This story contains spoilers for the season finale of The Last of Us but not the video game, The Last of Us Part II. You're safe. (For now.)
Grizzled fans of The Last of Us, we have some big news. Season 2 of the post-apocalyptic series will reportedly continue to follow the plot of the game closely, which will have massive ramifications for those who know exactly what goes down between Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in the second installment. "If that does take place in the show," Ramsey told Esquire in our cover story, "I don’t know that I’m emotionally ready for it."
In the first season of the HBO series, the unlikely duo of Joel and Ellie set out on a cross-country trip to find a cure for a deadly fungal infection that turns victims into zombies. (We're simplifying, we know.) It proved to be a smash hit—even setting viewership records during its 2023 airing. The series also managed to keep fans of its source material, 2013's The Last of Us video game, relatively happy with its faithful retelling of its dark, emotional story.
According to our 2023 interview with Pascal, the adaptation will remain true to the game in season 2 "like entirely, I think." The actor added in Esquire's accompanying "Explain This" video that, "It wouldn’t make sense to follow the first game so faithfully only to stray severely from the path. Now, more recently, on the red carpet at Sundance Film Festival for the premiere of his new film, Freaky Tales, Pascal told Deadline that the showrunners are, "always going to find ways to build on the incredible source material that they have, and surprise us with how they can use that material in a different format like a television show." Still, the leading star maintained that he, "wouldn’t want to spoil it for anybody, and the truth is, I don’t actually have all of the information as of yet."
For those looking to dive deeper, both The Last of Us Part I and The Last of Us Part II are available to play on PlayStation. The Last of Us Part II also just received an official remaster ahead of season 2, which is out on January 19. "I tried to play the game but I was really shit at [using] the controller," Pascal revealed to Esquire. "It looks like a lot of f**cking fun, but I was so bad at it."
According to HBO chief Casey Bloys, the network isn't eyeing a release for season 2 until 2025. Still, there's a lot to look forward to between now and then. Check out everything we know about The Last of Us season 2 below.
Yes. HBO has officially locked in the actors for season 2's most important players: Abby, Jesse, and Dina. To start us off, Kaitlyn Dever (Dopesick) is officially joining the cast as Abby—AKA, the most influential member of The Last of Us Part II's insane story twists. Though we won't spoil anything here, just know that fans of the video game who are aware of what lies ahead have been eagerly awaiting this announcement. We'll just leave you with a short teaser from HBO that describes Abby as, "a skilled soldier whose black-and-white view of the world is challenged as she seeks vengeance for those she loved."
According to Deadline, Dever emerged as the frontrunner following the end of the SAG-AFTRA strike back in November. "Our casting process for season 2 has been identical to season 1: we look for world-class actors who embody the souls of the characters in the source material," co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann said in an official statement. "Nothing matters more than talent, and we’re thrilled to have an acclaimed performer like Kaitlyn join Pedro, Bella and the rest of our family."
But that's not all. The Last of Us has also cast two other major players for season 2. Young Mazino (Beef) was announced as Jesse, while Isabela Merced (Madame Web) will play Dina. Jesse is a selfless member of the duo's new community, according to HBO, while fans of The Last of Us Part II will recognise Dina as Ellie's eventual love interest. Merced also recently starred alongside Dever in the Shakespearean film Rosaline back in 2022. Speaking about casting Mazino, the Last of Us creators stated that he is "one of those rare actors who is immediately undeniable the moment you see him."
Of course, The Last of Us season 2, like season 1, will have a clear roadmap to follow: 2020's divisive The Last of Us Part II. The sequel has even more material to cover than the first season—which compiled all of the events of the first game into its nine episodes. "This should be fairly obvious to anyone by now, but I don’t fear killing characters,” Mazin revealed to Esquire. “But the important thing to note is that neither Neil nor I feel constrained by the source material."
Showrunners Mazin and Druckmann hope that the remainder of the show will have something for anyone watching—from newcomers to devoted fans of the video game series. If you need reassurance that the HBO series will pull off any changes to the game, just look at episode 3's story of Bill and Frank, or even the flashback scenes of Ellie and Ramsey from episode 7. "We will present things, but it will be different," Mazin told Variety. "Sometimes it will be different radically, and sometimes it will be barely different at all. But it's going to be different, and it will be its own thing. It won't be exactly like the game. It will be the show that Neil and I want to make."
Pascal and Ramsey will also be back in Vancouver, according to Deadline, where a majority of the second season will be filmed. Though The Last of Us takes place in the U.S., much of the first season was actually filmed in Calgary, Alberta. For fans of the series, they're already well aware that the duo's time in the Pacific Northwest makes for a majority of the story to come.
Well, even though the series plans to follow the plot of The Last of Us Part 2 "exactly" there's a big question about whether or not the show will end after just two or three seasons. What happens when HBO runs out of material? Will Mazin and Druckmann start dreaming up new plot points to finish the TV series like Game of Thrones? It's a tough choice, especially since creator Druckmann and his video game company, Naughty Dog, are also busy with the next installment in the The Last of Us video game franchise.
"Our plan is to do it not just for one more season. We should be around for a while," Mazin told a panel in Las Vegas, according to Deadline. Earlier, he also told IndieWire that, "Even though we were greenlit for a season of television, Neil and I felt like we can’t just make a season of television without considering what would come after. There is more The Last of Us to come. And I think the balance is not always just about within an episode or even episode to episode but season a season." That includes, potentially, original stories in other cities told beyond the material from the game. We could be looking at a whole world of Last of Us stories, and not just material adapted from two video games.
That's all we'll say about that! We don't want to accidentally reveal the shocking events that occur in The Last of Us Part II. In the coming months, Esquire will break down even more about how the HBO series will adapt the franchise's brutal second entry. For now? Just enjoy the good news: clickers will be sniffing you out well into 2025.