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HBO’s The Last Of Us Can Fix The Mistakes of Part II



HBO The Last of Us Season 2 can fix part II's biggest mistake

The Last of Us is one of the most beloved video games of all time, and this past month it became a smash hit HBO drama that has the attention of literally tens of millions of viewers across the world according to the show’s recent viewership numbers. Being such a runaway success in 2013, The Last of Us naturally received a sequel, The Last of Us Part II, that was released in 2020. While Part II was mired in controversy, there was still plenty of legitimate criticism to be had, and the HBO series now offers an opportunity to fix arguably the biggest mistakes the series made.

The Last of Us series creator and Naughty Dog Co-President Neil Druckmann has been very upfront about him having “no plans” for the series to tell any stories besides the ones in the games themselves. But despite that there being no plans for the series to cover any ground outside the games, that doesn’t limit the show’s writers to telling those stories in the exact same sequence the games did. 

One of the biggest uphill battles that Part II faced was one of its own creation: endearing Abby to the audience. Introducing a new character to the audience is a task that is almost never easy, but to introduce a new character only to have her immediately kill a fan favorite and then proceed to attempt to endear that character to the audience is like shooting yourself in the foot just before trying to run a marathon–it’s just not the best idea. But the game didn’t need to be written that way, and now the HBO series can fix this. 

Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Had the game been written and marketed in a way that presented the sequel as an unrelated follow-up to the original, making the series appear to be more of an anthology, putting Abby front and center would have given the writers a clean slate to work from. Had Part II begun with and focused entirely on Abby while being intentionally vague to hide Joel’s identity from the audience, not only would the audience have been able to develop a bond with Abby similar to the one they developed with Ellie and Joel in the first game but it also would have made the herculean task of continuing to sympathize with Abby even after she kills Joel in cold blood significantly easier.

In addition to making Abby more sympathetic after murdering Joel, telling the story in this way would have made for a fantastic climax to the second game while also creating the perfect setup for Part 3; and allowing the audience to spend additional time with Abby, becoming more attached to her. Playing through an entire game as Abby with no hint of Ellie or Joel only to be met with Joel just prior to the climax then given control of Ellie and having the game end with Ellie on the floor watching Joel die would have made for a significantly greater emotional impact. 

After the first few episodes, the show has been doing a remarkable job of being a nearly perfect beat-for-beat recreation of the events of the game. While we have yet to see the show stray from the events of its source material yet, it could almost certainly benefit from doing so. Were the show to split the events of Part 2 into seasons two and three then that story could be rearranged to great effect for the television audience.

Season two of the show should focus entirely on Abby and Jerry. Throughout the season Jerry’s death would need to be shrouded in mystery and ambiguity to make it clear to the audience that he died in a tragic way while preventing the specifics surrounding his death from becoming obvious to prevent the audience from connecting the dots. Not only would this give Abby reason for her quest for vengeance but it would also effectively distract and disarm the audience from any suspicions allowing for the reveal of Joel in the second to last episode of season two to truly shock those that aren’t in the know. 

HBO The Last of Us Season 2 can fix part II's biggest mistake
Image: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Then after Joel’s death in the final moments of season two, season three could focus entirely on Ellie pursuing Abby. The Last of Us Part II is obviously heavily focused on the thematic elements of the cycle of violence and an essential element of that theme is sympathy. Separating Abby and Ellie’s stories and telling Abby’s first would allow the television audience to feel sympathetic toward Abby in a way the game’s audience wasn’t primed to. Telling the story of that violence over the course of two seasons without the audience even being aware of the story being told would make for truly great television.

As someone who was initially extremely opposed to the idea of adapting The Last of Us for television, I couldn’t be happier to have been so wrong. The first few episodes of the show have been nothing short of fantastic and hopefully the writers will keep up the level of faithfulness to the first game. But addressing some of the mistakes made in the second game when adapting it could make for a more emotionally immersive experience for the tv audience across what will hopefully become two great seasons of television.

News writer and Xbox reviewer. Patrick lives in Minneapolis Minnesota with his wife and their dog Ghost. Patrick studied economics at the University of Northern Colorado and is particularly interested in the market dynamics of the video game industry. When he's not working Patrick can be found walking Ghost through downtown MPLS, binging The West Wing on repeat, or playing hockey. You see everything Patrick does right here on

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