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Series / The Last of Us (2023)

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"Save who you can save."

"I used to hate the world and I was happy when everyone died, but I was wrong because there was one person worth saving and that's what I did. I saved him and I protected him. That's why men like me and you are here. We have a job to do."

The Last of Us is a post-apocalyptic drama series based upon the PlayStation video game of the same name created by Naughty Dog. It was developed for television by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (writer and director of the original game).

Set twenty years after an outbreak of a strain of Cordyceps fungus infecting humans brought civilization to its knees, the series stars Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller, a man broken by the loss of his daughter (Nico Parker). He finds himself an unlikely second chance when he takes on a mission to escort a young girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) on a dangerous journey across what once was the United States of America.

Rounding out the cast is Gabriel Luna as Joel's brother Tommy, Anna Torv as Tess, Merle Dandridge reprising her role from the original game as Marlene, Scott Shepherd as David, Nick Offerman as Bill and Murray Bartlett as Frank. Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, the original game's Joel and Ellie, appear as David's underling James and Ellie's mother Anna, respectively.

The series premiered on HBO on January 15, 2023. The network confirmed that the show would be renewed for a second season anticipated for release in 2025. It will partially adapt The Last of Us Part II, with Druckmann and Mazin planning to spread that game's storyline out over multiple seasons. Kaitlyn Dever has signed on to play Abby.

Previews: Teaser, Official Trailer

The Last of Us (2023) contains examples of:

