The Last of Us was filmed throughout Alberta from July 2021 to June 2022. It is the first HBO series based on a video game, and is a joint production by Sony Pictures Television, PlayStation Productions, Naughty Dog, the Mighty Mint, and Word Games. Druckmann, who wrote and co-directed the original game, assisted Mazin with scriptwriting for the nine episodes of the first season. The score was composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, who composed for the game, and David Fleming.
The Last of Us premiered on January 15, 2023. It received acclaim from critics, who praised the performances, writing, production design, and score; several called it the best adaptation of a video game. Across linear channels and HBO Max, the series premiere was watched by 4.7 million viewers on the first day—the second-biggest for HBO since 2010—and almost 40 million within two months; by March, the first six episodes averaged over 30 million viewers. In January 2023, the series was renewed for a second season.
Pedro Pascal as Joel, a hardened middle-aged survivor who is tormented by the trauma of his past. Joel is tasked with smuggling a young girl, Ellie, out of a quarantine zone and across the United States. Joel is more vulnerable in the series—he is hard of hearing in one ear due to a gunshot and his knees ache when he stands.
Bella Ramsey as Ellie, a 14-year-old girl who displays much defiance and anger but has a private need for kinship and belonging. She has not lost her playfulness, bonding easily with children, and has a fondness for puns. She is immune to the Cordyceps infection and may be the key to creating a vaccine.
Nico Parker as Sarah, Joel's 14-year-old daughter. She cares for her father, playfully teasing him over his behavior and attitude.
Anna Torv as Tess, a hardened survivor and Joel's smuggler partner. Tess is respected in the Boston Quarantine Zone, largely out of fear. She is protective of Ellie during their escort mission.
Gabriel Luna as Tommy, Joel's younger brother and a former soldier who maintains idealism in his hope for a better world. Tommy was recruited to the Fireflies but gave up on their cause.
Nick Offerman as Bill, a misanthropic survivalist who lives with Frank. Bill's paranoia and distrust of the government left him prepared for the pandemic, protected in a secure underground bunker.
Murray Bartlett as Frank, a survivalist living in an isolated town with Bill. Frank is friendlier and more trusting than Bill, wanting to beautify their town and create friendships with Tess and Joel.
Lamar Johnson as Henry Burrell, who is hiding from a revolutionary movement in Kansas City. Henry is hurt by his own actions but ultimately does them to protect his younger brother Sam.
Graham Greene as Marlon, a Native American hunter who has lived with his wife Florence in the wilderness of Wyoming since before the pandemic. Marlon is resourceful and untrusting of strangers.
Elaine Miles as Florence, who lives with her husband Marlon. Florence is calm and humorous. Unlike Marlon, she did not want to isolate in the wilderness.
Storm Reid as Riley Abel, an orphaned girl who is Ellie's best friend at military school in post-apocalyptic Boston. Riley ran away from military school to join the Fireflies, considering the former fascists.
Scott Shepherd as David, a preacher who is the leader of a religious group. David is calm and acts as a caring leader, but is manipulative and abusive to remind members of his leadership status. He claims to have found God after the outbreak.
Troy Baker as James, David's right-hand man. Baker previously portrayed Joel in the video games. James lacks faith in David but wants to be considered his equal, feeling threatened when Ellie's capabilities threaten to usurp his position.
Ashley Johnson as Anna, Ellie's mother. Johnson previously portrayed Ellie in the video games. Anna is resourceful, killing an infected while giving birth. She is close with Marlene; upon giving birth to Ellie, she tasks Marlene with caring for Ellie.
In 2003, a mass fungal infection of mutated Cordyceps sparks a global pandemic. Joel flees with his daughter, Sarah, and brother, Tommy, from their Texas home; Sarah is killed by a soldier. Twenty years later, Joel lives in a quarantine zone (QZ) in Boston managed by the Federal Disaster Response Agency (FEDRA), working as a smuggler with his partner, Tess. When Tommy fails to contact them from Wyoming, they pay a local dealer, Robert, for a car battery but he scams them and sells it to the Fireflies, a rebel group opposing FEDRA. Attempting to retrieve it, Joel and Tess encounter Marlene, the Fireflies' leader, who begs them to take a teenager named Ellie to the Massachusetts State House in exchange for a working truck. While sneaking out of the QZ, the three run into a soldier on the outside. He tests them for the infection and reveals Ellie is positive. Joel kills the soldier and Ellie claims to be immune.
