“This will be as many seasons as required to reach that ending, and no more.”
In just over a week, HBO will premiere the long-awaited adaptation of the critically acclaimed game The Last of Us, bringing the story of Joel and Ellie to a wider audience than ever before. In the confines of a television series, creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin have big plans to build upon the world of the game, delving into the origins of the Cordyceps outbreak and leaving room for more narrative nuance and quality time between Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey on-screen. With so much to cover, one season simply won’t cut it when re-telling the singular zombie epic. In an interview with Collider’s Christina Radish, the two creatives insisted that they want as many seasons as it takes to flesh out their vision of an expanded The Last of Us world.
Already, the team has a challenge in adapting the original game. While not the meatiest of titles by playtime, The Last of Us clocks in at around 15-20 hours. Not all of that is story, of course, but the vast majority is the time players spend building up the relationship of Joel and Ellie as they navigate the apocalypse en route to the Fireflies. Even with the expansion of the world, Mazin is aiming for one season, no matter how long it is, to adapt the events of the first game to its ending. Beyond that, the blueprint extends outward, though not infinitely:
Oh, yeah, it’s finite. I don’t have much narrative interest in writing a show that is designed to perpetually continue until the network finally puts it out of its misery somewhere. I write to endings. Endings are everything to me. I don’t know how to write, if I don’t know how it ends. And also, if the show doesn’t have an ending, it means nothing ultimately is truly purposeful. All the stakes become empty because, if the network renews you, everything’s fine, and I don’t know how to do that. I don’t mind watching those shows. I like watching those shows. I just can’t write them. So, I have the benefit of the first game, which we have encompassed with this season, which has a real beginning and middle and end.
Druckmann and Mazin Planned for Multiple Seasons to Adapt the Entire The Last of Us Lore
Assuming Season 1 resonates with audiences like the game, Druckmann and Mazin want HBO to give them as many seasons as needed to wrap up the rest of the story. Naughty Dog has built plenty atop the original The Last of Us, expanding the game with the DLC Left Behind, which focuses on Ellie’s past relationship with her best friend and love interest Riley, and later releasing the Game of the Year-winning sequel The Last of Us Part II which swaps between the stories of a grown Ellie and Abby, the daughter of the head scientist of the Fireflies, who seeks revenge for Joel’s actions years later.
“And then, the story that remains, that continues forth in the work that Naughty Dog’s done on the second game, is a lot.” Mazin added, “Probably the amount of remaining story would take us more than a season to tell. But definitely, I don’t see this as something that runs on and on and on. We don’t have that ambition. Our ambition is to tell the story that exists, as best as we can, in a different medium.”
Druckmann emphasized that the philosophy is not to drag on the series overly long, but to focus on reaching the endpoint laid out by the games in however many episodes and seasons it takes:
“Yeah, I remember, early on, I asked Craig and HBO, “How many episodes does this season need to be” And the answer was, “As many as the story requires, and no more.” And likewise, that would be our approach for future seasons to say, “Okay, this will be as many seasons as required to reach that ending, and no more.”
The Last of Us premieres on HBO on January 15. Check out the trailer below and keep an eye out here on Collider for the full interview with Druckman and Mazin.