What The Last of Us Season 2 May Hold

What's next for Joel and Ellie? Will the hit post-apocalyptic series’ second season stick to the video game sequel’s story, or will it surprise like a fungal abomination leaping from the shadows?

by | March 14, 2023 | Comments

TAGGED AS: , , , ,

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

If you rolled the credits on The Last of Us’ first season finale craving a bit more closure and resolution on Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) complex relationship, well, there’s millions of gamers who can totally relate. Upon finishing the PlayStation 3 game in 2013, fans were left in the very same, awkward spot following Joel’s deception, Ellie’s dubious acceptance of it, and the story cutting to black.

The big difference, however, was players had to suffer another seven years before The Last of Us Part II picked up Joel and Ellie’s interactive tale, finally revealing what became of them after that divisive conclusion. Thankfully, with the enormous, record-breaking popularity of the series — and the fact it’s already been green-lit for a second season — the show’s following needn’t wait nearly as long to catch up with their favorite Cordyceps-apocalypse survivors.

the last of us s1 samuel hoeksema

(Photo by Chris Large/HBO)

Of course, where exactly season 2 will take us is still a mystery. Given how closely the first nine episodes stuck to the source material’s storytelling, those who’ve played the sequel probably have a good idea of the narrative path ahead. That said, the first season wasn’t an entirely faithful adaptation, adding new characters like Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), while drastically altering the stories of existing characters, like Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett).

Toss in the fact the second game includes some major twists that make its predecessor’s — and the series’ — most unexpected surprises look tame by comparison, and season 2 is positioned to drop bombshells that could hit fans of both versions like a rampaging Bloater.

Spoiler alert: The following contains details about video game The Last of Us Part II. Stop here if you have not played the game and wish to avoid potential spoilers for the show.

More Flashbacks and Side-Stories

Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Two of the first season’s most talked-about — for better and worse — episodes spent much of their run-time in the past. Both Bill and Frank’s episode, “Long, Long Time,” and Riley (Storm Reid) and Ellie’s (“Left Behind”) were told in flashbacks and largely focused on side characters from the game. The Last of Us Part II is even more ripe for this sort of storytelling, as the sequel is considerably longer, more complex, and features a much larger cast.

Brand new characters like Dina — Ellie’s girlfriend, who may have been glimpsed in episode 6, “Kin” — as well as their mutual friend Jesse, could be further explored via jumps to the past. Similarly, Abby, a complicated protagonist/antagonist players control for much of Part II, has her own group of friends and allies that could also benefit from additional screen-time.

The sequel also introduces two new factions, the Washington Liberation Front (WLF) and the Seraphites/Scars, both of which feature prominently in the second game’s plot. The latter group is explored through the compelling tale of Lev and Yara, a transgender teen and her sister who are forced to flee from the spiritually devout faction. The siblings’ story, much like Bill and Franks, could make for especially fertile flashback territory.

Gabriel Luna in The Last of Us

(Photo by Shane Harvey/HBO)

These fresh characters — as well as some returning figures, like Joel’s brother Tommy — are well-established in the sequel, but their individual stories and their connections to the primary players could certainly be further nuanced. It wouldn’t be surprising, for example, if Lev and Yara’s mostly-unseen, contentious relationship with their religious mother, as well as the events leading to their exile, was given an entire episode.

Potential season 2 flashbacks could be totally original, like Anna’s (Ashley Johnson) birthing scene in the finale’s opening, or be pulled from the source material, like Ellie’s friendship with Riley. While Part 2 doesn’t have any flashback-focused DLC expansions, like Left Behind, much of the core game actually takes place in the past.

Fresh Friends and Foes

Melanie Lynskey in The Last of Us

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

One of the first season’s most popular characters didn’t appear in the game at all. Lynskey’s Kathleen was only in two episodes, but her ruthless rebel leader earned a rabid following that was disappointed to see her meet an ugly demise so quickly. That brief, incredibly badass appearance by Ellie’s mom was also a fan-favorite. Her character was referenced, but didn’t appear in the games, yet her inclusion in the series certainly made for a better story with added context and characterization.

