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Call me a hypocrite, but after complaining about it for months, I am fully sold on HBO’s The Last of Us. Even if it’s retelling a story that has already been told through a game, a remaster, a remake, and countless other titles that have sought to mimic its prestige. Joel and Ellie’s adventure is old hat at this point, although our latest glimpse at the upcoming adaptation shows there is far more blood to draw from this stubborn old stone.


The Last of Us was never much of an original tale in the first place. Neil Druckmann clearly had a read of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and felt like its harrowing tale of human misery was perfect for video games, and thus Naughty Dog’s magnum opus was born. Even early concept art is heavily inspired by the novel, with a young child seen sipping a can of soda found beside a destroyed vending machine, providing a glimpse of what luxuries this world used to hold before it all fell apart. It looked for light in the darkness, and the rest is history.

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This past weekend saw a new trailer released for the upcoming show, offering us our most detailed look yet at how exactly it plans to depict familiar events and characters. There is a lot of weathered ground being covered here, whether it be the tragic fate of Tess or Ellie’s burgeoning romantic relationship with Riley. It seems we are touching on the base game, Left Behind, and beyond as HBO hopes to not only recycle the game’s biggest moments, but take them further. Taking place over eight episodes, this will end up being shorter than the game itself, but the nature of a passive medium and no longer needing to pad it out with combat encounters and exploration means we can get right to the good stuff.

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Several new details can be gleaned from the trailer too, with Druckmann saying all that was left on the cutting room floor will be implemented into this retelling. Knowing this, we can consider it a director’s cut of sorts, or at least a more comprehensive version of events with more room to develop characters and flesh out certain things. Joel can be seen with Ellie in the winter, walking across a snowy landscape and encountering characters who may or may not be hostile cannibals. This suggests he might not be injured at the university, or the chain of events we know so well have been altered. Flashbacks featuring Joel and an injured Bill can also be seen, hinting that his character and those he lost will be touched on through far more than abstract conversations and notes strewn about the environment.

Another flashback suggests we will see Joel spending time with his wife, and perhaps the most shocking and pivotal reveal of this new trailer – Ashley Johnson will play the role of Ellie’s mother. Well, she is seen crying and clutching a newborn, and given her history with the character it would be awfully weird for her to be anyone else. We only ever see her in the games through distant memories and fading letters, having little idea of what kind of person she was beyond anecdotes passed on by Marlene. Turning her into a fully-formed character is something the game never had a chance to do, and now is the perfect time to do it.

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Ellie was born as humanity was still adjusting to the apocalypse, factions forming amidst the ash and ruins as survivors were forced to go it alone or dedicate themselves to a cause. This is what birthed the Fireflies, an organisation we could see the early days of as Ellie’s mother finds love, a place to call home, and somewhere to raise her daughter before it all falls apart once again. I was convinced Johnson’s inclusion would be little more than a cameo to give us a bit of cool fan service, but HBO deciding to flesh her role into a key character is a smart move, and one that speaks to her clear talent as an actor. Giving her room to grow this franchise and add further context to the character she helped birth – in multiple ways – has not only sold me on this show, but made me realise how much potential it really has.

Who knows, maybe it’s little more than a blink and you’ll miss it easter egg for the trailer and the actual show will be nothing more than a faithful retelling, but I’m drawing my line in the sand now that The Last of Us is going to surprise a lot of us when it lands next year, both in how it expands and reimagines events we’ve long committed to memory. After groaning at a remake that wasn’t willing to change anything, I’m glad the show is taking chances, and all but hope it pisses a few people off with its brave decision-making. Give me Ellie’s mum. Give me Bill’s boyfriend. Give me a fundamental reimagining of this story that isn’t afraid to take chances. Naughty Dog has shown its rather scared of that recently, so it’s time for change.

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