Two days before the worldwide outbreak, in Jakarta, Indonesia, government officials show an infected corpse to a mycologist, who tells them there is no cure or vaccine and advises bombing the entire city to prevent further outbreak. In the present, Ellie explains to Joel and Tess that she is being transported west in hopes of being used to find a cure. Discovering that the path to the State House is swarmed with the infected, they cut through a history museum, where they are attacked by blind infected known as "clickers" and Ellie is bitten. They arrive at the State House but find the Fireflies dead. Tess reveals she was bitten, while Ellie's bite begins to heal, proving her immunity. Joel shoots an infected, which alerts the swarm to their location. Tess convinces him to escape and take Ellie to their allies in Lincoln, Massachusetts, while she stays behind, blowing up the building and killing herself along with the horde.
Joel and Ellie begin the hike to meet with Bill and Frank. Ellie sees evidence of the government's execution of innocents during the early days of the pandemic. Back in 2007, Frank leaves Baltimore and stumbles upon the compound of Bill, a paranoid survivalist who reluctantly takes him in. The men begin a romance, sharing a love of music and food. Years later, Frank contacts Tess by radio and the two groups enter a tenuous friendship. In the present, Frank is terminally ill and asks Bill to assist his suicide after they marry. Bill, not wanting to live without Frank, kills himself as well. When Joel and Ellie arrive, they discover a letter Bill left for Joel. Bill wrote that protecting Frank gave his life meaning and that he has bequeathed all his supplies to Joel and Tess. Unbeknownst to Joel, Ellie takes Frank's pistol. They take Bill's truck and set out to find Tommy.
Traveling through Missouri, Joel and Ellie are forced to take a detour through Kansas City, where they are ambushed. Joel kills two of the bandits, but a third overpowers him and nearly chokes him to death before Ellie saves him by shooting the man with Frank's pistol. More bandits find the bodies; their leader, Kathleen, believes Joel and Ellie might be in contact with a man named Henry and orders a manhunt. Joel counsels Ellie about the firefight and gives her the pistol back. Kathleen's second-in-command Perry thinks he has found Henry's hideout, but something is growing under the building. Kathleen orders it kept secret until they find Henry. Joel and Ellie sleep in a high-rise apartment for the night, hoping they can scout a way out of the city in daylight. They awaken to find Henry and his younger brother Sam holding them at gunpoint.
Henry and Sam make a tentative truce with Joel and Ellie. Joel wants to part ways, but Henry proposes they escape the city together using underground tunnel routes that only Henry knows; Joel hesitantly agrees. Henry confesses to Joel he was responsible for the death of Kathleen's brother, turning him over to FEDRA in exchange for medication for Sam's leukemia. Ellie and Sam quickly become friends. After escaping through the tunnels, the group is attacked by a sniper from an upper-story window. Joel sneaks up and kills him, but finds out he was radioing Kathleen, who arrives with her militia. Before Kathleen can kill Henry, a horde of infected emerge from underground, including a large "bloater" that beheads Perry and a child clicker that mauls Kathleen. After the group escape to a motel, Sam shows Ellie he was bitten on the leg. The next morning, Sam is infected and attacks Ellie; Henry kills him before killing himself. Joel and Ellie bury them and set off on foot heading west.
Three months after Henry and Sam's deaths, Joel and Ellie reach a small, thriving community in Jackson, Wyoming, where Joel is reunited with Tommy, whose wife Maria is pregnant. Ellie learns about Sarah's fate from Maria. Joel confides in Tommy about Ellie's immunity and his own declining mental state. Joel asks Tommy to take Ellie to the Fireflies, as he is afraid he cannot keep her safe. Ellie overhears them and confronts Joel, who insists they will part ways. Joel changes his mind after remembering Sarah, and he and Ellie travel to Colorado on horseback. They find the Fireflies have vacated their base, possibly relocating to a hospital in Utah. Joel and Ellie attempt to escape a group of raiders. When one of them attacks Joel, Joel kills him but is stabbed during the struggle. Joel and Ellie escape the others, but Joel soon collapses and falls off their horse, leaving Ellie unsure how to proceed.
