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HBO’s The Last Of Us can’t afford to make the classic Game of Thrones mistake



The Last of Us Key Art with Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones

The Last of Us is finally here on HBO Max, and it looks like fans have really shown up for the series. The Last of Us pilot episode of the show raked in a record number of viewers, sitting just behind House of the Dragon’s first episode in ratings.

Safe to say, Mazin, Druckmann, and co. are off to a great start on the back of a solid pilot. The first episode demonstrated a level of care, nuance, and respect for the source material that was most refreshing to see. Memories of the first episode of Game of Thrones came rushing back for fans as they finally were able to experience a good adaptation of the beloved books.

The Last of Us is one of the most celebrated games of all time. Its sequel has only cemented its place in storytelling history. So while the show is carefully sliding in and out of the source material, it needs to be careful about how much it adds or subtracts from it.

The pilot is evidence that showrunner Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (Creative Director of The Last of Us) are not afraid of adding more depth to the already existing canon. While the pilot seems to be hitting all the right notes, it would be a shame if it went down the Game of Thrones Season 7-8 route. It needs to avoid that Game of Thrones mistake to succeed.

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Perhaps the nail in the Game of Thrones coffin was the fact that because the source material was exhausted by the time Season 6 ended – showrunners had to come up with things on their own accord. This led to a rather disjointed form of storytelling where important arcs from previous seasons were left unattended to.

Worse was when beloved characters seemingly forgot about their own personal journeys and simply got swept away in the rest of the plot. The result was a disappointing last couple of seasons that soured fans’ opinion of the series as a whole, until House Of The Dragon, of course.

The Last of Us game franchise currently only includes two games. Two excellent games that have fleshed out each character perfectly and provided enough world-building to last the showrunners for a good season or two. However, there is always the allure of going beyond existing material and adding stuff of your own.

The Last of Us has creator Neil Druckmann with a firm hand on the helm

HBO show changes for The Last of Us | Neil Druckmann Interview

Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann met for coffee at Shannon Woodward’s (Westworld and Dina in The Last of Us Part II) suggestion and the HBO series is a product of that meeting. Druckmann’s presence in both the writer’s room and at the helm as one of the Executive Producers on the show gives fans a lot of assurance that the show will likely not stray too far.

There is perhaps no one else in the world that knows these characters and the world as well as Druckmann (perhaps for maybe Halley Gross). So the chances of the series going wayward are quite slim. Series leads Pedro Pascal, and Bella Ramsay might not have played the games, but their performances so far seem to prove that was maybe the right call.

To really drive the point home, George R.R. Martin‘s calming presence seems to be the guiding force behind the success of House of the Dragon. Thus, if the rule were to extend to The Last of Us HBO series, fans will likely see the show triumph by the end of its first season.

It still hasn’t been confirmed if the show will return for a second season, and in case it does, it will be interesting to see just how close they stick to the source material. A core part of what will likely drive the show’s success also rests on the audience’s connection to the heart of the series – the relationship between Joel and Ellie.

The Dual protagonist nature of The Last of Us

The Weeks Ahead Trailer | The Last of Us | HBO Max

The dual protagonist nature of The Last of Us seems to be reflecting quite well so far. Even though the pilot was very Joel-heavy – we’re likely to see more of Ellie’s backstory in the weeks to come. In the pilot, “Riley” received a name drop at the hands of Marlene, and the trailers have confirmed she will be appearing in the show. Riley and Ellie’s relationship is pivotal to Ellie’s arc in the game and the show – so it will be interesting to see how much screen time that gets.

The Last of Us: Left Behind (a DLC for the 2013 game) fleshed out Ellie’s backstory and what shaped her into the hardened survivor we meet at the start of the game and now, the show. Druckmann has repeatedly echoed the sentiment that the relationship between Joel and Ellie forms the crux of the narrative they told in the game. The same is going to be the case for the show.

Other characters in the show, such as Tommy (Gabriel Luna) and Bill (Nick Offerman), will also be getting plenty of screen time soon. Bill is an extremely integral character to both the narrative of the show and the game, and his arc alone could make for a riveting episode or two.

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It has been confirmed that the show will include a rather extensive look at Bill and Frank’s relationship. That might mean taking the spotlight away from Joel and Ellie for a bit. But we’ve got to trust Druckmann and Mazin to be nuanced in their approach. As the weeks go by, the show will likely snowball into something even more popular, and let’s see what the ratings look like come finale time.

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