'The Last of Us' Gets a Series Order at HBO; Could This Be the First Great Video Game Adaptation?

It’s official: Joel and Ellie are coming to television.

HBO has given a series order to The Last of Us, a television adaptation of Naughty Dog’s wildly popular video game about a smuggler and a young girl who must make their way across a zombie-infested America in the hopes of developing a cure for a virus that has ravaged the globe. The game’s creator and creative director, Neil Druckmann, is spearheading the show along with Craig Mazin, the Emmy Award-winning creator of Chernobyl.

HBO has been developing a The Last of Us TV series since March of this year, which, ironically, was when a very real and very deadly virus began sweeping through the actual United States, making the game’s story more relevant than ever. There have been some incremental developments announced since then, but the premium channel must have liked what they’ve seen so far, because today, a press release announced that a series order has officially been handed out.

“Craig and Neil are visionaries in a league of their own,” said Francesca Orsi, HBO’s executive vice president of programming. “With them at the helm alongside the incomparable Carolyn Strauss, this series is sure to resonate with both die-hard fans of The Last of Us games and newcomers to this genre-defining saga. We’re delighted to partner with Naughty Dog, Word Games, Sony and PlayStation to adapt this epic, powerfully immersive story.”

Strauss, who executive produced Game of Thrones and Chernobyl, is executive producing The Last of Us alongside Druckmann and Mazin. Evan Wells, Asad Qizilbash, and Carter Swan will also serve as executive producers. Here’s the official description of the series:

Based on the critically acclaimed video game “The Last of Us,” developed by Naughty Dog exclusively for the PlayStation platforms, the story takes place twenty years after modern civilization has been destroyed. Joel, a hardened survivor, is hired to smuggle Ellie, a 14-year-old girl, out of an oppressive quarantine zone. What starts as a small job soon becomes a brutal, heartbreaking journey, as they both must traverse across the U.S. and depend on each other for survival.

— Craig Mazin (@clmazin) November 20, 2020

Johan Renck (Chernobyl, Breaking Bad) is directing the pilot, and we know the series will feature music by two-time Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla, who provided the music for 2013’s The Last of Us and this year’s sequel game, The Last of Us Part II.

With all of these pieces in place behind the scenes, it seems as if this show could end up being the first truly great video game adaptation for either television or movies. I know the road is littered with failed adaptations and getting my hopes up could be a fool’s errand, but I’m choosing to have hope. The heart-wrenching, emotionally powerful, action-packed storytelling in the games seems perfectly suited to be translated into an effective drama series, and the combination of Druckmann and Mazin writing the scripts has the potential to reach even higher narrative peaks than what was achieved in the game. This could be HBO’s next big water cooler series, and I can’t wait to see if they pull it off.

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