  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality:
    • The American countryside outside of the Boston QZ and various ruined cities is much less wild and overgrown than it realistically would be after twenty years of little to no human interference; the roads are still in fairly good condition and there are fences still standing.
    • In "Please Hold to My Hand", the show does nod to Gasoline Lasts Forever by having Joel say that the gas he's siphoning out of abandoned cars will only give them enough power for a few miles; in reality, the gasoline would be completely useless after a handful of years, let alone two decades.
    • Dr Neuman in the opening scene and Dr Pertwiti in the second episode both claim that there is no vaccine or treatment for fungal infections. While the first part is true, effective antifungal medications exist, and in fact existed even back in 1968 when Neuman said this.
  • Adaptational Backstory Change: Tommy is now a military veteran, as a bumper sticker on his truck indicates that he served in the First Gulf War, which was later confirmed by Joel in the second episode.
  • Adaptation Distillation:
    • Joel and Tess spend a lot less time trying to recover their stolen merchandise from rival criminals. In the game, this sequence was something of a tutorial for the stealth and combat mechanics, whereas the show omits much of this to quickly bring the pair together with Marlene and Ellie.
    • The trek through the ruins of Boston to the state house is significantly shortened. There are no encounters with either FEDRA or the infected up until the museum, which features only two clickers.
    • Joel and Ellie's visit to Bill's Town is also significantly shorter. All of the infected encounters (including the bloater) were removed. Instead, they discover that Bill and Frank had committed suicide some weeks earlier, and Bill left a note bequeathing his truck and weapons to Joel. And instead of going to the high school to retrieve the truck battery, Joel finds all the parts and ingredients in Bill's garage to make one himself.
    • The present-day portions of the Left Behind DLC have largely been omitted from the episode of the same name, with the flashbacks to Ellie and Riley's exploration of the mall given the main focus of the plot. Ellie still must find medical supplies to deal with Joel's injuries, but finds everything she needs relatively quickly in the house they take shelter in.
  • Adaptational Badass: The fungus itself, as it turns its victims substantially faster than in the game (especially if they're bit closer to the head), which makes dealing with it and the infected much more dangerous. Compare Tess between the game and the series: when Tess in the game is bitten, she declares that she was bitten "an hour ago, and it's already worse." In the series, she begins to lose control in less than that, outright telling Joel that she doesn't have any time left.
  • Adaptational Early Appearance:
    • Not really an appearance, but a mention. While talking to Ellie in Episode 1, Marlene namedrops Riley, a character who wasn't mentioned until the ending of the game, and later got introduced in the DLC. As she was created later, but played a big part of Ellie's past and particularly the day she got bitten, it makes sense that the show would mention Riley earlier and leave viewers unfamiliar with the game to wonder who she is before it's revealed.
    • Bloaters are briefly mentioned in the second episode while trekking through Boston, when Ellie asks about a type of infected that can throw spores. The first mention (and encounter) with bloaters in the game is at the end of Bill's Town, after Joel and Ellie have left Boston. Zig-zagged, however, into a case of Adaptational Late Appearance, as Joel and Ellie don't encounter that bloater there, or any infected at all, for that matter. A Bloater eventually appears in the suburbs of Kansas City, but it was more focused on attacking the resistance fighters than Joel and Ellie. This version of the Bloater doesn't seem to have the ability to throw spores, but is more heavily armored, being more or less impervious to gunfire.
    • The town center of Jackson is the setting for a large part of the sixth episode. In the first game, Ellie and Joel only visit the nearby hydro dam before the university and glimpse the outer walls near the end of the game, and the town proper doesn't appear until the second game.
  • Adaptational Explanation:
    • In the game, it's said that the pandemic started from crops imported from South America but what specific crop started it is never stated. However, it's heavily implied that it was flour here and the outbreak started in Jakarta. The official day of the outbreak, all three of the Millers unintentionally avoid foods containing flour. Sarah was going to make the family pancakes for breakfast but they ran out of mix so they eat eggs and leftovers (in Tommy's case) instead. Joel passes on the biscuits he's offered by next-door neighbor Mr. Adler since he claims to be on a low-carb diet, and Adler feeds them to his elderly mother-in-law, the first character that we see get infected. When Sarah gets home from school, she bakes cookies with Mrs. Adler but ends up not eating any because they're oatmeal raisin rather than chocolate chip. Joel also forgets to buy a birthday cake on his way home from work. Two days before that, the first woman who was found to be infected by the authorities in Indonesia was also an employee of a flour and grain factory (although it's unknown who transferred the fungus to her via a bite) and fourteen other workers at the factory go missing.
    • The closest the game gets to explaining Ellie's immunity is in some of the notes you can find in the university that posits the other immune people had a mutated version of the fungus. The season finale just shy of outright states that it came from being exposed to it in a smaller dose in utero as Anna got bitten right before she gave birth.
    • In the game, the Fireflies don't go into much detail about how Ellie's brain could lead to a cure even if it means her death, casting doubt on whether or not the procedure would even work. Here, the Fireflies have far more detailed reasoning for how they intend to extract the fungus from Ellie's brain, making it pretty clear that the procedure will work if it goes through. Of course, this only makes Joel's wholesale slaughter of them even worse than it already was, emphasizing that he truly has doomed humanity.
  • Adaptational Location Change: In the game, after leaving Bill's Town, Joel and Ellie's next destination is Pittsburgh, where they encounter the Hunters. Here, their next stop is Kansas City, and similar events play out.
  • Adaptational Heroism:
    • Joel is occasionally more sympathetic than his video game counterpart. His initial reason for escorting Ellie to the Fireflies is to get supplies to check on his brother rather than to receive a gun shipment. Later, he's more apologetic than his counterpart when Ellie is forced to shoot a raider to save his life.
    • Zig-zagged with The Fireflies. In the original game are Ambiguously Evil, mostly owing to the uncertainty over whether their plan to extract a cure from Ellie would even work. Here, their plan is given more detail and seem more sure of their chances of success, which pushes their portrayal more into being Well Intentioned Extremists. Then again, the Fireflies do get some Adaptational Villainy as well, as unlike in the game, Ellie had woken up before surgery and was comforted and lulled into a false sense of security by Marlene, who neglected to tell her surgery would be fatal. Further to that, their plan was, although more detailed, still extremely vague and hinging on a lot of "if," as even their doctor was unsure exactly what "chemical messengers" would be at play, to say nothing of trying to do cell replication with the equipment, supplies, and personnel the Fireflies are implied to have.