Ellie and an injured Joel shelter in an abandoned house. As Joel approaches death, he urges Ellie to leave him. Ellie remembers her time in FEDRA military school, which she attended with her best friend Riley. While Ellie causes trouble and fights with her peers, Riley ran away and has been missing for three weeks. Riley sneaks back into their dorm room and reveals to Ellie she has joined the Fireflies. She brings Ellie to an abandoned mall, where they explore a photo booth, an arcade, and a carousel. Riley tells Ellie the Fireflies have assigned her to a post in Atlanta, and it is her last night in Boston. Ellie is upset, but convinces Riley to stay, and they kiss. An infected attacks the two and Ellie kills it, but both are bitten during the struggle. Tearfully, they decide to stay together and wait for the infection to take hold. In the present, Ellie finds a sewing needle and stitches Joel's wound.
Ellie leaves Joel, who is still recovering, to hunt for food. After shooting a deer, she tracks the wounded animal and encounters a preacher, David, and his fellow hunter James. She trades her deer for penicillin. David reveals the man who stabbed Joel was a member of his group; Ellie leaves to treat Joel. The next day, she discovers David and his men have followed her to seek vengeance on Joel. She flees to draw them away but is captured. At David's camp, he reveals he has been feeding his group human flesh. Meanwhile, Joel awakens and tortures some of David's men into telling him Ellie's whereabouts. David and James attempt to kill Ellie but she kills James and escapes; David hunts her down and tries to rape her, but she kills him with a meat cleaver. Joel finds a traumatized Ellie outside the cult's burning community center and comforts her.
In a flashback, Ellie's mother Anna is bitten by an infected as she gives birth to Ellie. She is found by Marlene, who hesitantly takes Ellie and kills Anna, at the latter's request. In the present day, Joel tells Ellie of his failed suicide after Sarah's death. Firefly soldiers capture Ellie and knock Joel unconscious. After Joel awakens in a hospital, Marlene explains that doctors are preparing Ellie for surgery in hope of developing a cure, and Joel protests when he realizes the procedure will kill her. Marlene orders Joel to be taken away. He escapes and kills several Firefly soldiers, including those who surrender, and kills Ellie's surgeon for resisting. Joel carries an unconscious Ellie from the hospital. Marlene intercepts them, stating there is still time to find a cure, but Joel shoots and kills her. When Ellie awakens, Joel lies and tells her the Fireflies had already failed to develop a cure from other immune people. As they hike to Jackson, Ellie insists that Joel swear his story about the Fireflies is true. When he does so, she replies "Okay".
A film adaptation of Naughty Dog's 2013 video game The Last of Us was announced in March 2014, to be written by the game's writer and creative director Neil Druckmann; it had entered development hell by 2016, and the partnership ended and rights relinquished by 2019. Due to the extensive development of a film based on Uncharted, another game series by Naughty Dog, Druckmann ensured specific plot points were included when negotiating a deal with film and television studios; he felt more closely connected to The Last of Us's creation and development than Uncharted's and always wanted to be involved in its adaptation in some manner. In 2018, writer and director Craig Mazin was approached by PlayStation Productions with a list of video games for potential television adaptation; he was disappointed to discover The Last of Us was being adapted into a film at the time as he felt television was a better fit. A fan of the video game, having played it about twelve times, Mazin was introduced to Druckmann through Shannon Woodward, a mutual friend, in 2019. Druckmann, a fan of Mazin's series Chernobyl, agreed with Mazin that The Last of Us required the length and pacing of a television series. They pitched the series to HBO about a week after meeting.
In March 2020, a television adaptation was announced in the planning stages at HBO, expected to cover events of the first game. Mazin and Druckmann were named to write and executive produce the series, while television producer Carolyn Strauss and Naughty Dog president Evan Wells were named executive producers, and Gustavo Santaolalla, who worked on the games, the show's composer. The show was announced as a joint production of Sony Pictures Television, PlayStation Productions, and Naughty Dog; it is the first show produced by PlayStation Productions. It is produced under the company name Bear and Pear Productions.Johan Renck, Mazin's collaborator on Chernobyl, was announced as executive producer and director of the series premiere in June 2020; he dropped out by November due to scheduling conflicts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. HBO greenlit the series on November 20. PlayStation Productions's Asad Qizilbash and Carter Swan were named executive producers, and Word Games a production company.
