie’s hunting trips continue to produce little results, though, her lover and hunting partner, Travis (Kevin Alves), has also become consumed with trying to find his missing brother, Javi (Luciano Leroux). Shauna (Sophie Nélisse), meanwhile, has taken to talking to the corpse of her dead best friend, Jackie (Ella Purnell).
Clues in the present reveal Yellowjackets' past
In the present, Tawny Cypress’ Taissa still hasn’t fully come to terms with the severity of her renewed sleepwalking spells, while Melanie Lynskey’s adult Shauna spends most of the season 2 premiere trying to finish covering up her season 1 murder of her former boyfriend, Adam. In order to do so, Shauna and her husband, Jeff (Warren Kole), break into Adam’s former art studio, have sex, and then proceed to destroy all of the many paintings that Adam did of Shauna while they were together. Later, after jamming out privately to Papa Roach, Jeff helps Shauna burn all of Adam’s remaining belongings, as well as the journals she kept during her time in the wilderness as a teenager.

Read more
The Last of Us season 1 episodes, ranked
Ellie and Joel look sweetly at each other in The Last of Us.

HBO's sensation The Last of Us ended its first season with a bang. The show began airing in January, quickly becoming the most talked-about series on television and a worthy successor to HBO's now-iconic Sunday night lineup. Led by Game of Thrones breakouts Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsay, the show adapts Naughty Dog's universally beloved game about a smuggler escorting a teenager across a ravaged, postapocalyptic America. Haunted by infected mutants, government officials, and other lawless characters, the two form an intimate and powerful bond as they try to survive.

The first season remained stellar throughout its nine episodes, delivering compelling, thought-provoking, and thematically rich narratives that strengthened the source material's already extensive lore. Each episode in The Last of Us was a brilliant display of artistry, with top-notch writing, directing, acting, and production values. However, some episodes stood out more than others, whether because of their insightful storytelling, striking visuals, powerful performances, or a combination of all these crucial elements.

Read more
The 7 most shocking moments from HBO’s The Last of Us
Joel holds a rifle in The Last of Us.

HBO's The Last of Us has concluded its first season, and audiences are reeling after everything they experienced throughout the first nine episodes. Joel and Ellie's journey throughout post-apocalyptic America was long and arduous, and the suffering they endured at the hands of humans and Infected alike was far from forgiving.

Now that the first part of their adventure is finally over, here's a look back at some of the most shocking moments in the series.
7. Outbreak Day

Read more