  • Adaptational Relationship Overhaul:
    • Joel's relationship with Tommy after the outbreak is not as strained as in the game, given that Joel tries to contact him over the radio and is concerned for his well-being after not hearing from him for three weeks.
    • Ellie knows nothing about Marlene and only meets her for the first time after she was picked up by the Fireflies, as opposed to the game where she was familiar with Marlene and her connection to her mother prior to being bitten.
    • Whereas their relationship was mostly in the background and had broken down bitterly long before the events of the game, Bill and Frank are much more explicitly in a happy relationship with each other here. On a related note, Bill and Frank are just friends with Joel and Tess with no real business relationship aside from trading each other small things to help out; there is no sign that Bill owes Joel any big favor like he did in the game. Additionally, unlike in the game, Joel knows Frank personally, having been friends and business partners with him and Bill for years.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Since the show largely does away with the training, exploration and action segments of the game, the creators have had the freedom to add things to better translate the story to the new medium:
    • The first episode is a prime example of this, as the scenes from 2003 follow Sarah throughout the day before the pandemic truly hits as opposed to her waking up late at night. This doubles as expanding on a character the players of the series are already familiar with while luring those who haven't played the game into believing that Sarah is a main character before she's killed.
    • In the game, the player only experiences the pandemic through Joel's (and briefly, Sarah's and Ellie's) perspective. The series adds a few scenes establishing how the Cordyceps spread, such as the first scene in the premiere, in which a 60s talk show guest explains how a rise in global temperature could allow Cordyceps to survive in humans. The second episode has a Cold Open set in Jakarta, Indonesia two days before the official outbreak, where a mycologist is brought in to investigate early cases of cordyceps infection and subsequently informs the government that the spread of the fungus cannot be stopped short of leveling the entire city.
    • Almost nothing in the third episode is from the game. Well over two-thirds of the episode is dedicated to Bill and Frank's love story. Their relationship was certainly alluded to in the game but you could miss it if you weren't paying attention, and Frank's also dead by the time Joel and Ellie get there, having hanged himself. Even the small part of the episode focusing on Joel and Ellie is just them hiking out to the suburbs and getting supplies and weapons. There are a few things lifted from the game like Ellie playing a video game and stating that she has a friend from school who liked it. This section of the game is wandering around a town on a Fetch Quest for a battery that also serves as the last tutorial (mostly for explosives) before the game takes the training wheels off. This works in the game because you're actively involved but wouldn’t have translated well to an hour of television.
  • Adaptational Villainy:
    • The Fireflies, while getting Adaptational Heroism for the most past, do get this too thanks to one crucial change from the game. In the game, Ellie is unconscious after almost drowning and is immediately taken in for surgery by the Fireflies, which while obliviously ruthless, can be seen as an efficient Necessary Evil action to get the cure. In the show's telling, however, after being taken in by the Fireflies, Ellie (off-screen) actually wakes up before Joel and was reunited with Marlene, who told her that she was going into surgery — while also purposely avoiding telling Ellie that said surgery will result in her death. This change makes Marlene and the Fireflies decidedly crueller by directly giving Ellie false hope and security, unlike the game where Ellie was simply unconscious throughout the whole thing.
    • FEDRA is explictly compared to the Nazis and are carrying out massive purges of those people living outside the QZs. The FEDRA in the games is never implied to have done these kind of massacres and while ruthless, is more incompetent and The Remnant than Putting on the Reich.
  • Adaptational Wimp: Due to the action being de-emphasised compared to the game, with fights getting removed or shortened, quite a fair amount of the cast get this to varying extents.
    • Tess in the game was easily as competent as Joel, able to casually head shot a goon one-handed and mid-conversation, kill numerous infected in gameplay and save Joel from a Clicker. In the show Tess is noticeably less capable, missing her shots repeatedly with Joel having to do pretty much all the heavy lifting in combat, including saving her and Ellie from the Clickers. Her Heroic Sacrifice is inversely a case of Adaptational Badass however; in the game Tess was gunned down after killing two Fedra soldiers to buy Joel and Ellie time to escape, while in the show Tess succeeds in a massive Taking You with Me gasoline explosion that obliterates a horde of infected.
    • Ellie is still a Little Miss Badass in her own right, but many of the moments from the game where she displayed her competency and skill are adapted out with the result of her being more helpless the majority of the time. This is seen in the show’s version of the university segment, where Ellie shoots wildly at the bandits and misses them, unlike the game where she effectively protected the wounded Joel from a dozen or so men. Similarly in the Silver Lake chapter in the game, Ellie took the cannibals on a wild Chase Fight (initially on horseback) and it took a good deal of effort for them to subdue her. In the show, they fairly easily knock Ellie unconscious after she lures them away from Joel.
    • Henry was a muscly and reasonably competent survivor in the game, and he could take on infected and bandits same as Joel and Ellie. In the show, he’s a more of a weedy Non-Action Guy who seeks Joel's help — precisely due to the fact the latter can do what he can’t.
    • Joel himself averts it for the most part, but he does gets this in the university segment. In the game, he fights and kills a dozen bandits before getting surprised by another one barging through a door. And then during the struggle, he falls off a balcony and onto some rebar which impales him, forcing him to have fight his way out with Ellie while wounded. In the show's version, Joel only fights one bandit just as he and Ellie were about to escape on horseback and the bandit stabs Joel with a broken bat during the subsequent melee and strangulation. Unlike in the game, the wound immediately debilitates Joel and there's no big brutal and dire fight for survival.
  • Advertising by Association: The trailer plays up the involvement of Craig Mazin, who was responsible for the hit miniseries Chernobyl. The website also associates Uncharted with Neil Druckmann.
  • After the End: The story is set twenty years after a fungal pandemic collapsed civilization and turned most of the population into the Infected.
  • Agonizing Stomach Wound:
    • In Episode 1, Joel's daughter Sarah dies from this after being shot by a soldier who was ordered to execute her and Joel to prevent the spread.
    • In Episode 3, Bill is hit in the side while trying to fight off intruders and Frank saves him and cauterizes his wounds.
    • In Episode 6, Joel himself gets one when he gets stabbed in the belly with a broken baseball bat by a Raider attacking him and slowly passes out from the blood loss and pain. He spends the next episode unwell and in pain, while Ellie nurses him.