In January 2021, the Mighty Mint joined production, and Kantemir Balagov was announced as the pilot episode's director. He had been interested in adapting the game for years and was set to direct several opening episodes; in October 2022, Balagov said he left the project a year prior due to creative differences. Rose Lam was added as executive producer in February 2021. Pre-production in Calgary, Alberta, began on March 15; Mazin arrived in May.Ali Abbasi and Jasmila Žbanić were announced as directors in April. In July 2021, the Directors Guild of Canada revealed Peter Hoar was assigned to direct, followed in August by Mazin, in September by Druckmann, and in January 2022 by Liza Johnson and Jeremy Webb. In February, Druckmann confirmed he directed an episode and felt his experience reinforced and reflected his experience in directing games. After several months traveling between Calgary and Los Angeles, Druckmann struggled to fulfil obligations at Naughty Dog and returned home to advise remotely, feeling confident in Mazin. The season's original ten-episode count was reduced to nine during production; the first two were combined after HBO executives felt the first would not compel viewers to return.: 22:27
The Last of Us is believed to be the largest television production in Canadian history, expected to generate over CA$200 million in revenue for Alberta. Sources suggested the budget was between US$10 million and US$15 million per episode;The New Yorker claimed the series budget exceeded each of the first five seasons of Game of Thrones. Calgary film officials felt Alberta was chosen for production partly due to the government's 2021 decision to remove its tax credit cap of CA$10 million per project. Canadian artists union IATSE 212 claimed the production led to a 30 percent increase in union membership and employment. The first season covers the events of the first game and its downloadable expansion The Last of Us: Left Behind (2014); Druckmann and Mazin suggested a second season would immediately cover the sequel, The Last of Us Part II (2020), to avoid filler;PartII is expected to span the course of multiple seasons. He does not want the series to overtake the games. The writers ensured characters remained true to their developments in Part II in case the show received more seasons. On January 27, 2023, less than two weeks after the series premiere, HBO renewed the series for a second season. A writers' room for the second season was established in Los Angeles by February.
Casting took place virtually through Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Casting director Victoria Thomas wanted to honor the game without being limited by it. Mazin and Thomas sought high-profile guest stars; Thomas said many of the actors "don't usually do one-episode guest spots". On February 10, 2021, Pascal and Ramsey were cast as Joel and Ellie. Earlier that day, it was reported Mahershala Ali was offered the role of Joel after Matthew McConaughey turned it down;The Hollywood Reporter noted Ali "did circle a role" in the show, but a deal was never formed. Any actresses considered for Ellie for the canceled film adaptation—such as Maisie Williams and Kaitlyn Dever—had aged out of consideration by the time the series was in production, resulting in a reset of candidates. The producers primarily sought actors who could embody Joel and Ellie individually as well as imitate their relationship.: 14:42 Though both were previously featured on HBO's Game of Thrones, Pascal and Ramsey had not met before the filming of The Last of Us began but found they had instant chemistry, which developed over the course of production.
Luna's casting as Tommy was announced on April 15, 2021, and Dandridge was confirmed to reprise her role of Marlene from the video games on May 27. In May, Classic Casting circulated a casting call for extras from Calgary, Fort Macleod, High River, and Lethbridge; anyone over 18 could apply, and those with vehicles from 1995 to 2003 were recommended. It was announced Parker was cast as Sarah on June 30. Pierce, Bartlett, and O'Neill's casting as Perry, Frank, and Bill was announced on July 15, followed by Torv's as Tess on July 22. On December 5, 2021, Bartlett claimed Offerman would appear on the show in a role close to his; two days later, Offerman was announced to be playing Bill, replacing O'Neill who was forced to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. On December 9, Žbanić revealed the casting of Greene, Miles, and Wesley.
Reid's casting as Riley Abel was announced on January 14, 2022. In February, Mazin distributed a casting call for a boy aged 8–14 who is deaf, black, and proficient in American Sign Language or Black American Sign Language; Deaf West Theatre confirmed this was for the character of Sam, who will appear in two episodes filmed in March and April. In June, Druckmann announced Baker and Ashley Johnson would star in the series; their character names were revealed in December. Lamar Johnson and Woodard's casting as Henry and Sam was announced in August, alongside the official announcement of Greene and Miles as Marlon and Florence. Lynskey's casting as Kathleen was announced alongside the teaser trailer in September, while Shepherd's casting was revealed in the first trailer in December. Wesley's role as Maria was announced on January 9.
