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Is The Last Of Us Show Based On The Game?

Joel and Ellie
Joel and Ellie

Last Of Us Season 1 premiered on 15th January 2023, and if you are wondering if The Last Of Us show is based on the game then we will be talking about it.

In Last of Us, we are on a post-apocalyptic earth where an infectious fungus transformed the majority of people into dreadful mind-controlled monsters. There are a ton of fascinating characters in this world, as well as many different factions and stories.

Also, I wanted to write this article to help flush out the world for those who have either never played the games or just want to refresh their memories. I will also try to convince you why you need to see this show whether you’ve played it or not. Now I’ve worked hard to ensure this is a completely spoiler-free article so that everyone can fully enjoy the journey.

Is The Last Of Us Show Based On The Game?

As for “Is the Last Of Us show based on the game?” Yes, the Last Of Us show is based on a game of the same name, which is one of the best video games of the last decade. The game has received a lot of attention because, quite simply, it is a masterwork with a masterfully designed plot and deep character development.

Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us game

Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us game (CC: Last of Us game)

The game was released in 2013 and is regarded as one of the best video games ever produced and has won practically every award given out. It has also sold millions of copies worldwide and gained universal acclaim.

The Last of Us shows the story 20 years after an infection outbreak called the Cordyceps infection. It basically controls humans by entering their brains and transforming them into incredibly aggressive monsters. When a person has Cordyceps infection, a parasitic fungus starts to develop in their brains. Then, after seizing control of the mind, it turns people into hostile hosts before eventually changing them into monstrous Abominations.

Ellie and Joel are the main characters of The Last of Us. Ellie has immunity to the infection, and Joel’s got the job to take her across the country.

The Last Of Us Show Has A Deep Story

So now that I’ve set the scene, I’m gonna sell the crap out of it. I will talk to those who haven’t seen or played the game first. The Last of Us is known for having one of the greatest stories in video game history. There’s a reason they’re making it into a TV show instead of one of the other zillions of games out there.

This story explores themes of rust, humanity, purpose, loyalty, perseverance, self-preservation, family, nature, survival, and so much more. If you think this is just going to be another zombie show, Nah man. It examines deeper concepts like the flourishing of nature without human interruption. Or as Druckmannn says, nature is like “the beautiful as well as the horrible things that come out of the parent’s unconditional deep love for their child”.

Speaking of flourishing nature, this show is also going to be beautiful. One of the coolest aspects of this game is the design of the world outside of the quarantine zones, where nature has reclaimed abandoned cities, with buildings that are overgrown with plants and animals free to explore previously unoccupied spaces.

Nature taking over abandoned cities in Last of Us

Nature taking over abandoned cities in Last of Us (CC: Last of Us Game)

Inspired by “The World Without Us” book which speculates how the world would be affected if humans suddenly disappeared. It also reminds me of the articles that were coming out in the real world about wild animals venturing into cities while everyone was quarantining in 2020.

In the game, as much as the outside world poses a threat, its stark contrast against the quarantine zone’s bleakness is breathtaking. There’s beauty in the brutality, which is even extended to the infected.

In an early version of the script, when referring to an infected host, Mazin wrote such a beautiful line. I mean, how am I supposed to refer to them as enemies with descriptions like that? Maybe you may want to put a ring on its finger? But seriously, it goes to show that everything is being treated with such respect in this world and I love that.

On that same note, the story also features notable minority representation and strong and capable female character representation, which are always pluses in my book.

Is The Last Of Us Show Exactly Like The Game

Now for those who played the game and are worried that the show won’t be able to replicate it. Well, first of all, it won’t, but that’s a good thing. There’s no reason to create a perfect replica of the game, you can just go watch a playthrough on YouTube for that. But this adaptation is in the best hands it could possibly be in.

The creator of the game and story is making this show and he is handling it with such care. In fact, in 2014 Druckmann was offered the chance to make a film version of the Last of Us, but feared that the story couldn’t properly be told in a movie-length feature and had a different creative vision from the executives.

Niel Durkmann

Niel Durkmann

Executives were pushing for something more action-packed like World War Z. But he wanted something with more heart that focus on the relationship of the characters, exciting influences like Children Of Men and the Novel City Of Thieves. It wasn’t until he met with Mazin that he felt the story could be done justice.

Mazin knew The Last Us extremely well and agreed that the story would be better told through TV series. And Mazin had already made Chornobyl for HBO, which had won ten Emmys and excellent portraying complex characters and making grizzly moments impactful. Druckmann even said that in their pitched meeting for the show, Mazin pitched it with such a passion that Druckmann was newly moved by the story that he himself created.