    • In Episode 9, Marlene gets one courtesy of Joel, who shoots her in the stomach while he's trying to rescue Ellie from the Firefly hospital. Not that she has much time to agonize before Joel serves her the second course: a Boom, Headshot!.
  • All for Nothing:
    • Henry became the number one target of a newly revolutionized QZ because he turned Kathleen's brother over to FEDRA in order to get medicine for Sam's leukemia. Both manage to escape execution by Kathleen's forces and a whole horde of infected, only for Sam to be bitten by one of the latter. When he turns, Henry is forced to shoot him, and he immediately falls into such intense despair that he turns the gun on himself.
    • The same applies to the whole Kansas City QZ. After finally overthrowing the fascist FEDRA government, its leader was so obsessed with avenging her brother that she failed to deal with the infected under the city. Consequently, they all emerged from underground as soon as the first opportunity presented itself and, with the greatest armed forces unable to stop them, headed towards the rest of the QZ, presumably dooming all the remaining civilians.
    • Joel and Ellie's whole journey is this once Joel learns that the only method for getting the cure from Ellie would kill her. He kills several Fireflies and escapes with her in tow, leaving no possibility for a cure to be developed by the Fireflies.
  • Alternate History: The initial outbreak took place in 2003, and modern civilization has long been reduced to an overgrown ruin twenty years later.
  • Apocalyptic Logistics: Both defied and played straight. Many common goods are very scarce or gone by the show's present. Joel and Tess are surprised (and obviously envious) that Ellie has a fresh chicken sandwich, Joel struggles to procure a working car/truck battery and has to abandon a very powerful rifle because he won't be able to find the right ammunition for it, and Ellie is ecstatic to find a box of tampons in an otherwise picked-clean store. When Joel and Ellie reach Wyoming they come across one survivor, Marlon, who hunts with a bow and arrows, and the patrols defending Tommy's commune in Jackson ride horses and use bolt-action rifles (though the town still has electricity thanks to having access to a hydroelectric dam). On the other hand, FEDRA's Boston garrison somehow has the logistical capabilities to operate a fleet of trucks, Humvees, and even a helicopter, but this is somewhat justified as they are mentioned to control some factories (it's mentioned that they are at least still able to make bullets and pills). It seems to be played straight by the Kansas City Militia, who have a full FEDRA motorpool and arsenal with no way to maintain it, but it turns out this is because FEDRA was only ousted a couple of weeks earlier and the new leader either doesn't know or doesn't care that they're wasting the resources they still have.
  • Artistic License – Biology: As with the game, the series' depiction of the cordyceps fungus has some inaccuracies.
    • Overall, the probability of a fungus of this type evolving the need and capability to infect humans is astronomically small. Human brains contain hundreds of thousands of times more neurons compared to an ant brain, and it would be an extraordinarily rapid evolution for cordyceps to gain the ability to infect and take over one (not to mention, some recent studies suggest that the fungus primarily manipulates the ant's body, not it's brain).
    • Even if it did, fungal infections are slow, taking a matter of weeks, and nothing like the near-instant transformation depicted; new filaments take some time and energy to produce.
    • All 600 species of Cordyceps that seize control of insect bodies do so to force the host into a humid place where the fungus can feed on the body and spread its spores, so if an evolved cordyceps infected a human and over the course of many days transformed the body into a shambling host, the fungus' end goal would be much the same; the infected wouldn't be attacking others, they would be climbing to a high place to release as many spores as possible over the widest area possible.
    • While insects do gain some level of aggression when infected, they normally do not attack other insects.
  • Artistic License – Economics: It is highly unlikely that citizens in North America would be impacted, at least near-term, by tainted flour originating in Indonesia. Flour is usually sourced locally unless it is unusually scarce.
  • Artistic License – Pharmacology: Both Neuman in episode one and Ratna in episode two state there is no cure for a fungal pandemic. Technically, there are currently four main classes of antifungal drugs; polyenes, azoles, allylamines and echinocandins. The first antifungal, amphotericin B deoxycholate, was introduced in 1958, ten years prior to Neuman's interview. That said, there's still no approved vaccine in real life for fungi that most commonly affect humans, never mind cordyceps. Testing hadn't even reached human trials yet at the time of the series' release, so it's unrealistic for the Fireflies to claim that they can formulate their own vaccine when all the properly funded research stopped 20 years prior.
  • Artistic Title: The title sequence has macro shots of fungus growing in a frenetic and aggressive way, eventually forming images of a city with skyscrapers, a basic outline of the United States, an agonised human face and finally the silhouettes of Joel and Ellie.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: Joel gets an assault rifle in the second episode and it proves great for getting rid of some Clickers, but beyond that, the weapon ends up being useless. It's both too heavy for him to carry for long and ammunition for it is too hard to come by, and he ends up abandoning it once a better weapon comes along.
  • "Back to Camera" Pose: Downplayed. The show's poster has the two main characters heading towards the ruined city in the background while turning their heads towards the viewer.
  • Badass and Child Duo: Joel, a man who is toughened by surviving for 20 years after the end and knows how to survive, is traveling with 14-year-old Ellie to get her to Wyoming, though Ellie proves to have a ruthless streak of her own.
  • Bizarrchitecture: Generally buildings can't tilt over and lean on each other as depicted in the walk through Boston. When tilted from their center of gravity, they usually collapsenote . There could be an in-universe engineering explanation, but it's still this trope. It looks great though, and that's why it's used.
  • Book Ends: The first episode's title is "When You're Lost in the Darkness". The last's is "Look for the Light". Doubles as a Compound Title.
  • Born After the End:
    • In the first episode, Tess explains away the bruises on her face (given to her by Robert's goons) to Joel by claiming she got jumped by a couple of teenagers. Later, she tells him the truth:
      Tess: C'mon, you know these guys were born after the outbreak. Never learned how to argue, they just start swinging. Fuckin' nineteen-year-old pieces of shit.
    • Ellie later reveals that she as a 14-year-old (and possibly most kids) cannot swim because the QZ doesn't have pools.
  • Casting Gag:
    • Ashley Johnson, who voiced Ellie in the game, plays her mother Anna in the adaptation.
    • Troy Baker, who voiced Joel, plays James, one of the cannibals.
    • Merle Dandridge reprises her role as Marlene.
    • Jeffrey Pierce, who voiced Tommy, plays an original character named Perry.
    • Laura Bailey, who voiced Abby in The Last of Us Part II, plays a nurse during the surgery scene in Salt Lake City.
    • Both Spanish dubs have the same actors who dubbed the game in the same roles (and not, for example, actors who dubbed Pascal and Ramsey in previous HBO productions). This is deliberate.
    • The Brazilian and Japanese dub also deliberately uses the same voice actors of the game series.