Given how well these additions were received, we suspect creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann will follow suit in season 2. Again, considering the complexity of the sequel’s story and how it expands the franchise’s universe, it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of these elements anchored to characters that didn’t exist in the source material. This could mean a new ally in Jackson, where the sequel spends a good deal of time, or maybe new friends or foes leading the WLF and Seraphites/Scars factions.

Read Also: The Last of Us Season 1 Finale: Fun Cameo Fuels an Important Flashback

There’s a ton of potential to build on some of the sequel’s many, often interconnected stories via new characters. Of course, there’s also the chance existing, but secondary or never-seen characters could also see more screen-time when Part II’s adapted. We saw this, again, with Ellie’s mom, but also with cannibal antagonist David, who received a meatier portrayal in the series. Henry (Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) were similarly fleshed out for the series.

The Spoileresty Spoiler That Ever Spoiled — You’ve Been Warned

(Photo by HBO)

If you’ve played Part II, you’re aware of the Bloater-sized elephant in the room, which also serves as an equally massive spoiler for those who haven’t braved the second game. Yes, Ellie discovers the truth about her and Joel’s time at the Firefly lab, and she confronts him about the story he swore was true. But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re also not alluding to Ellie having two fingers bitten off and Tommy losing an eye — yep, the sequel’s bleak as hell.

Nope, all that is small potatoes compared to — did we mention the big spoiler you might want to avoid if you haven’t played Part II? Well, here it comes. Skip to the next section, “More Episodes and Seasons,” if you want to avoid it …

the last of us s1 ep9 Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

As we were saying,  the brutal end Joel meets early on in the game. Yes, not only does Joel die, but players then spend a good chunk of the adventure playing as his killer, Abby, another brand-new character. Abby is the daughter of the surgeon Joel murdered while saving Ellie. Eagle-eyed fans of the games might have spotted her voice performer, Laura Bailey, in the finale as one of the nurses Joel spares in the operating room.

In light of the series’ enormous success, and the fact much of that success was fueled by the relationship between its two main characters, Joel’s death definitely puts a fly in the ointment for the series’ creators. Killing off a main character in a game franchise is one thing, but eliminating one of the series’ stars at the start of the season would be bold even for a show that’s had no problem repeatedly breaking our hearts with brutal deaths of favorite characters.

The Last of Us: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey

(Photo by Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Still, with that sticky situation essentially serving as Part II’s vengeance-driven catalyst, we can’t imagine the series abandoning it just because the audience might not be able to imagine the show without Pascal. What’s far more likely is the series will faithfully adapt the story, but strategically leverage the elements mentioned above, from flashbacks and further fleshed-out characters to the introduction of new faces, to help soften the blow of Joel being gone.

There’s a ton of potential to not only include these elements, but also cleverly and gracefully massage them into the existing narrative so viewers are better eased into Joel’s absence. The game already does this to some extent, featuring some fantastic moments from Joel and Ellie’s life after they’ve settled into a true father-daughter relationship in Jackson. Between mining this sort of material, focusing on the sequel’s other stories, and maybe introducing some new threads and characters supporting them, season 2 could probably sit on this bombshell until episode 5 or so.

Of course, the creators could also throw all caution to the wind, gut-punch us 10 minutes into episode 1, and we’d still tune in the following week.

More Episodes and Seasons

(Photo by HBO)

We’d love the next drop of episodes to keep us pinned to the edges of our seats for a few additional weeks. Season 1 was originally slated for 10 episodes, but it was ultimately decided its story could be spun in nine. And that included adapting the Left Behind DLC and giving Bill and Frank’s arc an entire episode.

Read Also: Loved The Last of Us? Here Are 10 Shows To Watch Next

With the greater length, larger cast, and additional narrative complexity of the second game, it could easily fill 10 episodes, if not more. Of course, while we’d love two more seasons, the prospect of a second season cliffhanger leaving us in limbo for a couple of years sounds about as pleasant as a cannibal cult leader having you for dinner.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.