Both of them knew to make the most impactful piece of art possible, they wanted to focus on the relationship aspects of the story rather than the action. And when there was action, they wanted each death to hold weight unlike in the game where you could kill down 50 people in one area and just go by your day.

And if you’re more interested in the action, pack part of it, don’t worry. It’ll still have plenty of survival horror elements with a budget higher than the first five seasons of Game of Thrones to bring all those lovely Infected back to life.

So we have a show set in an astonishing world with deeply complex characters and a story with an incredible amount of heart made by people who cherish it. What more could you ask for? Mazin had quotes about the show that I really loved, “it’s that the story examines the people who want to make others better and also the people who want to dearly protect particular people at whatever the cost”.

Characters In The Last Of Us

So that is the brutal environment we’re likely dealing with in the show. But what is the show about? I wanna lightly touch on some of the people will be introduced to at the beginning of the show. And again, don’t worry, there will be no big spoilers. Everything mentioned here is very much shown in the trailer or some of the first vague information we get in the game.

Joel, Sarah, and Tommy

Joel, Sarah, and Tommy (CC: HBO)

So the first three characters we are introduced to are Joel, Sarah, and Tommy. Sarah is Joel’s thoughtful daughter was an upbeat personality and a playful sense of humor. And Tommy is Joel’s brother, a rugged yet compassionate man who is close with the pair.

Now Joel is our main character, and he’s a man whose hard past has made him develop a callous and cynical nature. And while the game was incredibly resilient, and extremely agile, in the show, Mazin wanted Joel’s character to be less bulletproof (both physically, and metaphorically). Mazin stated that he “likes his middle-aged people to be middle-aged”.

This introduces to character’s hearing damage from gunfire and his knees hurt every when he stands up. And I think this will help the character feel more vulnerable. After all in a video game music 8 bullets to the face and be OK and even if you die you just respawn. But a TV show needs to add real risk to all the character’s actions in order to get the viewer invested. So I think having him be more susceptible to danger gives his moments of badassery more weight.

Post-outbreak, we are introduced to Tess, Joel’s longtime smuggling partner who works with him to get weapons, supplies, and other contraband in and out of the quarantine zone in Boston. Tess is an independent street-smart survivor who’s respected by those that know her as well as she is Joel’s closest ally and confidant. The game keeps their exact relationship description close to the chest and we’ll have to wait and see if the show does this as well.

While on the job, Joel and Tess meet Marlene, who is the courageous, strong-willed leader of the Fireflies played by Merle Dandridge. She is the same actress who voiced and provided the motion capture performance for the character in the game. This is the only performer from the game who is reprising their role, and she’s expressed in interviews how excited she was to get to explore the complexities of the characters again.

She said in an interview that over the course of ten years between the making of the game and the making show, she has matured as an artist, mature into her game role and that she really got to know about her at a deeper level. And I am excited to see her performance this time around.

Marlene in the Last Of Us

Marlene in the Last Of Us (CC: HBO)

It is Marlene who assigns Joel and Tess the task of transporting our other central character, Ellie, to the Capitol building. Ellie is a blunt, impulsive 14-year-old who still manages to hold on to hope despite the bleakness of the world around her. Clever and resourceful, she’s insisting that she doesn’t use to be babysat.

One thing that makes Ellie one of my favorite characters is her sense of humor, which I think Bella Ramsey absolutely nails. Well, there’s a lot of mystery surrounding her character. As we see in the Trailer that it is her special immunity to CDI that launches the expedition to escort her west where a cure is being worked on.

And while that’s our main cast of characters, there are so many more juicy characters and storylines. And Druckmannn teased that along the journey are protagonist will be meeting new characters and situations unique to the show that are self-contained and promised to pack a bunch.

The Outbreak In Last Of Us

So let’s talk about the outbreak. The infection in question is known as the Cordyceps Brain Infection or CBI which comes from the Cordyceps Fungus infecting humans’ brains causing them to become hyper-aggressive and lose rational thoughts as well as mutating their bodies with fungal growths.

A newspaper you can read at the beginning of the game indicates that the offending mutated strain of the Cordyceps Fungus originated from contaminated crops imported from South America. And although the FDA attempted to recall imported crops from several suspect countries, a few months later, roughly 60% of the world’s population was either dead or infected.

The life after outbreak

The life after outbreak (CC: Last Of Us Game)

20 years later, we can learn more about CBI from an in-game pamphlet and infographic from the federal Disaster Response Agency, or FEDRA, which replaced the United States government as the nation’s leading authority after the outbreak. In the game, CBI in the present day is transmitted via breathing in the spores submitted by the Cordyceps or via contact with the bodily fluids of an infected individual, usually by getting bitten.

