The Smartest Changes 'The Last of Us' Makes From Video Game To TV
Vote up the changes that make The Last of Us work better as a TV show.
The Last of Us is one of the greatest IPs released on the PlayStation, and it has finally been adapted into a hit television series on HBO Max. The game is essentially one lone playable narrative that's incredibly cinematic, so it makes sense to adapt it. Still, not everything from the games translates perfectly to a different medium.
Some changes were made, and for the most part, they were all improvements. This list highlights the smartest changes The Last of Us makes from the video game to the television series. Take a look at them below, and if you see a change you agree with, be sure to upvote it to see which one the community thinks is the best!
- 1431 VOTES
Adding More Cordyceps Background Through Flashback Scenes
The cordyceps infection in The Last of Us isn't fully explained, and that's because it's not essential to the story. If you think about it, the infected are the plot device that pushes the story forward, so it's unnecessary to delve into the nature of the infection beyond what's covered in the game. That works for a cinematic game, but it's not expository enough to work for a television series, so the HBO show opted to do something a bit different.
The show begins with a discussion segment involving two doctors, one of whom suggests the most concerning thing on the horizon isn't viruses; it's fungi. He explains, rather succinctly, how one of several types of fungi may evolve to survive in humans and how they could overtake people's minds and turn them into zombie-like beings. That's the gist of the infection, and it's perfectly surmised in the segment. A later flashback shows how the fungus was first seen in humans, and it's equally poignant, making for an excellent addition to the franchise.
- 2433 VOTES
Spending More Time With Sarah In The First Episode
The first episode of The Last of Us puts Sarah in the center of the story - in a sense, she appears to be the principal protagonist. We see her go about her day, spending time at school and a neighbor's house. She also has her father's watch repaired for his birthday. She heads home, and her father arrives late before heading out to pick up Tommy from jail. When he returns, he and Tommy save Sarah from their newly infected neighbors, and they attempt to escape Austin. Sadly, a soldier shoots and kills Sarah before they can make it to safety.
The game is similar, but you don't spend a significant amount of time with Sarah during the day. Instead, the game picks up with her gifting her father a new watch. She goes to bed and awakens to the chaos of the burgeoning cordyceps infection as it tears the country apart. Her father is covered in blood, and he kills their neighbor, Jimmy, to save Sarah. After that, Tommy arrives, and the game plays out like the rest of the episode. Co-creator/writer Neil Druckmann explained to Entertainment Weekly that, while they couldn't let the viewer play Sarah as you do in the game, they had another option:
What we can do is give you more moments with her alone. How do we get you to care about Sarah as much as possible, so not only [do] you see Joel's loss, you feel a loss like you are rooting for this character that now we violently take away from you?
Adding more time with Sarah allows the viewer to form an emotional attachment to the character, which is more profound than it is in the game, making this a better direction for the series. Also, Nico Parker plays the role beautifully, which only adds to the episode's gravitas.
- 392 VOTES
Having Joel Explicitly Reveal How Far He Fell After Losing Sarah
After Sarah dies in the game's opening, David finds himself at a U.S. Army triage clinic, injured and distraught. When he reaches a low point, he ultimately finds something worth fighting for: his brother Tommy. Unfortunately, he chooses to support his brother in a way that ultimately divides them: they become Hunters.
Joel does this and doesn't regret it later, as he believes it was the only way to keep his brother safe. The TV series handles this in much the same way, and it recreates the triage clinic and Joel's explanation of his past. One thing it does in greater detail is explain precisely how low Joel got after Sarah's death.
He tells her the guy he shot and missed was himself, revealing that he came close to cashing it in after Sarah's death. Ultimately, he followed the same path and became a Hunter to keep Tommy safe. Still, his explanation in the show accomplishes two things: it shows how he's fully committed to Ellie and offers a more detailed explanation of his past.
- 4363 VOTES
Letting Ellie Memorialize Sam's Grave
In the game, Sam and Henry join Joel and Ellie as they leave Pittsburgh; hunters engage them with molotov cocktails and other weaponry. This draws some infected into the fray, and in the confusion, Sam is bitten. He and Ellie have a nice moment in a hotel room that evening where they discuss what they fear. Ellie fears being alone, while Sam is more concerned with the infected and whether or not they have any humanity left.
The following day, Sam turns into a runner, and Henry puts him down. Henry then takes his own life, and Sam and Ellie are left to bury them. Ellie intended to place the toy robot she stole for him on Sam's grave but forgot. Instead, she carried it as a reminder of Sam. The TV series handled the events pretty much the same. Sam and Ellie's conversation covers the same topic, and their responses are identical, though in the series, Sam reveals his infection, and Ellie attempts to cure him with her blood.
When Sam is killed the next morning, Henry takes his own life, and Joel and Ellie bury them. Instead of leaving the grave unmarked, Ellie places Sam's pad on top of his grave with the words “I'm Sorry” written on it. It's a more poignant ending for the episode and shows Ellie's remorse over being unable to save Sam. It also shows how Ellie felt in failing to stay awake with Sam in his last moments before the infection took hold, so the tablet on the grave is a fairly significant moment in her story.
- 5331 VOTES
Altering Sam And Henry’s Backstory To Fit More Cohesively
Sam and Henry have a backstory in the game, but it's not as defined as in the series. The brothers survived Hartford, Connecticut, after FEDRA abandoned the quarantine zone. They make their way to Pittsburgh in search of supplies but are almost immediately attacked by hunters, forcing them to go on the run.
The series handles their backstory very differently by making Henry a collaborator in Kansas City. After the hunters kill the FEDRA forces in an uprising, Kathleen wants nothing more than to find Henry. After meeting Joel and Ellie, Henry reveals he was responsible for turning over Kathleen's brother, resulting in his death.
He rationalized his actions out of necessity. Sam had leukemia, and FEDRA had medicine that would help him, so Henry turned over the leader of the resistance to acquire the drug. While his reasons were understandable, Kathleen wasn't the forgiving type. This was a much more detailed backstory, making Henry a relatable character far more so than the game.
- 695 VOTES
Showing Ellie's Birth And A Possible Explanation For Why She's Immune
The Last of Us games make it clear that Ellie is immune to the cordyceps infection, but they never explain why that is. The player is left to assume she has some mutation that makes her immune and leave it at that. In the game, it's not really important why she's immune, but the TV series expands upon the narrative to (potentially) reveal how Ellie became immune.
In the season one finale, Anna, played by Ashley Johnson (who played Ellie in the game via motion capture), makes her way through the woods, pregnant and running from a runner. She finds her way into a building and gives birth as she fights off the runner. She's bitten in the fight and quickly cuts the umbilical cord but refrains from feeding Ellie due to her infection.
Marlene finds Anna and Ellie that night, and Anna insists she was bitten after she cut the cord. Of course, she lies to protect her newborn daughter and makes Marlene swear to care for the baby before shooting Anna before she can turn. In the overall narrative, Ellie's birth doesn't change the story, but it adds to it in such a way as to settle the source of Ellie's immunity.
Neil Druckman, the game's co-creator, revealed in a virtual press conference how the story of Ellie's birth came about while he worked with Craig Mazin to develop the HBO series:
I wrote this short script about Ellie’s mom and how she gave birth to Ellie and was bitten at the same time — and wasn’t sure if she was infected during that birth. And it became this little character drama that spoke to the same themes of parental love for their child and how much you’re willing to do, even when you’re on death’s door.