When it came to the announcement of HBO’s television adaptation of The Last of Us, I was a little nonplussed honestly. I had already experienced the incredible story that is 2013’s The Last of Us from Naughty Dog and although I was certainly a fan of The Last of Us: Part II in terms of impressive gameplay and mechanics, I found the story- whilst interesting and thought provoking- was handled in a bit of a ham fisted manner. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it- I did- but rather than subtle and introspective story threads, I felt like it was hammering certain narrative elements home with all the subtlety of a rampaging clicker. The Last of Us: Part II didn’t leave me angry like so many gamers, but it did leave me considering The Last of Us as a standalone piece that couldn’t be topped or expanded on. It just emphasised my feelings that The Last of Us certainly wasn’t lending itself to franchising.
Then a HBO series was announced. “Oh boy, here we go again”, I remember thinking to myself when I read the news. Let’s get ready for some more unnecessary building on a narrative that works amazingly well by itself. Don’t forget, more angry fans too. I don’t need any more of that embarrassing representation in my life. When screenwriter Craig Mazin was announced as working on the show- with writer and director of both The Last of Us games Neil Druckmann- I was a little more interested due to his great work on the HBO miniseries Chernobyl but I still didn’t feel fully convinced on the need for a television adaptation of the game. I had no doubt that this team up could create a great narrative or an alternate version of the first games story but was it really necessary?
The only time I have genuinely felt a pang of excitement for the series was following the casting announcements of the lead roles of Joel and Ellie, which were revealed today. Joel will be played by Pedro Pascal- best known for his recent starring turn in the Disney Plus series The Mandalorian– and Bella Ramsey- a 17 year old British actress known for playing the badass Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones. Pascal and Ramsey have experience with HBO due to their status as Game of Thrones alumni (Pascal played Oberyn Martell a.k.a The Viper who- spoiler warning for Oberyn’s fate- had one of the most brutal deaths in the whole show in my opinion. Eyeballs. NOT THE EYEBALLS) and both have been noted as delivering stand out performances during their career. These castings feel far more authentic than I initially assumed. I thought they were going to cast two major Hollywood stars (Pascal is basically that at this point and yet I still feel like he is severely underrated) who had a similar look to the characters designs in games. I thought they were going to go for someone along the lines of Josh Brolin for Joel or Kaitlyn Dever for Ellie. But these castings suggest that they are not going for an exact replica of the game. These characters may be Joel and Ellie but they are hopefully going to be very different versions of them and I feel that Pascal and Ramsey’s casting shows this due to their previous performances.
I honestly love these two choices. Pascal is such a brilliant actor who managed to make me cry at the end of the second season of The Mandalorian. He has always exceled in his other roles too, such as his charming yet vicious portrayal of Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones or his somewhat psychotic yet outstanding performance as Maxwell Lord in Wonder Woman: 1984. But he is one of those actors that does not seem to get the credit he deserves. I think his casting as Joel is going to give him ample opportunities to show off his skills and hopefully project him in further into the limelight. Whilst The Mandalorian has done that, at least this time around he will be showing his face a little more. I think Bella Ramsey is perfect too. If you’ve seen her as Lyanna Mormont in Game of Thrones, you will know why. She is a beast of a character; a little girl who tears grown men to pieces with her vicious words. I love her so much. Insert spoiler warning here for Lyanna’s fate: she does die in the show but she goes out the way she lived: like an absolute boss who puts everyone else to shame. She is perfect for Ellie, especially the survivalist side of her. It will be interesting to see Ramsey take on Ellie’s more emotional moments. Ramsey is 17 which is a good age for Ellie as well. In the first The Last of Us game, Ellie is 14 and in the second she is 19 so perhaps this show will be focusing on that time in between the original and its sequel. We got a few flashbacks of that time in the second game but again, it isn’t clear as to whether the show will be following the game or diverting on its own course. I sincerely hope it’s the latter. We don’t need another adaptation of the same story. We need a fresh new take on it. Here’s hoping this is the route that the show goes down.
More on HBO’s The Last of Us series when we hear it.