The Last Of Us: About the Show

Based on the multi-award-winning PlayStation videogame, a new series from makers HBO, breathes new life into the post-apocalyptic genre, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.

Discover all you need to know about new Sky exclusive series, The Last of Us

Without a doubt, The Last of Us, is one of the most anticipated shows of 2023. Landing on Sky Atlantic and NOW in January, the 9-part series is based on the award-winning videogames from Naughty Dog, who were behind another beloved videogame series, Uncharted.

The show will debut exclusively on Sky Atlantic and NOW on January 16 with each episode being released weekly. Leading the cast are Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, who audiences may recognise from Game of Thrones, playing the parts of Joel and Ellie. Set against the backdrop of a post-apocalyptic world riven by a deadly disease, the pair are the heart of a brutal tale of survival against the odds.

Breaking beyond the confines of the game’s original story, the show builds on an already nuanced plot, to create a fresh take on a beloved franchise that will take fans and new audiences in a fresh and thrilling direction.

What’s the Story?

On September 26th, 2003, a deadly parasitic virus sweeps across the globe, turning normal people into violent monsters. Governments collapse, millions die, and the military sweeps in to take control.

The same night, a Texan contract worker, Joel (Pedro Pascal) is celebrating his 36th birthday with his younger veteran brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna) and teenage daughter, Sarah (Nico Parker). In the chaos of the outbreak, Joel’s life is changed forever.

Twenty-years later, humanity has survived against the odds. Joel has found a new life in the Boston quarantine zone (QZ). Alongside his partner Tess (Anna Torv), Joel has set up a successful and profitable operation, smuggling medical supplies and arms in and out of the QZ. Their biggest clients are on opposing sides. First, there’s the military regime who rule by martial law. Then there are the Fireflies, freedom fighters led by Marlene (Merle Dandridge), who have grown frustrated with the military oppression.

When a simple deal turns bad, Joel finds himself responsible for the care of 14-year-old Ellie, whom Marlene has been holding captive, and who might hold the cure to the world’s woes.

With Tess alongside, Joel and Ellie set out on a perilous journey from Boston to Salt Lake City, where they must learn to trust one another if they are to survive, facing off with human scavengers and the infected.

Like the video game, be prepared for a heart-rending tale of love and loss.

The Game vs The Show - What will be different?

While based on the videogame, the show’s writers, Craig Mazin (Chernobyl), and the game’s original writer Neil Druckmann, have adapted the original story to better suit a TV format. Even if you’ve played the videogame, there are plenty of surprises in store, and don’t expect a scene-for-scene remake of the game.

Going beyond the games

The show blends story elements of the original game, as well as the 2020 sequel and the 2014 expansion pack story, The Last of Us: Left Behind.

Drawing on all three narratives, the show’s writers take us into the back story of Ellie and Joel, as well as giving more background on secondary characters, and introducing new ones. For the show’s writers, it was important to take what worked in the video game and generate a plot that delves deeper into the world of The Last of Us, whilst retaining the story’s emotional resonance.

Where the horror begins and how it grows

What makes The Last of Us different from many zombie apocalypse narratives is how humanity’s end came about. The show’s writers, Mazin and Druckmann, wanted to build on the science of the disease established in the games, which never provided exact details on how and where the outbreak began.

Given the recent pandemic, the showrunners knew that audiences are all too aware of the realities of what happens when a virus breaks out on a global scale. With that in mind they wanted to enrich the narrative established in the game and not only create a more believable story, but also a more horrifying tale.

There’s nothing more scary than real life…

As with the game, the outbreak is based on a real-world fungus called Cordyceps. A form of Cordyceps, called Ophiocordyceps Unilateralis, can be found in hot climates and infects ants, taking over their bodies and hijacking their minds. The TV adaptation builds on this notion in ways that the game never goes into detail on.

Another difference from the game, is that the show opens many decades earlier in 1968. On a TV talk show, an epidemiologist, warns of the real threat to humanity in the direst terms. Unlike a viral pandemic, he believes humanity’s end won’t be spread through coughing and sneezing, but through fungal infection, citing Cordyceps, which he believes could cause an extinction level event. Dismissed on the grounds that fungi can’t survive in human hosts because they can’t live at body temperature, he proposes a chilling idea - what if the world gets hotter through global warning and the fungus adapts?

Another central change was removing the concept of floating spores that transmit the infection, which was so iconic in the videogames. Instead, the writers opted for another chilling change. In the show, humans infected with CBI (Cordyceps Brain Infection) are connected by a gigantic fungal network, not unlike the world’s largest organism that can be found in Oregon’s Blue Mountains and stretches a whopping 2,384 acres and is between 2,400 – 8,650 years old. In the show, if you attract the attention of a Clicker (a mutated human that is more fungus than flesh) you can be sure it will attract the attention of his friends through the fungal network.

Characters Old and New

As well as bringing characters to life that players of the game will be familiar with, the show makes some significant changes, and introduces some brand new personalities. Much of what people loved about the game was the rich array of secondary characters encountered by Ellie and Joel on their journey.

The spirit of the game is retained, but the show gives more space, providing some rich background on characters. This includes Frank (Murray Bartlett) and Bill (Nick Offerman).

New characters include Kathleen, played by Melanie Lynskey, who audiences will recognise from another tale of survival against the odds, Yellowjackets. Kathleen was raised in Kansas City along with her family under the oppressive rule of FEDRA (Federal Disaster Response Agency), a government department that turned to torture and oppression when the world collapsed. Tired of the tyranny, she and her friend Perry lead a rebellion, taking control of the city.

As well as Kathleen, there are two other new characters: Marlon, played by the legendary Graham Greene, and Florence, played by Elaine Miles. Like Joel and Ellie, they are born survivors, attempting to make the best of their lives in the wilds of Wyoming.

Learn about the characters in The Last of Us

The Last of Us debuts on Sky Atlantic and NOW in January

Find out all you need to know about The Last of Us...

Infected, Clickers, Bloaters - What nightmarish monsters await >

Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Anna Torv - Discover the stellar cast and characters >

"★★★★★ The best adaptation of a video-game ever made" - Read the reviews >

Who's in the director's chair for each episode? - Find out more >

The history of the award-winning game - Learn about the videogame behind the show >

Want to see more? - Watch the trailer >

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