However, they decided against using scores in the show due to the unrealistic nature of keeping an airborne contagion confined to small areas like in the game, instead of replacing them with tendrils on the infected bodies.

This is actually not too far of a departure from the source material, as concept art for the game showed illustrations of some effect that having tendrils. And Druckman likes the idea of having the infected being able to interconnect like networks of fungi to unite against prey as one.

But if you get bitten or potentially stung maybe, good luck because there’s no cure, as all attempts to make a vaccination that failed and there’s no way to lengthen the incubation period.

And just to put a cherry on this delicious fungus, Cordyceps fungus does in fact exist in the real world, infecting carpenter ants and compelling them to leave their nest to find an ideal climate for the fungus growth and die there so the fungus can grow out of them. But luckily in the real world, it only affects ants, for now.

Stages Of Infection

In the game, there are four stages of infection. Stage one begins within two days of infection when Cordyceps has taken over the victim’s motor functions. Known as Runners, they are fast and agile and travel impacts.

Stage two can develop anywhere within a year of infection when the infection has completely taken over the brain and begins to develop outward fungal growths on the head and spread to other parts of the body as well. Known as Stalkers, they’re senses are still intact so maintain the site and agility of runners, but actually strategize by hiding to ambush victims or flanking and stacking from behind.

The clickers

The clickers (CC: HBO)

After a year of infection, the host reaches stage three. At this stage, they are known famously as Clickers. As the fungal group has reached a point of blinding them, making them reliant on their use of echolocation paired with their acute hearing. They are stronger, more vicious, and extremely lethal.

If an infected host is able to remain alive for several, several years, which is rare, they can reach the fourth stage, known as Bloaters. Covered in hardened fungal plates that act as armor, these infected are extremely strong and can throw acidic balls of spores from their own bodies.

There’s also a type of infected called Shamblers, but it’s unknown whether this is a fifth stage or a variation of the fourth stage that’s dependent on if they’re exposed to large amounts of water and or humidity. Anyway, they grab onto prey and expel acidic pores that burn the victim.

Now it’s been revealed that there will be some infected individuals that are unique to the show. But the studio behind the Last Of Us game had concept artists work with the show team to make sure everything coherently fit together, and I cannot wait to see what these new designs will look like.

20 Years Later Situation

So like I said, most of the story takes place 20 years after the initial CBI outbreak, which in the game the year is 2033 since the outbreak started in 2013. But promotional materials for the show placed the outbreak in 2003, meaning that this will set the Last Of Us Show truly in the current day, that’s fun.

Now allow me to describe this hellscape. The collapse of the economic and political pillars of society due to the outbreak has given rise to military-run quarantine zones in cities across the US. Remember FEDRA, they declared martial law and now exercise absolutely well over the quarantine zones.

People forming factions

People forming factions (CC: Last Of Us Game)

Survivors who seek refuge in these quarantine zones are reliant on rations which are frequently lacking or withheld, and poor conditions lead to unrest, rebellion, smuggling, and even group said on an uprising against the Militia, the biggest of which is a group known as the Fireflies.

The Fireflies are rebel groups set on taking down FEDRA to restore the government and also working to find a cure for CBI. While some citizens of the quarantine zone stand with them, especially when members are publicly executed by Militia, others criticize their lack of pulling their own or fear the potential of the fireflies replacing FEDRA. So support for the group is shaky.

Well, life’s tough inside the quarantine zones, it’s no picnic outside of them either. Individuals and groups who travel or live outside the zones also have to survive a different type of environment. When overgrown by nature and filled with constant threat for both the infected and fellow humans doing anything to survive.

And with life being as tough as it is with the state of the world, humanity has developed a doggy dog mindset that leads to some major conflicts when people cross paths and competition for food, supplies, and land.

It’s hard to tell who to trust in an environment where bands of ravagers and families just trying to get by can be indistinguishable or even one and the same. So I will definitely be tuning into every episode, and if you’re joining me in this journey, be sure to follow along as we break down each episode every week.

Also Read: Last Of Us Season 1 Review (Spoiler Free): Near-Perfect Video Game Adaptation Till Now

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I'm gonna put some dirt in your eyes.., yeah I'm a Bully Maguire Stan. I love movies(Spiderman), Series(GOT), Anime(AOT), and Music(Zayn & One Direction). If you are the same then we can be Besto Friendo.

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