  • Central Theme: Love, both the good and bad side of it. The showrunners have flat out said that when they were writing the show's bible, one of the first things they wrote was 'This is a love story. And that's not a good thing.' The series demonstrates the incredibly dark side of love conquering all, particularly the love of a parent for a child; love can give people the strength to commit great acts of heroism and sacrifice, but it can also push them into committing horrific deeds in order to protect the things that are precious to them, like family and community. Throughout the series, there are constant examples of people who love passionately and destructively, which often leads to the ruin of all around them.
  • Cold Equation: This is how FEDRA operates. The Quarantine Zones have limited resources that have to be carefully husbanded. People who break the rules put the entire community in danger and have to be dealt with harshly to discourage other rule-breakers. When the Quarantine Zones were first established, the towns and villages surrounding the zones were all evacuated but there wasn't enough space inside the Zones for all the refugees; all the excess evacuees were killed, since left on their own they would have posed a danger to the Zones, either as Raiders or as Infected.
  • Company Cameo: Captain Kwong's keychain has the Naughty Dog logo on it.
  • Company Cross References: There are a number of subtle references to the franchise’s sister series, Uncharted , sprinkled throughout the first season:
    • Tess’s lighter is a direct replica of Sam Drake’s.
    • The red and white raglan t-shirt Ellie wears until she gets a change of clothes at Bill and Frank’s is the same one teen Nate wore in the flashback segment in Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception.
    • One of the restaurants at the food court in the seventh episode is a Macho Nacho, where Elena says she worked in high school in Uncharted 4: A Thief's End .
  • Compound Title: The titles of the premiere and finale of the first season combine to form the slogan of the Fireflies.
  • Crapsack World: This is what's become of the United States. The cities that are left after futile bombing campaigns to control the spread of the fungus are ruled by FEDRA, the last remnants of the former government, who have become distinctly fascist and, in certain areas like Kansas City, turned the surviving population into their personal playground. In the immediate areas beyond the quarantine zones you run the risk of either being torn apart or turned by the Infected; while there are pockets of peace in the abandoned countryside, there's always the threat of raiders killing you for your supplies — or your flesh. And if you develop a disease like leukemia, good luck trying to find any medicine or someone who can actually treat you.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ellie makes a lot of snarky comments over the course of the show.
  • Diagonal Billing: Pedro Pascal is billed in the lower left of the opening credits; Bella Ramsey in the upper right.
  • The Dreaded:
    • Merely the threat of Joel getting involved in their operations is enough to convince rival gangsters to cut their losses.
    • Just the thought of a Clicker being in the area is enough to make hardened survivors like Joel and Tess nervous, as they are savage infected that are extremely violent and very hard to kill.
    • When the Bloater emerges from the sinkhole, even a hardened soldier like Perry knows that there's nothing they can do against it except run. Not that running did him or the other resistance fighters any good.
  • Exact Words: When Ellie first questions Joel about the scar on his head in Episode 3, he says that someone shot at him and missed. Episode 9 reveals that he left out the fact that he was the one shooting at himself.
  • Fallen States of America: The setting is a post-apocalyptic United States, with millions dead or infected and survivors working together in the remnants of cities or in encampments.
  • Find the Cure!: The Fireflies want to use Ellie to find a cure for cordyceps. However, it's ambiguous how useful a vaccine would actually be. By the time the show takes place, the vast majority of deaths are a consequence of living in a Crapsack World - people being executed, dying in conflict (raids, revolutions), from hunger etc. We also see people killed by Infected, and most are decapitated or mortally wounded, such that the victim would die whether or not they were infected themselves; Tess even points out to Ellie that being immune doesn't protect her from being ripped apart. Only a handful of present day deaths are caused by the Infected inflicting relatively minor injuries, which ultimately kill via infection. Therefore, if Ellie could provide a vaccine, it would only have a trifling effect on mortality, and almost no effect on quality of life: the "bad" communities (FEDRA, raiders) would still be bad, and the only good communities (such as Tommy's commune in Jackson) would be unchanged.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the morning when Sarah and Joel are just about to leave the house, they see Mr. Adler outside with Nana, feeding her biscuits. In the second episode it would be revealed that the infection likely first spread through the consumption of wheat and flour-based products, making this a hint at what is coming.
    • The arm of one of Sarah's classmates is twitching uncontrollably, a symptom of the Cordyceps infection that would overtake the world later that evening. Additionally, the teacher makes the comment that she's seeing "a lot of shaking heads," which could also be symptomatic twitching.
    • Sarah notices that the Adler's dog is staring at Nana Adler intently as she leaves the house. The same dog makes a run for it after the infection takes over Nana in full force.
    • Joel has to leave Sarah alone at home and go to bail Tommy out of jail because he was arrested for getting involved in a bar fight — a patron suddenly went crazy and started attacking a waitress for no reason.
    • In Episode 1 Joel uses a song-based code with songs released in the 80s signaling danger. When Joel, Tess and Ellie escape from the Boston Quarantine Zone the radio in Joel's apartment starts playing "Never Let Me Down Again" by Depeche Mode which was released in 1987, thereby foreshadowing that Joel and Ellie's journey will be difficult and full of danger.
    • The second episode shows how the Cordyceps pandemic began in Jakarta, home of one of the largest flour mills in the world, and implies that contaminated flour likely caused the quick spread across the globe. Other than a radio broadcast that the Millers listen to over breakfast, the previous episode also hints at this by showing several instances in which Joel and Sarah unknowingly avoid eating flour: when Sarah is unable to make Joel birthday pancakes, when they turn down their neighbor's biscuits, when Joel forgets to get a cake, etc.
    • Also from the Jakarta scene, it demonstrates just how serious the situation will become. In a reversal of how this scene would usually play out, it is the scientist who is advocating bombing an entire city to the ground, and it is the military man who is horrified at the thought of taking such a course of action (though it's also horror as he comprehends that the situation really is that serious).
