On January 15, 2023, HBO Max released the first episode of The Last of Us. The series stars  Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey and is based on the video game series that was first released in 2013 by Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment. It follows the story of Joel and Ellie as they survive in a post-apocalyptic world.

The Last of Us TV series has the same premise as the game. Although there are differences between the two, the show sticks pretty close to its source material, emulating it in a way that will make fans happy. For those joining the franchise for the first time, we have eight things you should know.

If you know nothing about the video game, here are eight things you should know about The Last of Us TV show. Keep in mind that there are spoilers beyond this point so tread carefully. 

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The Air Is Pure on TV

One of the main differences between The Last of Us TV series and the video game is the fact that on TV, the air the characters breathe is pure — or at least it is so up to now. However, in the video game, characters are seen wearing respiratory masks to get through some areas that are contaminated. There are clouds composed of airborne cordyceps that will infect anyone who breathes them.

The Last of Us TV show doesn’t mention these dangerous fungal spores, at least not yet. HBO Max’s version of the story explains people get infected if they are bitten by someone who carries the disease. As someone who has been bitten and is immune, in the game, Ellie isn’t seen wearing a mask in these dangerous areas because she isn’t in danger which makes us believe if the air turned to contaminated on the show, she would survive it.

Ellie stands behind Joel, who holds a flashlight, in an abandoned and dark room in HBO's The Last of Us.

Pictured: Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal in THE LAST OF US. Photo credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO.

Mirror Scenes

The Last of Us has been praised for sticking to its original source in a manner that does it justice. Not only does the series mimic the story, but they also mirror some of the scenes from the video game frame by frame, word by word.

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A moment where this is done perfectly is in Season 1, Episode 6 “Kin,” when Joel and Ellie have an argument in which he tells her she is better off going with Tommy. In both the game and HBO series, the dialogue, the shots, the characters’ movements, and even the characters’ emotions are exactly the same. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey do a great job bringing this very emotional moment to life.

Outfits on Point

Recreating well-known characters is never an easy task because fans will pin-point every tiny detail to make sure everything they loved in the first place is coming through in the new version. Lucky for those fans, The Last of Us is taking care of every detail down to the outfits the characters are wearing.

The perfect example of this is the T-shirt Sarah is wearing when viewers first meet her, it is the exact replica of what she is wearing in the video game. Joel’s shirt and Ellie’s hoodie also stick to the colors and the style of the ones worn by the original characters.

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A Foreseeable Explanation

Fans who haven’t played the video game may wonder if any sequences had foreshadowed what was about to happen. The answer is yes. When the video game begins and the player is controlling Sarah, they are able to see a shot of a newspaper announcing more and more people being admitted into the hospital.

The Last of Us TV version, the foreseeable explanation comes at the very beginning of the show in the form of an interview. In this scene, two scientists are discussing what may happen in the future and one of them gives a warning, believing there will be a pandemic spreading from a fungus that will attack the human brain. The literal prediction of what is to come.

Life in Boston

Both on the TV show and in the video game, when the 20 year time jump happens after the outbreak Joel is living in Boston and lives with his partner, Tess. However, as soon as the viewer reunites with Joel on The Last of Us, we can tell all he wants to do is leave the quarantine zone and find his brother, Tommy. Although this happens in the game as well, it is split through a larger time frame. This is probably because the game doesn’t have an episodic time limit to fit everything into a certain amount of minutes.

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Nevertheless, this isn’t the only difference found between the two versions. Even though Joel and Tess are together in Boston, in the video game neither one is doing any sort of job for FEDRA. Everything they have, including ration cards, is obtained through smuggling. Just like the show portrays when they are trying to find the battery for the truck.

Tess’s Death

One moment in the TV series came as a sad shock for viewers of The Last of Us who haven’t played the video game, Tess’s death. This tragic moment comes in Season 1, Episode 2, “Infected,” after being bitten by an infected.  Although this bit is true in both versions of the story, the way in which she ends up dying differs from one to another. In the video game, after realizing she’s been bitten, Tess stays behind to fight the soldiers that are looking for her, Ellie, and Joel.

However, in The Last of Us TV show, once they get to the Capitol, she shows Joel her bite and lets him know that she has made the choice to stay behind. As they are about to be attacked by a sea of infected, she ushers them to get away. Tess then does the ultimate sacrifice by dousing the floor with gasoline and releasing a live grenade.

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Sarah’s POV

The Last of Us TV version has to utilize every resource to make sure they are conveying the story to the viewers. In order for us to connect with the characters and care about them, we need to learn more about who they are and what they do. In a video game, this is easier because players can become those characters. The perfect example for this scenario is the character of Sarah.

In the game, players start off as Sarah. They have her point of view and follow her story by doing her actions. This is something that cannot be done on the TV show. Instead, they allow us to learn more about Sarah and come to care about her (so much that her very sudden death hurts us) by showing us her day in school, her adventure in town to get her dad’s watch fixed, and the time she spends with the neighbors. Since we can’t become the characters, The Last of Us series will show us their lives as much as possible.

A Bloater walks through the fire in HBO's The Last of Us.

THE LAST OF US. Photo courtesy of HBO.

The Infected

The infected can be considered (as a group) one of the main characters of the TV version of The Last of Us and that is why so many details have gone into the creation of these characters. The makeup, special effects, and different sounds help bring these terrifying creatures to life, but there are certain characteristics that separate them from the infected in the video game. For starters, they are all connected through the fungus that is growing underground. If someone steps on the Cordyceps, which at times are all over the place, then infected will be alerted and find their way to that zone.

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Another big difference is the fact that these episodes of The Last of Us, particularly when Joel and Ellie have to run away from Kathleen, portray an intelligence that the infected in the game didn’t have. There is the insinuation that these creatures are burrowing underground, finding ways through the tunnels to get into the city where the non-infected are. It is when they come for Kathleen’s people that we are able to see a more developed version of these creatures, proving that they might have been preparing to attack.

Catch up on HBO’s The Last of Us here!

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Lara Rosales
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