Curse? What curse? For all the usual doom-mongering surrounding video game adaptations, the Quickfire phenomenon from The last of us shouldn’t surprise anyone. The nine-episode HBO series based on the acclaimed 2013 game had everything in its favor. A generous prestige TV budget. Charismatic stars on the rise of their careers. Well drawn, character driven source material. All it had to do was survive the landing, and it did. The last of us was both a critical and commercial smash, with viewership skyrocketing as the series progressed. (This week, HBO announced that the average viewership for the first five episodes across all platforms is now nearly 30 million viewers.) The renewal of the second season, announced back in January, was inevitable. But while the first season was a slam dunk, its sequel has the potential to be a disaster.
As fans of the game well know – but millions of TV viewers might not – The last of us had a sequel that was released in 2020. It takes place four years after the end of the original, The Last of Us Part II was a masterpiece of the medium, expanding on much of what the first did well. While The last of us was primarily the story of Joel (Troy Baker in the game, a jaded Pedro Pascal on TV), Part II Ellie (Ashley Johnson/Bella Ramsey), his spirited teenage human, gets a lot more attention. It was bigger, richer, darker and messier. And it was one of the most rabidly polarizing games of all time.
The problems for Part II began months before its release when footage from the game, obtained in a hack, was leaked online, revealing all of the game’s major plot points, including a seismic twist. It was also revealed that a third playable character named Abby (Laura Bailey) was introduced to the game. The twist — and Abby’s role in the story — enraged sections of the game’s fanbase, sparking a backlash laced with reactionary bigotry. The game’s makers were abused on social media for capitulating to the “awakening,” with many people misidentifying Abby, a muscular cis woman, as transgender. (Separately, the second game features a prominent trans character.) Beneath the toxicity, however, lay a kernel of truth: This was undoubtedly a hard-hitting, provocative sequel that refused to give people what they wanted.
As I wrote in a review three years ago, The Last of Us Part II is a triumph of video game design with a spectacular story that goes deeper and hits harder than its predecessor. However, it’s also dark, unsettling, and immensely violent. Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, the creators of HBO The last of ushaven’t specified exactly what the second season will entail, other than that it will adapt Part II. Mazin has hinted at this in interviews Part II can be spread across multiple TV seasons – a smart idea considering the game’s unwieldy 20-30 hour storyline would be difficult to condense.
But there are more issues than just length. Part II is (if you can believe it) sonically much more brutal than the first and structurally more complex. While The last of usThe relatively straightforward story of could easily be mapped onto an episodic television series, Part II is harder to imagine. Like the game too Part II will affect the series is another unknown. Will its creators choose to tone down some of the game’s dark edges? Or further sharpen? Fans of the game are in the bizarre position of bracing themselves for a toxic discourse that came and went three years ago.
of course, if Part II is well adjusted, it could patch one of last of us The TV Series’ Biggest Weaknesses One thing that has taken the wind out of much of the first season for people like me is how closely it often follows the original game, in everything from story beats to dialogue swapping to blocking . The most compelling moments came when he departed from this form of sacred source worship and dared to imagine something new – as in his moving, self-contained third installment. If the violent disorder of Part II leads to more of these fanciful flourishes – the essence of a good adaptation, really – then the prospects for the future of the series are still bright.
In any case, you can bet on one thing: The last of usThe second season of will be event television. Whether this will be a rave or a funeral remains to be seen.
The first season of The Last of Us is available NOW in full