The Last of Us TV Series? Make It Happen

A television adaptation of The Last of Us would be pretty awesome if it was done well. But would it be stepping on The Walking Dead's toes?
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WARNING: Possible spoilers for The Last of Us.

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With the success of The Walking Dead television show (and video game), I got to thinking about what other games might do well as a TV show, and The Last of Us quickly came to mind.

Similar to TWD, the game takes place in a world where terrifying monsters roam the earth, and survival depends on your ability to work with and trust other people. Likewise, while the game clearly has two main characters in Joel and Ellie; a TV show could focus on other characters from the universe that we either know very little or nothing at all about. This would prevent bumping in to their story (if there’s ever a sequel), but would be familiar enough that fans of the game should feel it’s authentic.

It’s All About the Writing

One of the best things about The Walking Dead show is the connection fans make with the characters, even if only for a short time. The Last of Us game also made players feel deep connected to Joel and Ellie, so if there was any way possible that Neil Druckman, the game’s writer, could be involved it would be a huge bonus. Getting a writer onboard that helped create that world would do wonders for making the show acceptable in fans’ eyes.

The Last of Us as a TV show would only be successful if it was faithful in recreating the world, featured tense, strategic combat, and had character development like nothing we’ve ever seen on TV. The show would absolutely need to shy away from making it too combat heavy, and place an emphasis on making the audience fall in love with the characters.

I think it would be a mistake to follow The Walking Dead’s lead and kill off characters like they’re flies, but it certainly couldn’t hurt to have a few expendable characters built in early on. While there were certainly a few characters who died in the game, the show needs to be slow-building, giving viewers an opportunity to make a connection with them in order to faithfully recreate the game’s atmosphere. 

Can a TV Adaptation Be A Success Without Joel and Ellie?

Perhaps one of the biggest question marks with bringing this game to television is whether it could be any good without Joel and Ellie. The two main characters in the game were the game. All the action and violence was just filler and background for why their relationship was blossoming and becoming what it was.

So would a game based in the world established in The Last of Us be any different from the world presented in The Walking Dead? Or would it simply be another zombie show? I’m certainly not wanting just any old zombie show to come out and be a disaster, because we’ve been inundated over the last few years with some pretty awful zombie films and shows. If this is going to be done, it needs to be done well, and it would need to be differently enough from the industry leader.

As I mentioned earlier, getting Druckman involved would certainly help, but even if he isn’t involved, staying faithful to the storytelling mechanic in the game is critical. It must tell a good story about the relationships between various characters. It must give reasons for characters to need to rely on each other and trust each other.

They must be put in situations that force them to make choices between saving themselves and saving others. Getting viewers to buy-in to why the characters need each other would be critical. If they could establish this kind of narrative, the show could absolutely be a success.

There hasn’t been any real talk of any kind of show based on The Last of Us, but that doesn’t stop me from dreaming. Video games have been the source of some pretty awful movies and TV shows over the years, so entering that territory shouldn’t be taken lightly, and it would almost require the complete cooperation of the Naughty Dog team. This is why it’s likely the TV adaptation of the game won’t ever happen, because they are too focused on giving gamers the next great gaming experience.

And I guess I’m okay with that, too.

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Brian Armstrong
Proud gamer parent and freelance journalist (and fundraiser). I cover anything and everything that's interesting about the gaming industry, and even some stuff that isn't so interesting.