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The Last Of Us season two needs to avoid this mistake if it wants to be great

The Last Of Us season two needs to avoid this mistake if it wants to be great

The Last of Us Part II's brilliance boils down to its morally grey characters, and if they're adapted poorly, the show could be ruined.

Spoiler warning: this article contains spoilers for The Last of Us season one and The Last of Us Part II - scroll with caution.

I think it’s safe to say that no matter how The Last of Us Part II is adapted into television form, it’s going to have plenty of critics.

Where were you when the story leaks for The Last of Us Part II dropped? It was a moment of internet history that I remember all too well - fans were experiencing every stage of grief (apart from acceptance) all at once upon hearing the news that Joel would be killed off right at the start of the game by a brand new character that no one had heard of. You can only imagine how thrilled they were when it was then revealed that they’d spend half of the game playing as her.

Take a look at this comparison of Ellie in the game and TV show below.

Perhaps it was because gamers were able to dwell on this rage for so much longer than they were meant to that dual protagonist Abby - and the game itself - received such vicious hate from a vocal portion of the fanbase. Although many have gone back to the game and changed their minds in more recent times, many still aren’t huge fans of the story’s direction, and especially the fact that so much of it is spent away from the original golden girl, Ellie. It makes you wonder, how are the showrunners going to handle things in season two and beyond?

The first series of The Last of Us remained very faithful to its source material for the most part. There were a few changes here and there - like how we got Bill and Frank’s beautiful backstory instead of the part of the game where Ellie, Joel and Bill venture through the infected school in an attempt to find a car battery (a very worthy change, if you ask me). Already, the showrunners have hinted that some changes could be made to the source material for Part II’s adaptation, and it’s also been revealed that it’ll take more than one season of episodes to cover the entire story (which is unsurprising when you consider how much longer the second game is). However, there’s a very fine line which the showrunners will have to be careful not to cross when bringing the sequel to life, as it could truly make or break the show.

When I played The Last of Us Part II, the thing that stuck out to me most wasn’t the death of Joel, but instead how morally grey all of the characters are - particularly Ellie, Abby and Tommy. Like anyone, I’m sure, I was fully on board with Ellie and Tommy’s quest for revenge at the start of the game. Even though I knew it was coming, my heart broke when I saw Ellie screaming for Joel as he was brutally beaten to death, and it made total sense why she’d want to avenge him, as she knew he would have done the same for her. This feeling is strengthened further as you experience the various memories that Ellie has of her time with Joel between the events of the first game and the sequel, with the museum sequence in particular illuminating an adorable father-daughter relationship which we were so painfully deprived of in the sequel’s present-day events.

I can understand why many were initially frustrated about the game skipping over to Abby’s side of the story, given that it leaves you on such a cliffhanger where you’re not sure if Tommy’s dead or alive, or what’s going to happen to Ellie. However, discovering Abby’s motivations and getting to know her friends brings the story into a whole new light. Spending time with her and seeing how she looked out for Lev and Yara made me warm to her massively, to the point where when it got back to Seattle Day Three’s boss fight against Ellie, I was torn on who I actually wanted to come out on top. You can totally understand why gamers have described that moment as gaming’s greatest mindf**k, and that feeling holds strong for the remainder of the game. That profound impact on the player is also the sequel’s greatest strength.

Ellie and Joel in The Last of Us Part II. /
Sony Interactive Entertainment.

The Last of Us Part II is a game so brilliantly written that it’s almost impossible to choose a side when it comes to who’s in the ‘right’ and who’s in the ‘wrong’. While it could be argued that Abby’s murder of Joel was cruel and inconsiderate of the circumstances in which her father had been killed, there was equally little reason for Ellie to have killed many WLF members in the ways that she did when her beef was with Abby (Alice the dog didn’t deserve what happened to her). Every single character is flawed in one way or another, to the point that none of them can be hailed as the ‘correct’ person to stand by. However, this perspective was intricately shaped by the pacing of the game and the amount of time that was spent with each character, and if that balance is at all altered, viewers could quite easily find themselves with an obvious favourite. And that’s not a good thing.

As much as I loved season one of The Last of Us, it was very apparent looking at the internet’s reactions to the finale that basically everyone agreed with Joel’s choice to save Ellie and destroy all chances of developing a cure. It’s not that it’s wrong to side with him here, but back when the game first launched, discussions about the morality of his decision were fierce. Compare that to the wave of new fans who got into the series as it launched in TV form, and the fact that the majority of them felt comfortable in picking a side, and it almost feels wrong. Back when the finale first aired, GAMINGbible’s in-house TLOU expert Kate Harrold noted that the lack of infected in the show made Joel’s decision appear to carry less weight, as the whole Cordyceps problem essentially doesn’t seem as big of a deal as it did in the game. Perhaps that’s what influenced viewers’ opinions on that crucial moment?

Whatever the exact cause, it’s for this reason that I look forward to season two with a hint of concern - if Part II’s adaptation also gives viewers an easy choice, its excellence will be squandered. However, one thing that reassures me is something that Jeffrey Pierce (Tommy in the video games and Perry in show) told GAMINGbible in an interview earlier this year. He said: “I think that one of the things that Neil [Druckmann] and Craig [Mazin] are really interested in in their storytelling is the idea that there’s not necessarily ‘good people’ and ‘bad people’.”

With that in mind, I can only hope that the showrunners can carry this idea forward to the second season, where it’ll be more important than ever to get it right and not cave to the much easier idea of highlighting either Ellie or Abby as the main protagonist. The Last of Us Part II may be a controversial game, but if done right, the show could highlight what makes it truly fantastic.

Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment, HBO

Topics: TV And Film, The Last Of Us, The Last Of Us Part 2, Opinion