A post-apocalypticdrama and thriller, the series was written by Mazin and Druckmann; Mazin wrote all episodes except the premiere and finale, which he co-wrote with Druckmann, and the seventh episode, written by Druckmann. Druckmann was convinced Mazin was the ideal creative partner for the series after witnessing his passion for the game's story; Druckmann referred to Mazin as the story's "co-parent". Mazin said the series may represent a paradigm shift for film and television adaptations of video games due to the strength of the narrative, noting "it would only take [HBO executives] 20 minutes on Google to realize The Last of Us is the Lawrence of Arabia of video game narratives".
Druckmann felt the most important element of adapting the game was to "keep the soul", particularly the character relationships, whereas the gameplay and action sequences were of minimal importance. Mazin said the changes were "designed to fill things out and expand, not to undo, but rather to enhance". He said the series would avoid episodic storylines, such as random encounters not present in the original story. Content cut from the game was added to the show, including the story of Ellie's mother, Anna, which Mazin found "gorgeous" and demanded its inclusion in the series.: 3:39 Druckmann said some scripts borrow dialogue directly from the game, while others deviate; some of the game's action-heavy sequences were changed to focus on character drama at the encouragement of HBO. Druckmann said the series was taking the opposite approach to adaptation than the film Uncharted (2022); while Uncharted tells a new story with moments from the games to give "an Uncharted flavor", The Last of Us is a closer adaptation, allowing alterations such as changing character perspectives in a manner unachievable in an immersive game. Unlike creating the games, Druckmann felt he was able to "unplug" from the characters when writing the show due to the immersive nature of video games. The writers found the series an opportunity to delve into backstories of characters who the game otherwise ignored, wanting to better understand their motivations.
Druckmann was open to changing any aspects of the games but always wanted a strong reason, ensuring he and Mazin considered the impacts on events later in the narrative. The game's outbreak takes place in 2013, while its post-apocalyptic narrative occurs in 2033; this was changed to 2003 and 2023, as the writers felt the story taking place simultaneously with the show's release was more interesting and real, and did not fundamentally change the story. The writers added the outbreak's origins to the series to ground the narrative; following COVID-19, they recognized audiences are more knowledgeable about viral pandemics than they once were. Borrowing from an approach he had used in writing Chernobyl, Mazin began the series with a segment of a fictional 1960s talk show explaining the origins of a fungal infection, implying humanity knew of the potential risk for some time. For the show, the writers removed spores as the vector through which the infection is spread in the games, replacing it with tendrils that form a unified, interconnected network, inspired by the idea of mycelium. The writers felt the game's gas masks did not translate well into television and spores were not a realistic threat, and found replacing it with an interconnected network increased tension. Visually, the fungal infection was inspired by jellyfish stings after Žbanić sent an image to Mazin during preproduction. The writers avoided making "a zombie show", acknowledging the infected creatures were ultimately a vessel through which the characters are pressured to make interesting decisions and reveal their true selves.
Supervising location manager Jason Nolan began preparation work for the series in January 2021, leading a 115-person team that found and transformed more than 180 locations. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cast and crew quarantined for two weeks after entering Canada. Ksenia Sereda worked as cinematographer alongside Balagov, Mazin, Druckmann, and Johnson, Eben Bolter with Hoar and Webb, Christine A. Maier with Žbanić, and Nadim Carlsen with Abbasi. Sereda used an Alexa Mini with Cooke Optics S4 lenses; Bolter used the same as he felt it was effective for handheld shots while emulating 35 mm film. The series filmed for 200 days, with around 18–19 days per episode, amounting to 2–3 pages of script per day.
Santaolalla and David Fleming composed the score for the television series; the former wrote its opening theme. He said Latino viewers "will recognize touches" of his music, and drew on his experiences in film and television, having composed the themes and some tracks for Jane the Virgin (2014–2019) and Making a Murderer (2015–2018). He primarily recrafted his previous work instead of creating new music, focusing on elements he found interesting. Fleming's work was inspired by real-world sounds within a decayed civilization. A 66-track soundtrack album for the series was released digitally on February 27.
