This post contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" games and the first episode of the HBO series.
The pilot episode of HBO's "The Last of Us" series is a home run for all of those who've been hungering for a decent video game-to-screen adaptation. Though big changes are headed their way, the first episode of the show was faithful enough to capture the approval of the game's superfans, while also being mindful of immersing new audiences into this alternate dystopian reality. If "The Last of Us" Cordyceps fungus hasn't taken over your brain in its original 2013 video game form, it's now bound to be your newest TV obsession.
Ultimately, the success at the center of HBO's "The Last of Us" is that the original writer and director of the game, Neil Druckmann, is not only heavily creatively involved with the series, but was largely on the same page as showrunner Craig Mazin when it comes to the duality of staying true to game's spirit while also leaving enough wiggle room to take advantage of the medium of television. Mazin and Druckmann's pride and love for their source material shine through the entirety of the first episode. The creative duo has so much confidence in the show that they have already mapped out how they should proceed to adapt the second game of the series, "The Last of Us Part II," with plans to split the narrative into two seasons depending on the success of this initial series.
However, if you're an obsessive, eagle-eyed fan of "The Last of Us Part II," you might have already started to notice that elements from that game are starting to blend their way into season 1 of the HBO series. With the newfound opportunity to retread the original game's events, Mazin and Druckmann have found subtle ways to plant the seeds for the upcoming story ahead.
Tommy's Jackson Settlement Brought To Life
After the credits of the first episode, stay tuned for the short "weeks ahead" trailer for the rest of the season. Of course, there are lots of exciting moments from the first game that are being teased here: Ellie and Riley's flashback, our first look at Joel and Ellie's allies, Bill and Frank, Henry and Sam, as well as the very first encounter of Clickers. One scene that looks like a departure from the first game is the reunion between Joel and Tommy in Jackson. Instead of taking place in autumn, the scene now takes place in a snowy, mountainous winter.
In the game, these scenes were initially staged in a hydroelectric dam on the outskirts of Jackson. While we're shown larger wide shots of the entirety of the Jackson commune, we're never invited to see the community and how it works firsthand. It wasn't until "The Last of Us Part II" that the player was invited to immerse themselves in the humble and friendly community that Maria and Tommy have built together — bars, schools, community centers, and gardens. Judging by this new trailer, it seems as though we'll also get to see past the walls and that side of the Jackson community firsthand in live-action.
So many times in apocalyptic media, groups, and settlements are doomed to fall apart due to the inherent greed of human nature leading to dictatorships. Our protagonists in these types of stories are almost always doomed to live their lives fighting for shelter and belonging. This was the endless cycle of violence that informed the longevity of "The Walking Dead," but "The Last of Us" differs here — the Jackson commune withstands as a safe community and a genuine option for Ellie and Joel to return to by the end of their quest.
Will We See Familiar Faces From Part II?
Despite all the pain and suffering in "The Last of Us," at the core of this story is something deeply optimistic and humanist. The Jackson commune not only is a functioning society but it's also portrayed as a peaceful and friendly alternative way of life contrasted against surviving as a hunter or roughing it out in fascist FEDRA Quarantine Zones. In the original game, there's a little bit of ambiguity as to whether or not Tommy and Maria could successfully pull the Jackson commune off, troubled with raiders and wonky technology. In the show, it looks like a developed society on the level of how it's experienced in "The Last of Us Part II."
If there are plans to explore much more of Jackson this time around, it also begs the question of whether or not we will run into familiar faces from the commune in the second game. From the optional dialogue, we know that Dina, Ellie's love interest in the game's sequel, remembers the day that Ellie first moved into the community. Is it possible that Ellie could briefly meet a younger version of Dina on her first tour through Jackson? Or, maybe even an appearance of Ellie's friend Jesse, who is particularly close to Tommy and Joel in the events of the second game?
On one hand, I'm sure the main priority for the co-creators is focusing on the story first. On the other hand, it wouldn't hurt to add even more cohesion with the second game's narrative.
A Subtle Nod To The Game's Sequel
It appears that tying these two games together even further is already something that Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann are subtly trying to do. "The Last of Us Part I" PS5 remake added Abby's father's character model in retrospect, and subtle nods to "Part II" are in the HBO series even as soon as the first episode. As we follow Sarah's (Nico Parker) footsteps through the prologue of "The Last of Us," we watch her go to school, get Joel's watch fixed as a birthday present, and visit her neighbors for some raisin cookies. Sarah browses their DVD collection and picks out a movie to watch with Joel when he gets back from work. The film in question is "Curtis and Viper II," a fictitious piece of media that is first referenced in "The Last of Us Part II."
On patrol, older Ellie tells Dina that she plans to invite Joel to a movie night as a reconciliation from a big argument they had the night before the game's introduction. She had also planned to watch "Curtis and Viper 2" with Joel, claiming that he's a big fan of cheesy '80s action flicks. Though it's just a small nod to "Part II," it is at least confirmation that even the tiniest details of both games' narrative, world, and canon have been considered when adapting this show to TV. It starts with "Curtis and Viper 2," it grows with the deeper portrayal of Tommy and Maria's Jackson commune, and I don't think it's out of the question to expect even more "Part II" references and foreshadowing down the line.
In the meantime, we'll just ponder what Joel's Letterboxd account looks like.
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The post The Last Of Us Season 1 Is Already Bringing In Elements From The Second Game appeared first on /Film.