    • In episode 2, Ellie mentions hearing stories about Infected with split-open heads who see in the dark, like bats. These are Clickers, which the trio encounters near the end of the episode. She also makes a reference to Bloaters, one of which finally appears in episode 5.
    • In episode 8, when David is addressing the Silver Lake community after the death of one of their own (who Joel killed in episode 6), the dead man's grieving daughter asks why she can't just bury her father. David is initially hesitant, before telling her that the snowfall has made the ground too hard to dig a grave. This is actually because he had no plans to bury the body, but to serve it to the others as food instead.
  • Global Warming: The series opens with a mycologist theorizing that if the world were to get warmer, that could cause cordyceps to evolve to be able to withstand higher temperatures, which would enable it to infect humans, which ends up happening.
  • Graffiti of the Resistance: As in the game, the Fireflies spray their logo and motto onto walls around the Boston QZ, and FEDRA has them painted over as quickly as possible.
  • Grey-and-Grey Morality: The Boston Quarantine Zone is run by the Federal Disaster Response Agency (FEDRA), whose heavy-handed response to keeping the cordyceps infection at bay (and with no real success in two decades) has slid into outright fascism, complete with mass executions to control the outbreak when the Quarantine Zones were originally being set up and Public Executions in the present. We see that some are better than others, as while Boston's is certainly not good, the one in Kansas City was apparently much worse. They're resisted by the Fireflies, who want to restore freedom and democracy but are willing to commit brutal acts of violence and deal with the worst kinds of criminals to get what they need.
  • Hourglass Plot: In the early episodes, Ellie is enthusiastic about the world and tries to get a reluctant Joel to participate in their conversations and bond with her. In the last episode, Ellie is traumatized by her ordeal with David and it's Joel who is trying to convince her to be more cheerful and interact with him, citing all of the things they found in their journey that Ellie once loved.
  • Humans Are Bastards: Humanity descends into brutishness after the social order breaks down.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The show establishes this thesis pretty quickly.
    • In the midst of a full-on Zombie Apocalypse, it's not one of the infected who kills Joel's daughter Sarah — it's a human soldier, following orders.
    • The radioman warns Joel that there are raiders and slavers outside the quarantine zone, which he claims are worse than the infected.
    • In their efforts to control the spread of the infection in the early days of the outbreak by executing excess refugees, FEDRA ended up killing more people than the fungus ever did (though this one has some justification; most of these people could not be saved anyway, at least in a QZ, and most of those killed by FEDRA would have probably either been killed by the infected, or become more of them).
    • The FEDRA regime in Kansas City was even more brutal and repressive than the other Quarantine Zones, devolving into a Reign of Terror. The Kansas City resistance, in turn, are shown gleefully torturing and massacring FEDRA personnel and anyone else connected to FEDRA after their successful revolution, showing themselves to be no better than the ones they overthrew.
    • Silver Lake, Colorado is home to a group of cannibals who have skinned human corpses hanging in their meat freezer. Furthermore, their leader David is a pedophile who attempted to force himself on Ellie before she killed him.
  • Ironic Name: The Miller family avoids infection because they don't touch flour (which is heavily implied to contain the Cordyceps fungus) on or around outbreak day.
  • La Résistance:
    • The Fireflies view themselves as this, rebelling against the de facto military dictatorship that FEDRA has set up to protect the Quarantine Zones, with the goal of restoring democracy.
    • The Kansas City resistance movement has succeeded in overthrowing FEDRA, but under Kathleen's leadership seems well on its way to becoming a Full-Circle Revolution.
  • Lighter and Softer: The show is much less violent than the games, and in fact mostly focuses on atmospheric horror and tension instead of violent horror during intense scenes, and is also far more character-focused. It's also much less bleak, with noticeable Adaptational Nice Guy applying to several different people, even to some individuals in the fascist FEDRA.
  • Love Makes You Evil: A running theme of the series is that while love can drive people to great acts of heroism, it can also be a force of destruction when it drives people to horrible acts to protect what they love. In particular, Kathleen and Henry's love for their respective brothers ends up killing everyone in Kansas City.
    • And of course, the famous ending - Joel finds out that the procedure to make a cure from Ellie's immunity will kill her. Refusing to lose another daughter, he plows through the fireflies, killing dozens in order to save her. The old Joel would have let her die. It's because he's grown to love her so much that he couldn't do it.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The song playing in the teaser is "Alone and Forsaken" by Hank Williams Jr.. The same song was previously used for the 2012 Gamescom trailer for the original game.
    • The background song for the trailer is "Take On Me" by a-ha. In the second game, Ellie serenades Dina with the same song while playing guitar in the Seattle music store.
    • During the outbreak scene in the city, Tommy drives his truck through the chaos and almost gets T-boned by another car from the side. This is actually how the car crashed in the game. Here, Tommy's truck instead crashes when a commercial plane crashed and exploded behind him and a piece of debris flies into his car.
    • In the game Joel often attributes his survival to luck. The series showcases multiple times that luck really is what separates Joel from those that don't survive as long beginning with Sarah.
    • A toy stuffed giraffe is lying on the ground in the episode "Infected". Giraffes are a recurring motif in the first game.
    • At the state house, Ellie wonders if the Fireflies were killed by FEDRA, which is what happened in the game.
    • The closing shot of the episode "Long, Long, Time" is a direct nod to the first game's Title Screen, and also resembles the closing shot of the second game.
    • In the truck on the road to Kansas City, Ellie tells Joel she thinks his coffee smells like "burnt shit." In The Last of Us Part II, this was Dina's opinion on coffee that Ellie completely agreed with while she and Ellie are looting an abandoned coffee shop in downtown Seattle.
    • In the abandoned sewer settlement, Joel finds the child's drawing of "protectors" Danny and Ish, which is identical to the one in the game.
    • The Bloater does an exact recreation of its infamous Jawbreaker kill.