The production team included five art directors and hundreds of technicians. The game's art director, concept artists, and environment artists provided feedback on costumes and sets. Costume designer Cynthia Ann Summers found the series more difficult than outfit-focused media like fantasy or period pieces as the costumes had to be integral to the story without standing out. She ensured Joel's outfits demonstrated a lack of consideration, as he would place little thought into his appearance; Mazin demanded specific colours. Summers required around 30 duplicates of each outfit to account for elements like blood and dirt progression, stunt doubles, and reserves. The breakdown department, responsible for disfiguring outfits as required by the story, was led by Sage Lovett. At the request of Mazin, Summers and her team focused on minor details relevant to an apocalyptic setting, like shoelaces replacing belts. Pascal and Ramsey were happy to wear regular outfits as they had both worked on science-fiction and period pieces.
Production designer John Paino referenced the video game but focused on references used by Naughty Dog during development. He created an image collage which included a photograph of reassembled chairs, which Mazin considered the show's mandate: "the built world is unbuilt and rebuilt". Paino found several Canadian towns had similarities to American architecture, particularly Texas. He was unable to locate empty and abandoned buildings or location imitating Boston's brick-lined streets for the first two episodes, requiring manual transformation and constructions. Paino and his team constructed the Boston quarantine zone near Stampede Park over several months for the first episode, the town of Lincoln in around six to twelve weeks for the third, and the Kansas City cul-de-sac in nine weeks for the fifth.
Barrie and Sarah Gower, with whom Mazin had worked on Chernobyl, were engaged to create the prosthetics for the infected.: 0:31  Barrie Gower appreciated the series avoided "stereotypical zombies—the pronounced cheekbones, sunken eyes, lots of blood and gore". The production team created a large reference library for "fuzz, slime mold, shelf mushrooms, button mushrooms, different textures and colors". Mazin wanted the clickers to resemble the in-game design through prosthetics; he felt using visual effects would have lessened their impact.: 18:24 Their team found themselves continually referring to the original concept art from the game.: 0:44 For the approximately 70 actors portraying the infected mob in the fifth episode, 70 artists applied prosthetics to about 30 people in each three-hour shift. The 40 kilograms (88 lb) bloater suit was coated in an gel-like liquid during filming to appear wet and reflective.Paul Becker and Terry Notary choreographed the series. Notary wanted the creatures' movements to imitate each other, akin to schools of fish; for the fifth episode, he set up a boot camp to prepare the actors for the role.: 3:44
The series was edited by Timothy A. Good and Emily Mendez; Mark Hartzell edited the second episode, and Cindy Mollo edited the eighth. After Mazin worked on Chernobyl, Good expressed interest in collaborating; the two had been friends for some time. A different editor was employed for The Last of Us but departed due to scheduling conflicts; Good joined the series after finishing work on the third season of The Umbrella Academy.: 18:17 Mendez worked on the third episode as Good's assistant editor; he showed her work to Mazin, and they agreed for Mendez to co-edit the seventh episode as it adapted Left Behind, her favorite part of the games. She continued as Good's co-editor for the fifth, sixth, and ninth episodes.: 27:35 Good chose not to play the game and let the dailies instruct his emotional instincts; Mendez and Mazin gave him details when necessary.: 34:01 Mendez was tasked with the temporary sound design, using her own library and sound effects from the game.: 49:19 Good used Santaolalla's soundtrack from the game as the temp score during editing and found it influenced his decisions.: 50:59
Sixteen visual effects teams worked on the series, supervised by Alex Wang. The season averaged around 250 visual effects shots per episode. The 650-person team at DNEG worked on 535 shots for the series over 18 months, primarily focusing on environmental effects, including the scenes set in Boston, Kansas City, Jackson, and Salt Lake City; field trips were conducted to gather resources, and the team regularly referenced the video games. The visual effects teams consulted with Naughty Dog's concept artists when creating the infected, and used timelapse videos of Cordyceps growth as animation references. All studios worked on the fifth episode's action sequence; the episode had around 350 to 400 visual effects shots.Wētā FX created the infected effects;: 41:05 50 to 70 creatures were digitally added to the horde. Design studio Elastic created the show's title sequence to demonstrate the "unrelenting nature" of the fungus; creative directors Andy Hall and Nadia Tzuo researched fungi to ensure an accurate depiction and movement. They pitched several ideas to Mazin and Druckmann before settling on the realistic depiction; Mazin enjoyed the idea of the fungus appearing beautiful despite its destructive nature.: 0:40
For The Last of Us Day on September 26, 2021, HBO shared the first image of Pascal and Ramsey in costume, followed by the first still from the series at Summer Game Fest on June 10, 2022. The first footage of the show was revealed in a HBO Max trailer during the premiere of House of the Dragon on August 21, featuring Pascal, Ramsey, Parker, and Offerman. The decision to develop The Last of Us Part I—a remake of the original game—was partly based on the potential to introduce show viewers to the games; it was released for PlayStation 5 in September 2022, and is set to release for Windows in March 2023. The first teaser trailer for the show was released for The Last of Us Day on September 26, 2022, featuring the first footage of Luna, Dandridge, Torv, and Reid, and confirming Lynskey's casting; the teaser, which used Hank William's "Alone and Forsaken", received over 17 million views in less than 24 hours across Twitter and YouTube.
