The first season of The Last of Us may be over, but we’ll be looking fondly back over it for months to come. Over the course of nine episodes, viewers followed hardened apocalypse survivor Joel (Pedro Pascal) and his teenage companion Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they trekked across the ruins of the United States. By the time we reached the end, things had taken an uncomfortable turn and Joel and Ellie’s relationship hung on a precarious edge.
The Last of Us was an enormous success for HBO, bringing in higher viewership numbers for the network than even last year’s Game of Thrones prequel show House of the Dragon. Needless to say, this series isn’t going anywhere; it’s already been renewed for a second season, and considering that showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have confirmed that it will take more than one season to adapt Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II video game, a third seems extremely likely.
But what exactly should viewers expect in The Last of Us season 2? It’s a reasonable question to ask, especially if you haven’t played the games or are avoiding them for fear of spoilers. To that end, we’ve put together a SPOILER-FREE primer to give you the broad strokes of what to expect without giving too much away.
The Last of Us season 2 will be much darker than season 1
To start, let’s talk about the overall theme and tone of the story ahead. Provided that the series sticks relatively close to the video games, season 2 will be significantly darker than the show’s debut outing.
The first season was a story about how Joel learned to open his heart again after tragically losing his daughter. Meanwhile, Ellie became more traumatized and withdrawn. The second game has a very different sort of story centered on the horrors of violence and vengeance. We’re fully expecting season 2 to stay true to it. Considering how horrific some of the scenes in the sequel video game are, there’s a very good chance season 2 will test your stomach.
The Last of Us season 2 will have fewer settings but explore them in more detail
The first season of The Last of Us was a road trip. Joel and Ellie traveled from city to city on their quest to find the Fireflies, hitting a bunch of different states and sights along the way. We visited Boston and Lincoln, Massachusetts; Kansas City, Missouri; Jackson, Wyoming; various parts of Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah and more.
The Last of Us Part II doesn’t have quite that same vibe. There will still be traveling, but the characters don’t visit as many places. On the other hand, the ones they do visit are explored in far more detail. The show will likely spend enough time in each location that viewers will get to know them intimately, as opposed to passing through like tourists.
The Last of Us season 2 will introduce a lot of new characters
Joel and Ellie will be back next season, and based on the fact that they ended season 1 heading back toward Jackson, it’s safe to say that Tommy (Gabriel Luna) and his wife Maria (Rutina Wesley) will be as well.
But we’ll also meet a lot of new characters, including some major ones who will get screentime comparable to Ellie’s and Joel’s. The Last of Us Part II is much more complex than Part I, in large part thanks to the bigger cast. So expect to meet some new favorite characters…as well as some you’ll loathe.
The Last of Us season 2 will focus even more on Ellie
The Last of Us season 1 split its time between Joel and Ellie, exploring each of their backgrounds and personal journeys. Both characters still play an important part in the sequel, but it’s specifically a brutal coming-of-age tale for Ellie. As such, she’ll likely assume a much larger role.
There will also be a time jump for season 2. In the first video game and the first season of the show, Ellie is 14. She’s 19 at the start of The Last of Us Part II. That’s how old Bella Ramsey is now, so she won’t be recast. We’re expecting that time jump to remain more or less the same. But as in the game, we also expect there to be flashbacks to fill in some of the events that happened during those intervening years.
The Last of Us season 2 will address the consequences of Joel’s choice
The season 1 finale of The Last of Us left viewers on a huge cliffhanger; Joel decided to murder a whole lot of Fireflies rather than let them kill Ellie in order to develop a cordyceps vaccine, and then he lied to her about it. As with any show that introduces big cliffhangers like this, it leaves the viewer with questions. How will it be addressed? Will the show put it off, dance around it, or lead viewers on to keep us watching?
What we’ll say is that the ramifications of Joel’s decision at Saint Mary’s Hospital play a major part in The Last of Us Part II. Don’t expect to get all the answers quickly; this is a story that is very methodical about what information it parcels out to you, and the timing of everything is crucial. But the story doesn’t shy away from exploring the various problems caused by the events of season 1. Those events very much inform what lies ahead.
The Last of Us season 1 is available to stream now on HBO Max. Season 2 is expected to begin filming sometime later this year.
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