    • Outside the university, Joel kills a cannibal raider in the same way as his in-game stealth kill animation.
    • The Pittsburgh QZ is mentioned to have collapsed after FEDRA was defeated by the Fireflies, as it did in the game.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: As in the game, the infected are never called "zombies", but instead "infected", "things", or by the name of the class of zombie they are.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: Joel's daughter, Sarah, dies in the flashback in the first episode. Maria also lost a child, Kevin, in the apocalypse.
  • Pacified Adaptation: The original game is an actionized survival horror. The show gives much more focus to character drama and atmospheric horror over action spectacles, and heavily reduces the violence present. The first big action set piece doesn't even come until episode 5 and is the equivalent of the Pittsburgh sniper section from the game.
  • Patient Zero: It's implied that this is subverted according to Joel's explanation of how the outbreak happened: When the cordyceps fungus mutated, it spread into crops that were processed in Jakarta and shipped around the world in foods such as bread, cereal, and pancake mixes, which were eaten by god knows how many humans on the day before the outbreak. On September 26th, these persons' infections became worse throughout the day, until nightfall, when cases began to turn into the infected, causing a rapid breakdown of social order worldwide. However, in the flashback shown at the beginning of the previous episode, we are shown more information about the initial cases of infected that attacked the workers at the flour/grain factory, which means there could have been some kind of index case.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation:
    • The series replaces the spores that carry the Cordyceps fungus with tendrils. Craig Mazin explained that this change was due to the fact that if the fungus was spread through airborne spores characters would likely need to wear protective masks 24/7 (which would force all of the actors to have to cover their faces in every scene) rather than only in specific spore-infested areas as they do in the games.
    • Related to the above change; during their first encounter with clickers, Ellie gets herself bitten a second time, which didn't happen in the game. As breathing spores was how she proved herself immune to Joel in the game, the show has her prove her immunity to him through a second bite instead.
    • The show excises much of the exploratory segments in the game, such as the Boston tutorial, and the street exploration in Bill's town. While these work to give the game areas to explore and play around in, this would only result in padding in the show. This frees up much of the show's runtime to focus more on the characters present, even fleshing them out more than they ever were in the game.
    • The various fight scenes are restructured from the cover-based shooting of the original game to heavily focusing on ambush tactics and stealth, which is most notable during the hospital massacre; in the game, it's one of the most action-heavy sequences in the entire game, but in the show, Joel has to rely on ambush tactics and one-on-one battles to survive. The rather obvious reason is that a realistic TV show can't utilize any kind of regenerating health, so the combat has to ensure that the main characters don't get shot in the first place.
    • In the game Joel is injured by falling onto a piece of rebar, which demonstrated to players (who were used to being able to heal bullet wounds fairly easily) just how serious and potentially deadly the situation was. In the more grounded reality of the series, the smaller but still incredibly dangerous injury of being impaled with a broken baseball bat was just as effective.
  • Race Lift: The Miller family all get this. Joel and Tommy are white in the game but Latino (albeit white Latinos, as not all Latinos are brown-skinned) in the show. Sarah has blonde hair and blue eyes in the game but is played by Nico Parker, who's a quarter black. Maria, who's also blonde and blue-eyed in the game, is played by black actor Rutina Wesley.
  • Reclaimed by Nature: Contaminated Forbidden Zones of 2023 are starting to get overgrown by plants.
  • Red/Green Contrast: The series uses these two colors to great effect throughout the series; this could be interpreted as the difference between infected/uninfected people (as the scanner in the first episode turns red when someone is infected and green when they are not) or the harsh Black-and-White Morality humanity has to abide by.
  • Remake Cameo: Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, Joel's and Ellie's actors from the games, show up here as David's right-hand man James and as Ellie's mother Anna, respectively. Jeffrey Pierce, the original Tommy Miller, also appears as the rebel Perry. Laura Bailey has a quick blink-and-miss-it cameo as one of the nurses in the finale.
  • Rescue Arc: Trying to rescue Tommy who is stuck somewhere in Wyoming is Joel's main objective. His mission gets overlayed with an Escort Mission to bring Ellie to a lab where her immunity could be turned into a cure.
  • Rewatch Bonus: In Episode 3, Joel explains that it's thought the fungus spread so quickly by getting into a food staple like flour that was distributed worldwide (indeed, Episode 2 had the first known cases come from a flour factory). After learning this, go back to Episode 1 and pay attention to how many times the Millers narrowly avoid eating anything made of flour on Day 1.
  • Setting Update: In the original game, the Cordyceps outbreak took place in 2013 and originated in South America with the main events occurring twenty years later in 2033. In the show, the first outbreak is moved back ten years to 2003 in Jakarta, Indonesia, such that the main events will occur in 2023 instead.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the first game, Ellie finds an arcade cabinet of a Mortal Kombat parody called "The Turning". In the show this is changed to an actual cabinet of Mortal Kombat II, with Ellie even stating Mileena as her favorite character.
    • In the opening scene, Dr Schoenheiss describes the possibility of a viral pandemic originating in Madagascar and being spread by plane travel to the US within a matter of weeks. This is likely a sly reference to Pandemic, where Madagascar is infamously difficult to infect, leading to a much higher chance of winning if you start there.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The scenes in Jakarta were filmed in Calgary, Canada, but employed actual Indonesian actors speaking in their language with near pitch-perfect accuracy, and were praised for the accuracy of props (such as using the old logo of the Ministry of Health, which was only changed in 2016) and even music (a song by Indonesian artist Ari Lasso that came out in 2003).
    • One of the most horrifying aspects of the story is that the Cordyceps fungus acts pretty much as it does in reality, except that rather than insects, it's infesting humans. Even the fact that the fungus is heavily implied to be transmitted through the flour found in baked goods isn't too much of a stretch; certain types of fungi can survive in rice even after it's been boiled.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome:
