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'The Last of Us' Creators Answer The Show's Burning Questions

Source: HBO / The Last of Us

HBO’s The Last of Us exceptional first season is in the books but, as expected, left many with questions and wondering if we are getting a season two and if one of the first season’s stars is returning.

Right off the bat, we are happy to report that, yes, there is a second season coming. In a no-brainer decision, HBO renewed its new hit series based on the PlayStation video game franchise in January.

The one question lingering was if Bella Ramsey would return as Ellie. Speaking with Deadline, showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckman (who wrote the video game) talked about Ramsey’s return and her backstory, plus the infected or lack thereof in the show.

One burning question many had about the show was why didn’t Joel and Ellie encounter waves of infected or clickers as the season went along. For those who played the game, there are numerous encounters with raiders, cannibals, and the infected.

In the show, we saw people infected by the cordyceps in the first episode when things first popped off, and sparingly in episodes. We saw a new idea that everyone infected is connected, and if you step on a live vine, you can trigger a swarm. We also saw how real sh*t gets when waves of hordes arrive and how bad that can be.

So it’s not like we didn’t see any infected in the show, but according to Mazin, it’s much more complicated than that.

Mazin Explains The Process of Turning A Game Into A TV Show

“Part of the adaptation process is trying to figure out how to take source material that was built around gameplay and port it over to a medium that is passive,” Mazin said. “And a lot of the gameplay centered on non-playable characters that you have to get around by either avoiding them or stealth killing them or just confronting them head-on. That’s sort of your choices when you’re playing. And the NPCs were either raiders or cannibals, or they were the infected.”

“So there’s a lot of fighting. I don’t know what your ultimate kill count is on a typical run of The Last of Us, but it’s in the triple digits for sure. So we did at times have choices to make about how we wanted to present the infected. I will say that even though we were green-lit for a season of television, Neil and I felt like we couldn’t just make a season of television without considering what would come after. ”

Mazin Says More Infected Is Coming In Season 2

He continues, “There is more The Last of Us to come. I think the balance is not always just about within an episode or even episode to episode, but season to season. It’s quite possible that there will be a lot more infected later. And perhaps different kinds. But within the episodes that we were concentrating on, I think ultimately, we generally stressed the power of relationships and trying to find significance within moments of action. So there may be less action than some people wanted because we couldn’t necessarily find significance for quite a bit of it, or [they had a] concern that it would be repetitive. After all, you’re not playing it, you’re watching it. And although a lot of people do like to watch gameplay, it needs to be a little bit more focused and purposeful when we’re putting it on TV.”

The Last of Us HBO also gave us a lot more information than the game did. In the season finale, we finally saw Ellie’s backstory and met her mother, played by Ashley Johnson (the voice actor of Ellie in the video game).

Neil Druckman Explains The Last of Us HBO Resurrected A Storyline Originally Set To Be Its Own Game

“So trying to come up with a story, I wrote this short script about Ellie’s mom and how she gave birth to Ellie, how she was bitten at the same time, and wasn’t sure if she was infected during that birth,” Neil Druckman said. “And it just became this little character drama that spoke to the same themes of parental love and how much you’re willing to do even at when you’re on death’s door. That deal fell apart. Then we were talking to another game company to potentially do it as a whole other game. That deal fell apart. Then I became interested in live-action, and I was talking to Ashley Johnson about her starring in it, and then we both got busy, so that fell apart.”

The Ellie’s Backstory Helped Build An Important Storyline In The Show

Druckman continues, “I just kind of forgot about it until Mr. Mazin and I started meeting to talk about the show. Craig was like, ‘What do you have that we haven’t seen? What is Ellie’s backstory?’ And I was just telling him all this stuff. I’m like, oh, right, there’s this other story about Ellie’s mom and blah, blah, blah. I just kind of told him about it. He’s like, ‘Oh my God, we, that has to go in the show.’ And then we talked about how would it fit.”

“Does it make sense to put it in now? It does gives some theories about why Ellie’s immune, even though we don’t answer that conclusively. But I think, more importantly, it builds the relationship between Marlene and [Ellie’s mom] Anna, so that when you get to the ending, and we pit Marlene against Joel, they have their own opposite philosophical terms over how to approach of the end justify the means. Anna’s dying wish was, take care of my kid. I think it gives it more weight and maybe shows more of the tragedy behind Marlene’s sacrifice, that she was trying to make for the betterment of mankind, “Druckman continued.

Bella Ramsey Will Be Back As Ellie

Speaking of Ellie, there was also a question if Bella Ramsey would return for season two. Mazin put all of that to rest, confirming the young actress will be picking up things right where season one left off.

“When she joined us, she was 17. She’s only, she’s 19 now. Which by the way is the age of Ellie in The Last of Us, part 2. People were like, ‘She doesn’t look like [Ellie]. I’m like, it doesn’t matter. Just watch what happens,” says Mazin.

He continues, “It will be the show that Neil and I wanna make. But we are making it with Bella.”

Well, there you have it.

Photo: HBO / The Last of Us