A short clip of Joel and Ellie hiding from a Clicker was released on November 16 to tease the show's appearance at CCXP the following month. Posters for eleven characters were released on November 30. Dandridge, Druckmann, Luna, Mazin, Pascal, and Ramsey appeared on a panel at CCXP on December 3, where the first full trailer was released, revealing the first appearances of Baker, Ashley Johnson, and Shepherd. Baker, Ashley Johnson, Pascal, and Ramsey presented at The Game Awards 2022 on December 8. HBO announced Baker would host a companion podcast alongside the series, featuring Mazin and Druckmann. In January 2023, Pascal and Ramsey were featured on the cover of The Hollywood Reporter, while Pascal was on the cover of Wired. HBO released the first behind-the-scenes featurette on January 6, and several press outlets published interviews with cast and crew based on roundtable discussions from the previous month. Ramsey appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! alongside a clip from the series on January 9, and on The Late Late Show with James Corden on January 10. A season trailer was released after the airing of the first episode on January 15, and a two-hour trial of The Last of Us Part I was made available for PlayStation Plus Premium members.
The first season is set to be released for purchase digitally on April 11, 2023, and physically on DVD, Blu-ray, and Ultra HD Blu-ray on July 18, containing several behind-the-scenes featurettes including the Inside the Episode series; a SteelBook version will be available in the United Kingdom.
The Last of Us(season 1): Critical reception by episode
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, The Last of Us has an approval rating of 96% based on 455 reviews, with an average rating of 8.75/10. The website's general consensus reads, "Retaining the most addictive aspects of its beloved source material while digging deeper into the story, The Last of Us is bingeworthy TV that ranks among the all-time greatest video game adaptations."Metacritic calculated an average of 84 out of 100 based on 42 reviews, indicating "universal acclaim". Several reviewers considered it the best adaptation of a video game, with GameSpot's Mark Delaney saying it "feels like the beginning of a new era" for the genre.
Reviewers praised the differences from the original game's narrative implemented by Mazin and Druckmann, and some believed the scenes lifted directly from the game were among the weakest and led to issues with pacing.Variety's Daniel D'Addario felt the show relied too heavily on action sequences, while TechRadar's Axel Metz wanted more action.IGN's Simon Cardy wrote the series "often shines brightest" during its quietest moments. Critics overwhelmingly considered the third episode the season's best, and some named it among the greatest episodes of television overall.The Hollywood Reporter's Daniel Fienberg felt it elevated the series to a new level, and Empire's John Nugent called it "moving, surprisingly romantic, and one of the finest hours of television in recent memory". Some critics found the first episode well-made but too familiar, and /Film's Valerie Ettenhofer considered it the season's weakest.RogerEbert.com's Brian Tallerico found the final two episodes rushed.
Several critics lauded the production design.Digital Spy's David Opie wrote "every set feels like it was ripped straight out of the game". Conversely, Slant Magazine's Pat Brown felt environments appeared too manicured and carefully placed.Inverse's Dais Johnston praised the use of lighting to highlight the humanity of both the characters and creatures, and called the cinematography "something other video game adaptations could only dream of".TV Guide's Keith Phipps called the series "visually striking", and IGN's Cardy wrote it "is often a sight to behold". Santaolalla's score received praise, with CNET's Sean Keane feeling it added "a yearning of sadness to the narrative".