    • The Series Joel is not a video game protagonist, and thus averts some of the passive durabilities that allowed the video game Joel to be a formidable fighter. He averts having Invulnerable Knuckles in close combat, giving an FEDRA soldier a lethal No-Holds-Barred Beatdown visibly damaging his hands and by his own estimation giving him a hairline fracture, which he can only hope heals fast. He does not possess Steel Eardrums, and two decades of regular firearm use have rendered him partially deaf in his right ear, which is a further issue for him when dealing with the sound-based Clickers, or keeping track of enemies sneaking up on him. He advises Ellie to use a blade whenever possible to preserve her own hearing as much as possible, as well as avoiding loud noise that attracts attention from the living and infected. He later admits to Tommy in a moment of vulnerability that he gets tired easier from a combination of his age and accumulated injuries, and rather than being the sole reason Elie can survive the trip, he admits that he only made it to Jackson because of his younger companion's aid and watching his back.
    • Video Game Joel could carry a small arsenal of weapons to give him multiple options against raiders or different types of infected. In episode 2, Joel gains access to an assault rifle that proves effective at dealing with two Clickers that shrugged off his and Tess's revolvers and melee weapons, but it turns out to be Awesome, but Impractical. Joel struggles to carry the heavy weapon over long distances, and lacks access to Universal Ammunition, so he can't replenish its few remaining rounds, and eventually has to leave it behind once he has the opportunity to swap it for a more practical weapon. His One-Man Army moment against the Fireflies in the hospital has him regularly checking his ammunition and swapping guns from the dead bodies he creates whenever he's running low, using Ellie's switchblade at points for an easier kill, rather than carrying all those weapons himself.
  • There Is No Cure: The Cordyceps infection is incurable. Once a person is infected they are doomed (unless they are immune). The Fireflies are attempting to make a cure by utilizing Ellie's immunity, but Joel ends up killing them all and taking the hope of a cure with them.
  • Throwaway Country: Zig-Zagged Trope. The first known outbreak is in Jakarta, which the Millers hear of as unspecified "disturbances" while listening to the radio in the first episode. The second episode opens with a flashback to Jakarta, in Indonesian and featuring Indonesian characters only, showing local mycologists and military studying one of the first known infected and ending with the mycologist advising the military to bomb the city and everyone in it, including herself. However this flashback is set three days before the scene in episode 1, meaning that the Indonesian military didn't destroy their capital right away or ever at all.
  • Title In: Locations and the year they are set in are introduced with on-screen text.
  • Tragic One-Shot Character:
    • Downplayed with Bill and Frank, the focus characters of Episode 3, who end up killing themselves at the end, though Bill himself notes that this isn't a tragic ending as they got to live a long, peaceful life together.
    • Episode 5 focuses on Henry and Sam, and ends with Sam becoming infected and Henry killing himself because he knows this means everything he did to save him was all for nothing.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The first episode does a lot to make the viewer think that Sarah is one of the main characters, but since she barely shows up in the trailers it's fairly obvious that her (physical) role in the story is very small. The same goes for Tess, who's dead by the end of the second episode.
  • Travelling at the Speed of Plot: It takes Joel and Ellie three months to get from Kansas City to Jackson Hole in Wyoming, albeit they were on foot and got lost along the way. It then takes them five days, on horseback, to get from Jackson Hole to Boulder, Colorado.
  • Truth in Television:
    • Neuman's dialogue in the opening mentions that fungal cures and vaccines are nonexistent, and that it's not even possible to actually make them. While the cure one is inaccurate, as antifungal medication existed even during Neuman's time period (the 1960s), for vaccines this is very much the case, as Professor Neal A.R. Gow who co-edited the Oxford Textbook of Medical Mycology (the study of fungi) says here. He notes that that is in part due to the fact that fungi are extremely complicated in immune response.
    • Neuman's observation that Global Warming can lead to the spread of deadly fungi worldwide is accurate for Batrachochytrium, which has ravaged several amphibian species since The '70s, sometimes to extinction. So watch out, piano frog.
    • Horrifyingly, it's also often cited as a factor in the evolution of the human pathogenic fungus Candida auris, which can be lethal, to be able to live in the hotter bodies of mammals and avians and cause illness, exactly as Neuman states.
    • Fungi can actually form underground networks between hosts that can be used to transfer nutrients. In fact, an underground colony of the fungus Armillaria ostoyae in Oregon's Malheur National Forest may possibly be considered the largest living organism on the planet, which covers approximately 3.5 square miles (9.1 square kilometers) and could weigh anywhere from 7,500 tons to 35,000 tons. The colony rightfully earns its nickname as 'Humongous Fungus'. One can only hope that the evolved Cordyceps fungus in the series would never be able to grow that big.
  • Turn of the Millennium: The outbreak of the Cordyceps infection happens in 2003.
  • Unseen No More: There are at least two characters who are only mentioned in the game that appear in the series. Anna, Ellie's mother, appears in the show and is played by Ellie's actor from the game, Ashley Johnson. Bill's partner Frank whose body is only ever seen in the game is played by Australian actor Murray Bartlett.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Pretty much every villainous character. Exaggerated with FEDRA, who, even in the early stages of the outbreak, had absolutely zero qualms with slaughtering untold numbers of children (including babies) in the name of containing the spread of cordyceps.
    Kathleen: Kids die, Henry. They die all the time. You think the whole world revolves around him? That he's worth everything? Well, this is what happens when you fuck with fate.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: The series is set After the End due to cordyceps fungi infecting people and controlling their minds, turning them into effective zombies that infect people by biting them.

Alternative Title(s): The Last Of Us


It can't be stopped

Professor Ratna's hears the details of the people killed at the grain factory, and her hands tremble with her drink as the horror sets in.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (2 votes)

Example of:

Main / DistressedDrinkJitters

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