‘The Last of Us’ Game Recap & Ending Explained: What Can We Expect from HBO Series Based on the Source Material?

Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is undoubtedly a great classic in the gaming world. Since the original game was released in 2013, it’s still considered one of the best PlayStation exclusives (although it’s slated for a PC release in March of this year) and one of the best video games of all time.

So far, Naughty Dog has developed two major games, and they are currently working on a multiplayer game set in that world. Fans are also hoping that there will be at least one more story-driven game to conclude the trilogy. With such a famous name on our hands, it was only a matter of time before we got a live-action adaptation of this game.

While developing a video game adaptation can be quite a thankless task, HBO seems to have found the right formula. Craig Mazin, who created the acclaimed Chernobyl TV series, and Neil Druckmann, the writer and director who led the development of both The Last of Us games, have joined forces to develop The Last of Us TV series, set to premiere on January 15, 2023, on HBO and HBOMax. You can read our review of the pilot episode at the link below:

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What can be said is that with this adaptation, HBO killed two birds with one stone, meaning that this TV series was made to satisfy both die-hard fans of the game and viewers who had never encountered the source material. Although it has been announced that the series will expand the story beyond the scope of the game, the source material will remain rightly respected so fans of the game have no reason to be disappointed in any way.

With two main games released so far, the first season of the series is expected to cover the events of the first game, while a potential second season (the series has not yet been officially renewed at the time of writing) could cover the events of The Last of Us Part II. The good news is that Craig Mazin has said that they have no plans to develop the series outside of the events of the games, so there is no worry that this HBO series will suffer the same fate as the last season of Game of Thrones.

So, fans who have played the games already know what to expect from the TV adaptation in the future. But for anyone who hasn’t played the game, we’ll break down everything that happens in these two games to see what we can expect from the series.

Potential spoilers for the HBO series are coming.

What happened in the first The Last of Us game?

The story of The Last of Us begins in the suburbs of Austin, Texas, where the main character Joel Miller lives with his daughter Sarah as a dangerous epidemic of the mutated Cordyceps fungus begins to affect the United States. After an epidemic engulfs their town, Joel is forced to flee with Sarah and his brother Tommy. Unfortunately, while they were running away, an unknown soldier opened fire on them thinking they were infected. Although Tommy shot the soldier, saving Joel’s life, it was too late for Sarah, who died in Joel’s arms.

Twenty years later, the world is unrecognizable. The human race has been decimated by an epidemic, and the survivors live in quarantine zones under the totalitarian control of FEDRA (Federal Disaster Response Agency). Joel works as a smuggler in the quarantine zone in Boston, Massachusetts, with his partner Tess. Meanwhile, a rebel militia called the Fireflies is fighting FEDRA, trying to end their totalitarian rule.

Joel and Tess hunt down a black market arms dealer, Robert, who owes them weapons. Robert admits that he sold the weapon to the Fireflies before Tess killed him. Forced to go to them, Joel and Tess meet Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies, and the mysterious teenager Ellie. Marlene offers Joel and Tess a deal; if they can smuggle teenage Ellie out of the quarantine zone and bring her to the Massachusetts Statehouse, she’ll double their weapons cache.

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While sneaking out of the quarantine zone, Joel and Tess discover that Ellie is infected, which Marlene didn’t mention. But Ellie says she has been bitten three weeks ago, although the infection starts spreading within two days. Now knowing that Ellie’s immunity could lead to a cure, they continue their journey through the hordes of the infected. But when they reach their destination, they find that all the Fireflies have been killed. As the infected attack the Massachusetts Statehouse, Tess, who was bitten shortly before, stays behind to fight them and ends up dying as Joel and Ellie escape.

Joel decides to find Tommy, hoping that he, as a former Firefly, will know what to do. Joel and Ellie travel to Bill, another smuggler, who owes Joel a favor. With Bill’s help, Joel and Ellie find the right vehicle and drive to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. There they are ambushed by bandits and their car crashes. Forced to continue on foot again, they team up with Henry and Sam, two brothers who are also trying to escape the city with bandits hot on their heels.

After escaping the city, the younger brother Sam is bitten, but he hides it from the others. As his infection begins to spread, he attacks Ellie, and Henry is forced to kill him. Shocked, Henry takes his own life immediately afterward. Joel and Ellie continue their journey and finally find Tommy and his wife Maria in Jackson, Wyoming. Joel wants to leave Ellie with them, but after she confronts him about Sarah, he decides to stay with her. Tommy directs them to the University of Eastern Colorado, but they find another abandoned place where they are soon attacked by bandits, leaving Joel badly injured.

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Joel is on the brink of death, but Ellie takes him to the mountains to help him. In search of food, Ellie meets two scavengers, David and James, who want to exchange medicine for the deer she has caught. After realizing that the thugs who injured Joel are part of David’s group, Ellie manages to lead them away from Joel but is caught. In captivity, Ellie kills James and escapes but is quickly cornered by David. Meanwhile, David recovers from his wounds and goes to find Ellie, finding her just as she kills David.

In the spring, Joel and Ellie finally arrive in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they find a group of Fireflies that capture them. At the hospital, Joel is accompanied by Marlene, who tells him that Ellie is preparing for an operation that could result in the creation of a vaccine, but at a great cost; Ellie’s life. Unwilling to let Ellie die, Joel fights his way to the operating room. He kills the chief surgeon and takes the unconscious Ellie to the parking garage, where he confronts Marlene. Joel kills her and escapes with Ellie.

When Ellie wakes up, she asks Joel what happened. Joel lies to her that the Fireflies found some other immune people, but they couldn’t produce a vaccine so they stopped trying. Ellie expresses survivor’s guilt and wants Joel to swear that what he said is true, which he does.

The Last of Us game also features an additional story set during the events of the main story. Titled Left Behind, it shows the backstory of Ellie’s relationship with her deceased best friend Riley, who was only mentioned during the main story (and was also mentioned in the first episode of the HBO series).

What might happen in a potential second season of the HBO series?

A potential second season of the HBO series has been teased to cover the events of the second game — The Last of Us Part 2. Although it takes place four years after the events of the first game, everything that happened at the end of the first game was the trigger for what follows in the sequel. The story is largely based on Ellie’s journey with her girlfriend Dina as they seek revenge against Abby, a new main character whose journey and character development are also an important part of the story.

The aftermath of Joel saving Ellie’s life in the first game and his lie about the Fireflies also had a big impact on everything that happened in the sequel. We could also write a full recap of the second game, but we’ll keep it here for now because we can’t be sure yet at what point the first season of the TV series will end. It could be right where the first game ended, maybe a little earlier, maybe a little later. Also, we need to officially know that a second season is in the works, and then we can make predictions about what might happen.

HBO series The Last of Us is set to premiere on January 15 on HBO and HBOMax.

  • A movie lover, a hardcore DC/Marvel fan, photo editor and a passionate gamer. Interested in absolutely everything that comes out of those four categories, regardless if it’s old-school classics or modern blockbusters.