Grizzled fans of The Last of Us, we've had a lot of time to process that insane season finale. No matter how you feel about it, I've sadly come to you with even more distressing news. You may want to make sure you're sitting down for this one. Are you sitting? Okay, here goes. According to HBO chief Casey Bloys, the network isn't realistically eyeing a release for Season Two until 2025. By then, maybe the world will look even more like the post-apocalyptic nightmare on our televisions.
Though the WGA strike has since lifted, the SAG-AFTRA strike is keeping actors on the picket line for now. The organization will have to reach an agreement with the major studios before Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey can return to film. Production is currently tentatively scheduled for early 2024. "Very proud of the WGA and its membership, and excited to get back to work on The Last of Us Season Two," showrunner Craig Mazin posted on Threads. He also revealed to Deadline that the writers room "got pretty far actually," on Season Two before they were forced to pause.
Until The Last of Us returns, let's review the road so far. The post-apocalyptic series, which follows Joel (Pascal) and Ellie (Ramsey) on a cross-country trip to find a cure for a deadly fungal infection, proved to be a smash hit for HBO—even setting viewership records. The series also managed to keep fans of its source material, 2013's The Last of Us video game, relatively happy with its faithful retelling of its dark, emotional story. Season Two will reportedly continue to follow the plot of the game closely, which will have massive ramifications for those who know exactly what goes down between Joel and Ellie in the second installment. "If that does take place in the show," Bella Ramsey told Esquire in our cover story featuring Pedro Pascal, "I don’t know that I’m emotionally ready for it."
Pascal also added in Esquire's accompanying "Explain This" video that Season Two will stay true to the game, "like entirely, I think," though the plot of the sequel will likely span two seasons. "It wouldn’t make sense to follow the first game so faithfully only to stray severely from the path," he continued, not wanting to give anything major away. "That’s my honest answer." For those looking to dive deeper, both The Last of Us Part I and The Last of Us Part II are available to play on PlayStation. "I tried to play the game but I was really shit at [using] the controller," Pascal revealed. "It looks like a lot of f**cking fun, but I was so bad at it."
No TLoU on HBO tonight. But Season 2 is already on its way! Endure & survive! pic.twitter.com/87bKKCDBeO
— Neil Druckmann (@Neil_Druckmann) March 19, 2023
Before the strike, Creator Neil Druckman shared a picture on X (formerly Twitter) of a jacked forearm holding a hammer over fire. "Endure & survive!" was printed—a quote from the comic book that Ellie reads. Frightening! Especially if you know who that jacked forearm belongs to. "Even though we were green lit for a season of television, Neil and I felt like we couldn’t just make a season of television without considering what would come after,” showrunner Craig Mazin told Deadline after the finale. “There is more The Last of Us to come."
Let's Discuss That Insane Ending First!
Joel's decision in the season finale is one of the most shocking turns for the character. Fans of the video game will recall the harrowing experience even more, as the game forces the player to go through the hospital and kill unarmed doctors to complete the game. Watching it one thing, but performing it—even through mere button tapping–is another. Part II is arguably even more polarizing for audiences, even for those that agree with Joel's actions.
"It’s like the trolley problem," Ramsey told L'Officiel. "I don’t really know what I’d do. It depends on who the person was and it depends on how messed up humanity is, but I can see why Joel did what he did. Me as Bella, I’m not mad about it or mad at him, but Ellie is mad obviously because [being the cure] was her purpose. That’s what she was. She felt like she actually mattered and, ironically, Joel took away that purpose from her because she mattered so much to him."
What Will Happen in The Last of Us Season Two?
Of course, The Last of Us Season Two, like Season One, will have a clear roadmap to follow: 2020's divisive The Last of Us Part II. The sequel has even more material to cover than the first season—which compiled all of the events of the first game into its nine episodes. "This should be fairly obvious to anyone by now, but I don’t fear killing characters,” Mazin revealed to Esquire. “But the important thing to note is that neither Neil nor I feel constrained by the source material."
Showrunners Mazin and Druckmann hope that the remainder of the show will have something for anyone watching—from newcomers to devoted fans of the video game series. If you need reassurance that the HBO series will pull off any changes to the game, just look at Episode Three's story of Bill and Frank, or even the flashback scenes of Ellie and Ramsey from Episode Seven. "We will present things, but it will be different," Mazin told Variety. "Sometimes it will be different radically, and sometimes it will be barely different at all. But it's going to be different, and it will be its own thing. It won't be exactly like the game. It will be the show that Neil and I want to make.”
The HBO series also plans on keeping Bella Ramsey as the lead for Season Two, despite Internet trolls complaining about her performance. "Let's put this thing to rest," Druckmann told reporters at a virtual press conference. "We are making it with Bella." He reiterated that finding her was like "lightning in a bottle" mentioning, "The only way we would ever, ever consider recasting Bella is if she said, 'I don't want to work with you guys anymore.'" Even then, The Last of Us creator joked, "We might still force her to come back to Season Two." For the record, we love Bella Ramsey here at Esquire.
Ramsey will be back with Pascal in Vancouver, according to Deadline, where a majority of the second season will be filmed. Though The Last of Us takes place in the U.S., much of the first season was actually filmed in Calgary, Alberta. For fans of the series, they're already well aware that the duo's time in the Pacific Northwest makes for a majority of the story to come.
What About Beyond Season Two?
Well, even though the series plans to follow the plot of The Last of Us Part 2 "exactly"—as Pedro Pascal said—there's a big question about whether or not the show will end after just two or three seasons. What happens when HBO runs out of material? Will Mazin and Druckmann start dreaming up new material to finish the TV series like Game of Thrones? It's a tough choice, especially since creator Druckmann and his video game company, Naughty Dog, are currently working on a standalone Last of Us multiplayer game instead of a potential The Last of Us Part 3.
"Our plan is to do it not just for one more season. We should be around for a while," co-showrunner Craig Mazin told a panel in Las Vegas, according to Deadline. Earlier, he also told IndieWire that, "Even though we were greenlit for a season of television, Neil and I felt like we can’t just make a season of television without considering what would come after. There is more The Last of Us to come. And I think the balance is not always just about within an episode or even episode to episode but season a season." That includes, potentially, original stories in other cities told beyond the material from the game. We could be looking at a whole world of Last of Us stories, and not just material adapted from two video games.
That's all we'll say about that! We don't want to accidentally reveal the shocking events that occur in The Last of Us Part II. In the coming months, Esquire will break down even more about how the HBO series will adapt the franchise's brutal second entry. For now? Process that emotional finale and enjoy the good news: clickers will be sniffing you out well into 2025.
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