The Last of Us – the game vs TV show: From plot, to characters and fungus zombies… how HBO series compares to best-selling Playstation original
- HBO’s post-apocalyptic series has earned rave reviews from critics and fans
- Many wanted to see how the video game’s characters would translate onto TV
- WARNING – THE LAST OF US VIDEO GAME AND TV SERIES SPOILERS AHEAD
As The Last of Us captivates audiences and critics around the world, with some already proclaiming it as one of the best shows that will be aired this year.
HBO appears to have struck gold with the show, which follows a smuggler trying to escort a teenage girl across a post-apocalyptic Unites States following a global pandemic that has turned millions of people into fungus-infected zombies.
The first episode been seen by more than 22million viewers since it premiered in the United States – the network’s second largest debut since 2010 behind House of the Dragon – and it has already been renewed for a second season.
The series is based on an immensely popular PlayStation game of the same name, and some critics have already hailed it as the best video game adaptation of all time.
HBO’s The Last of Us follows Pedro Pascal’s Joel as he escorts Bella Ramsey’s Ellie (pictured above) through a post-apocalyptic United States
The series is based on a video game of the same name which has broadly the same plot. Pictured above: Ellie and Joel in the video game
Adapting video games onto TV or film has always proved challenging, with some proving more successful than others.
The Last of Us video game, which was released in 2013 by publisher Naughty Dog, earned accolades and received widespread praise for its storyline, visuals, gameplay and characters.
HBO bought the rights to adapt the property after a joint pitch by Craig Mazin, who had directed hit show Chernobyl, and Neil Druckmann, who was a writer and creative director of the original game.
Many fans were eager to see how the show would translate onto the screen, including which actors would portray the characters they had grown to know and love.
So how do the characters from the video game stack up compared to their TV versions?
Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal)
Joel Miller (pictured left in the game and right in the TV series) is tasked with escorting a teenage girl across a post-apocalyptic United States in the show
Chilean-American actor Pedro Pascal first got his big break in another HBO series, Game of Thrones, where he portrayed the swaggering and charismatic Oberyn Martell.
In the series he plays Joel Miller, the smuggler tasked with escorting a teenage girl across the United States and protecting her from fungus-infected humans, as well as raiders and vigilantes.
Pascal claimed he ignored instructions from producers not to play the game before shooting the series and admitted he had never heard of it before getting the role and he just wanted to work with HBO and Mazin.
He told Wired: ‘I hadn’t heard of the game. Their instruction was ‘don’t play the game’. I ignored them. I tried to play the game, and I was very, very bad at it. But my nephew was fantastic.
‘It was important to me to play notes that were directly related to what was originally in the game – physically, visually, vocally.’
Ellie Williams (Bella Ramsey)
Ellie (pictured left in the video game and right in the TV series) is a 14-year-old orphan who harbours a potentially world-changing secret in The Last of Us
The central character of the overarching The Last of Us series, Ellie is first introduced to players and viewers as a 14-year-old orphan who needs to be escorted across the United States by Joel.
In the series she is played by Bella Ramsey, who like he co-star Pascal, got her big break on HBO show Game of Thrones, where she played no-nonsense young noblewoman Lyanna Mormont.
The Nottingham-born thespian, who has also appeared in BBC’s His Dark Materials and CBBC’s The Worst Witch, has left critics impressed with her performance, but revealed she almost didn’t audition for the role.
Ramsey, who earlier this month came out as gender fluid, told the Hollywood Reporter: ‘I seriously considered that maybe I don’t want to be famous so I’m not going to do this show because it’s going propel me to a place I don’t want to go to in terms of being seen and being known.’
Sarah (pictured left in the TV series and right in the video game) is the daughter of protagonist Joel
Despite only appearing briefly in the game and in one episode of the series, Sarah’s death at the beginning of the narrative casts a large shadow over Joel.
As the plot progresses, Joel begins to see a lot of his daughter in Ellie, as he confronts his grief over tragic killing by soldiers during the early stages of the outbreak.
In the series she is portrayed by British actress Nico Parker, the daughter of Thandiwe Newton, who proved a huge hit with viewers who were taken in by her compelling performance.
One fan wrote: ‘The last of us is perfectly casted so far but Nico Parker’s performance as Sarah was phenomenal. THAT scene broke me.’
Bill (Nick Offerman)
Bill (pictured left in the game and right in the TV series) is a survivalist with a connection to Joel
One of the biggest changes to the plot so far has come in the character of Bill, a survivalist who along with his partner Frank made it through the pandemic in a town outside Boston.
In the game Bill teams up with Joel and Ellie as he helps them on their journey west, having been abandoned some time ago by Frank for unknown reasons. It is later revealed Frank killed himself after becoming infected.
In the series Bill is no longer alive when Joel and Ellie arrive at his compound, having committed suicide along with Frank some months earlier as his husband’s health failed.
Comedic actor Nick Offerman, best known for his role in Parks & Recreation, was cast to play Bill in the series, and earned rave reviews for his tender and moving performance in episode three, with some fans calling it one of the ‘greatest TV episodes ever’.
Tess ‘Tessa’ Servopoulos (Anna Torv)
Tessa (pictured left in the TV series and right in the video game) is Joel’s partner in the series
Tessa is Joel’s long-term smuggling partner in The Last of Us, often seen as the brains to his muscle in their two-person enterprise.
Portrayed in the series by Australian actress Anna Torv, Tessa is shown to be a courageous and resourceful woman in both depictions of the character, who sadly dies as she and Joel try to get Ellie to a rendezvous with militant group the Fireflies.
Tessa dies after becoming infected with Cordyceps, although she is killed by Government forces in the game, instead of heroically blowing herself up to buy Joel and Ellie time to escape from a horde of ‘clickers’ as she does in the show.
In the HBO adaptation Tessa is on the receiving end of a stomach-churning kiss from one of the infected, which show runner Mazin called ‘nightmare fuel’.
Marlene (Merle Dandrige)
Marlene (pictured left in the game and right in the TV series) is the leader of an anti-government group called the Fireflies
As leader of the Fireflies, Marlene is introduced to viewers and players as an anti-totalitarian freedom fighter who is the person who sets Joel and Ellie off on their journey together.
She was portrayed in the game and in the TV series by actress Merle Dandridge, who was the only actor involved in the video game to be involved in the show.
Dandridge said she was ‘deeply, deeply honoured and thrilled’ to get the call to says she would be coming back and remarked her performance had to change given it was a different medium.
She told Collider: ‘There was a lot of building on what I had done because the core knowledge of who this person stays the same, but how she works and acts and interacts with all of that might adjust a little bit, especially working opposite people looking at those characters through a new lens.’
Tommy Miller (Gabriel Luna)
Tommy (pictured left in the series and right in the show) is Joel’s younger brother in the series
Tommy Miller is Joel’s younger brother who prior to the pandemic worked as a carpenter and had a close relationship with him and his niece Sarah.
After the outbreak Tommy joins the Fireflies but becomes disillusioned and moves to Wyoming in search of a more purposeful life, a decision that in the show drives Joel to try and cross the country with Ellie.
He is portrayed by Texan actor Gabriel Luna in the TV series, who has held roles in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and True Detective, and who claimed doing a role based on the video game was like doing a ‘biopic about a person that exists in life’.
He told the Hollywood Reporter: ‘I tried to absorb [from the games] what I believed to be important and what the gamers are going to hope for in a true translation of the game.’
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