The cast's performances received widespread acclaim, with critics singling out the chemistry between Pascal and Ramsey for praise.Evening Standard's Vicky Jessop said the two "steal every scene they're in", while Rolling Stone's Alan Sepinwall called them "compulsively watchable and almost instantly endearing".Empire's Nugent and /Film's Ettenhofer referred to Pascal's performance as the best of his career, citing his ability to portray nuance and rare vulnerability.TechRadar's Metz described him as the "perfect real-world manifestation" of Joel. Several critics found Ramsey gave the show's breakout performance for her balance of comedy and emotion, with Time's Judy Berman calling her "the show's greatest asset" and IGN's Cardy applauding her for "making her mark" on Ellie, a character already considered iconic long before Ramsey's portrayal. Some critics considered the seventh episode Ramsey's strongest.
Guest performances throughout the season were highly praised. For the premiere, Rolling Stone's Sepinwall lauded Parker for "holding the screen" and establishing Sarah as likeable, and Push Square's Aaron Bayne wrote Luna flawlessly "slips into the role" with little screen time.Den of Geek's Bernard Boo found Torv in the second episode sophisticated and heartbreaking. Offerman and Bartlett's performances were described by Complex's William Goodman as "career-best" and by Inverse's Johnston as Emmy-worthy. Lynskey's performance in the fourth and fifth episodes was praised for juxtaposing humanity and viciousness. For the fifth episode, IGN's Cardy lauded Johnson's emotional performance in his final scene, and Total Film's Bradley Russell felt the naivety of Woodard's role intensified the narrative. Critics enjoyed Pascal and Luna's chemistry in the sixth episode, and Ramsey and Reid's in the seventh;Bleeding Cool's Tom Chang called the latter two "award-worthy", and Push Square's Bayne felt Reid effectively captured Riley's sense of "youthful pride".The A.V. Club's David Cote called Shepherd's performance "masterful in its wry, understated charm".
The premiere episode had 4.7 million viewers in the United States on its first night of availability, including linear viewers and streams on HBO Max, making it the second-largest debut for HBO since 2010, behind House of the Dragon. It was streamed for a total of 223 million minutes in its first three hours. The total viewing figure increased to over 10 million viewers after two days, 18 million after a week, 22 million within twelve days, and almost 40 million within two months. In Latin America, the series premiere was the biggest HBO Max debut ever. The second episode had 5.7 million viewers on its first night, an increase of 22 percent from the previous week, the largest second-week audience growth for an original HBO drama series in the network's history. From January 16 to 22, the series was streamed for 837 million minutes, ranking sixth for the week and outpacing House of the Dragon's first two episodes in the same interval; it maintained its sixth position with 877 million the following week. By January 31, the first two episodes averaged 21.3 million viewers.
The third episode had 6.4 million viewers on its first night, a 12 percent increase. The series was streamed for 1.19 billion minutes from January 30 to February 5, ranking fourth for the week, and 1.1 billion minutes the following week, ranking third. The fourth episode had 7.5 million viewers, a 17 percent weekly increase and 60 percent increase from the first episode. By March 6, the first five episodes averaged almost 30 million viewers across linear viewers and streams; by March 12, the first six averaged 30.4 million, the highest figure for an HBO series since the eighth season of Game of Thrones, surpassing House of the Dragon's ten-episode average. The fifth episode had 11.6 million viewers in its first weekend,[c] while the sixth and seventh had 7.8 and 7.7 million viewers, respectively, on their first nights. The final two episodes had 8.1 and 8.2 million viewers, a 74 and 75 percent increase from the first.
Viewership and ratings per episode of The Last of Us
The video games increased their sales following the premiere. In January, The Last of Us PartI was the eighth-most-downloaded PlayStation 5 game in North America and tenth in Europe; on PlayStation 4, The Last of Us PartII was the seventh-most-downloaded in both regions, while The Last of Us Remastered was thirteenth in North America and fifteenth in Europe. In February, PartI rose to sixth in North America and seventh in Europe, Remastered to ninth and seventh, respectively, in PartII to first in both regions. In the United Kingdom, in the week after the premiere, Remastered sales increased by 337 percent over the previous week and The Last of Us PartI by 305 percent, with both reentering the charts as a result. The following week, PartI saw another 32 percent increase at retail, and Remastered 27 percent. For the month, PartII sales increased 317 percent, and Remastered 285 percent. In the United States, PartI reentered the January charts at 11th, climbing 25 positions from the previous month.