By: SERENITY PALMERIN
Note: This article contains spoilers for ‘The Last of Us’ video game series and show.
HBO releases its adaptation of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us video game series. (Flickr)
The first episode of ‘The Last of Us’ (TLOU) series premiered on Jan. 15, 2023 on HBO Max. The show is set to air weekly on Sundays at 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time (PST). TLOU is set in a present-day post-apocalyptic world in America after a deadly fungal virus outbreak 20 years prior. It is based on a popular video game series that was originally released on June 14, 2013. The sequel was released seven years later on June 19, 2020, and won eight awards, including Game of The Year for the 2020 Game Awards. The original creator of the video game series, Neil Druckman, has worked as both a writer and an executive producer on the show.
The series follows Joel Miller, a middle-aged man attempting to survive in a post-apocalyptic world after the loss of his daughter Sarah on outbreak day, 20 years earlier. He then comes across Ellie Williams, a 14-year-old girl who was recently bitten by a zombie but has not yet turned. It becomes his responsibility to transport her to the Fireflies, an organization whose mission is to restore government control and find a cure for the Cordyceps (zombie) virus. As Joel grows attached to Ellie, he is forced to choose between her or a cure that could potentially save the world.
The creators of the game, Andy Gavin and Jason Rubin, originally branded their name as “JAM Software INC.” They changed their brand name to “Naughty Dog” in 1989 and were picked up by Sony in 2001. They left Naughty Dog in 2004 but the company continued to develop games. Other than TLOU, their most famous games are ‘Crash Bandicoot’ and the ‘Uncharted’ series, which was recently adapted into a movie released in 2022.
Pedro Pascal plays Joel Miller and Bella Ramsey plays Ellie Williams in TLOU tv series. There are a variety of other famous actors, such as Nick Offerman, Ashley Johnson, Anna Torv, and more. Pascal and Ramsey had also previously played roles on the HBO series ‘Game of Thrones’. The two played very separate roles in different years but now get to star together in TLOU.
TLOU, in both the game and the series, has representation and deals with many imposing social issues. The show, so far, features more representation than the game, with Sam, a recently introduced supporting character, being deaf, when in the game he has his full hearing. Many of the main characters in the series and game are also African American, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, etc.
There is also plenty of LGBTQ+ representation within the show and the game. The HBO series has been facing much criticism for this inclusion. In the game, Ellie is queer which is shown in the extra downloadable content (DLC) and the second game, HBO has made no indication of changing this for the tv series. There are also two queer characters named Bill and Frank, while fans believe that the characters are only subtly hinted to be queer in the game, the show takes a more direct approach when portraying their story.
In the game, the pair eventually separates and Bill and Joel come across Frank’s dead body where he left a very hateful note to Bill. This sequence is meant to show the hardships of life outside the designated safe zones. However, the show takes a more delicate and romantic approach by displaying the two characters living peacefully outside the walls while they grow old together.
When Frank eventually becomes ill, he requests for Bill to make his last day happy by getting married. Frank also requests that they have a candlelit dinner where Bill puts painkillers in his drink so that he may die peacefully. Bill completes this request and also drinks the wine against Frank’s wishes, so they can peacefully die together in bed. In both the game and the show, their love is very tragic, but in the show, it is handled very delicately. Many fans found this factor to be very romantic while others posted their criticism online.
In the second game of TLOU, there is also a 13-year-old transgender male character named Lev, who is taken care of by a main character named Abby. Lev, alongside his sister Yara, was originally in a cult called the Seraphites until they fled and were eventually rescued by Abby. Due to the beliefs of the cult, Lev experiences extreme discrimination and even threats to his life from others in the cult, including his mother. The game further touches on Lev’s hardships in a way that mirrors the treatment of trans children in both reality and the series.
Ramsey recently opened up about being genderfluid as stated in an interview conducted by the New York Times this past January, where they said, “in terms of pronouns, I really couldn’t care less.” As written by Jack King of the Gentlemen’s Quarterly, in response to the backlash of the third episode of the series featuring Bill and Frank, Ramsey stated that fans are “gonna have to get used to it.”
Pascal and Ramsey have gotten to bond and have discussions concerning gender, as Pascal has a sister, Lux Pascal, who is transgender. Ramsey told the New York Times that Pascal was “super supportive” and that their conversations “weren’t always deep; they could be funny and humorous, the whole spectrum. We were just very honest and open with each other.”
Ramsey further continues into her relationship with Pascal and her relationship with the executive producer Craig Mazin. When asked what her thoughts are on being a part of TLOU she responded, “I love it so much. And the people: Craig, Pedro. I want to spend all of my time with them.” She then goes on to say that she sees them as a “safety blanket” and that she’s “gained two fathers in a way.” Many fans agree that Pascal and Ramsey’s relationships with the crew will positively influence how well they work together starring in TLOU.
It has been a little over a month since ‘The Last of Us’ came out and the show has already averaged over 20 million views. It is also the second adaptation of a Naughty Dog video game in less than a year. TLOU has two experienced stars with a close relationship portraying the main characters Ellie and Joel. The show and game both provide representation for people with disabilities, minorities, and the LGBTQ+ community.
The series manages to make small changes while keeping the original premise of the game by starting from the beginning of the storyline. This way new fans aren’t confused when watching the show and can still play the game afterward and longtime fans are also able to enjoy the different interpretations from the same creators. Since the creator of the game will be working on the show, fans are certain that it will do the game justice.