Many avid gamers have anticipated HBO’s new adaptation The Last of Us, some hesitant and weary given the poor track record of video game to film adaptations. Others remained cautiously optimistic with the promising-looking trailers and have expressed their approval that thus far the show hasn’t disappointed and strayed too far from its origins.
But all adaptations whether they be from books or video games will have some changes and alterations since it is after all a different media. And let’s be fair, some aspects of the gameplay are just not captivating enough for a film adaptation. Do we really want to see Joel wander around gathering supplies, exploring areas, and upgrading his weapons? Since that doesn’t make for a good story for a show or movie, additions are needed to round out the plot and fill in the storytelling.
With that said, let’s take a look at the first two episodes and see what changes and additions have been made to the show. And then let’s explore how that alters the lore from the game, makes the characters more realistic and relatable, and overall if these changes were justified in the eyes of fans.
One major change that fans of the game will notice is how the spread of infection works differently in the show. Instead of spores in the air that can cause someone to get infected, the creators have chosen a mushroom network based on the Cordyceps fungus. This takes the infected to another level entirely. Because of this network, they share a consciousness, and if someone so much as steps on a mushroom that is part of this network, all the infected nearby become aware of the potential host.
In the first two episodes, the show has established how this Cordyceps fungus works and based their alteration of the lore to be more realistic and more accurate to how fungus really spreads in humans. We’ve even seen mushroom tendrils that live within the zombies and how through bites and scratches the fungus will consume humans from the inside out, keeping their host alive to a certain degree but essentially hijacking their brain.
They even demonstrated the new spread of the infection through Tess’s death. Although in the game she was originally bitten by the Infected, she was killed by Fedra soldiers looking for the Fireflies. However, the creators of HBO’s adaptation decided to have Tess not only get bitten but also consumed by the Infected. Not completely before she manages to set fire to and blow up the building, killing herself and the zombies.
In the video game, Joel parted ways with his younger brother Tommy due to ideological differences. Tommy believed in the mission of the Fireflies while Joel was just trying to survive within the new world order. It isn’t until Joel meets Ellie that there becomes a need to reunite with his brother due to his connection with the Fireflies. However, in the show, we see that Joel has kept communication with his brother, and when he is met with radio silence, he becomes concerned about Tommy’s wellbeing. In fact, Tess and Joel were working to get a battery for a car so that they could go find Tommy.
In the game, Joel and Tess’s journey began when they got screwed over in a weapons trade. In an attempt to get their merchandise back, they met Marlene and made a deal with her to smuggle Ellie out of the city and deliver her to a Firefly hideout in exchange for the weapons. For the show, it seems that Joel is not so indifferent towards his brother, and Joel and Tess were fixing to leave the city together.
Of course, we do wonder what the reunion of the brothers will be like in the show and if there is in fact some disagreement between them. Regardless, it seems that even if they did have some ideological differences, it didn’t stop them from keeping in touch with each other in the show. This actually benefits Joel’s character in a sense because it shows that family is still important to him.
After losing his daughter when the outbreak began, Tommy is the only family Joel has left. This inclination towards family makes it more believable that Joel would step into a father figure role later on with Ellie. Although Joel is still reluctant at first to take responsibility for her, he eventually grows to care for her and does everything he can to protect her.
It seems that thus far, reviews from fans are overwhelmingly positive. Many are impressed and pleasantly surprised by the quality and accuracy of the adaptation. And despite some changes and additions, viewers seemed pleased with these since they make the story that much more realistic and relatable. HBO has set the standards high for this video game adaptation and hopefully, the show continues to live up to this new standard. If it does, perhaps The Last of Us will finally break the curse that plagues video game to film adaptations.