The Last of Us.
Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO
“I am your cool, slutty daddy,” The Last of Us star Pedro Pascal famously said on the red carpet for HBO’s latest blockbuster series, based on the post-apocalyptic video game. Weeks later, the network would renew The Last of Us for a second season. Is there a correlation between Pascal thirst and a season renewal? Maybe so! The first season, which aired its harrowing finale on Sunday, March 12, was largely a faithful adaptation of the original game, besides a few notable exceptions, and ended in the same spot as the game. But HBO is like a hungry zombie, wanting more, more, more! The show’s co-creators, Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckman (co-president of Naughty Dog, the video-game-development company behind TLOU), haven’t been super-forthcoming with details about Joel ( Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) televisual fates, which makes sense, given that season one just finished up. Still, it seems like high time we compile everything we do know about the upcoming second season, and you won’t even have to threaten us with a switchblade to get the info out of us.
Even with all the cool, slutty daddy thirst, record viewership might be the main reason. Episode one has surpassed 22 million viewers domestically, up nearly five times from its January 15 premiere audience. The second episode did even better than the first by about a million viewers, tallying an audience of 5.7 million across HBO Max and linear telecast platforms after its release last Sunday, a 22 percent jump. It was the largest week-two audience growth for any HBO Original drama series in the history of the network. The critical darling tells the story of smuggler Joel (Pascal) who must deliver an important child (played by Bella Ramsey, not Grogu) across America after a fungal outbreak created a swath of cannibalistic zombie-esque people-creatures. Gabriel Luna, Anna Torv, Nico Parker, Murray Bartlett, Nick Offerman, Melanie Lynskey, and Storm Reid also star. Lots to be grateful to our own dystopia for — namely, another Pascal press tour where he goes around being hot.
Yes and no. The Last of Us: Part II is an even more expansive game than the first one, and, because of that, the story of the second game will be split over multiple seasons. How many? There’s no way to know. When pressed on how many seasons the game adaptation will take, Mazin and Druckman went cold. “You have noted correctly that we will not say how many,” Mazin told GQ. “But more than one is factually correct.” The second game (SPOILER ALERT) largely takes place four years after the original game, which gives quite a bit of leeway if Mazin and Druckman want to build that story out. Plus fans of the game know that something seismic happens relatively early on in the second game’s plot — the kind of thing that feels like a season-ender, rather than a season-opener. At this point, it feels like the only thing we know is what we don’t know.
From a bird’s-eye view, Mazin and Druckman seem pretty happy with the first season of the show and ready to give another installment along those same lines. “Our goal remains exactly what it was for the first season, which is to deliver a show that makes fans happy,” Mazin said to GQ. Still, the creators acknowledged some things that season two could do to improve on the first season. The biggest has to do not with plot, but with setting. Some, including Stephen King, have noted that, at times, Joel and Ellie’s cross-country road trip doesn’t really feel … cross-country. That’s partially due to the fact that the entire season was filmed in Canada. “My goal is to do better next season, now that we’ve learned some lessons,” Mazin said in a press conference, according to TV Line. “Every now and then [in season one] you get a little bit of an ‘Oh, it’s Canada,’ when we don’t want it to be Canada.”
Oh, you’re so impatient. Players of the game were forced to wait seven full years between the first and second games to learn the fates of Joel and Ellie, but it seems unlikely that the TV watchers will have to wait anywhere near that long. In the GQ interview, the interviewer references viewers needing to wait “two years” to find out the fates of the main characters, which neither creator disputes. Just for context, season one began filming in July 2021, and arrived on HBO in January of this year. If they replicate that timeline, then we can expect it in fall of 2024 at the earliest. Still, Druckman noted to GQ that with season two, “I find that the process is easier.” So maybe they’ll speed it up a little? Still, as long as nobody has to wait seven years again, we’ll take what we can get.