What Year Does The Last of Us Take Place? Series Timeline Explained
In The Last of Us, the year that the series takes place is quite important for us to understand the cultural references that were given out in the story periodically and for people to know which year time essentially froze for the rest of the world when the outbreak happened. Of course, in The Last of Us, there are two different years that are important to the series. So, in what year does The Last of Us live-action series take place?
The live-action version of The Last of Us started in 2003, which was the year of the Cordyceps outbreak. However, there is a 20-year gap between the start of the pandemic and the main storyline. That’s why most of the story of The Last of Us takes place in 2023, which is the current year in the real world.
It is important to take note that the events of HBO’s The Last of Us take place in a different year compared to the video game version, as there was a need for the show creator to change the year of the series. Nevertheless, nothing really changes that much with the change in the year of the timeline in the live-action version. So, with that said, let’s talk more about what year The Last of Us takes place.
What Year Does The Last Of Us Begin?
Banking on the success of The Last of Us in terms of its popularity and awards as an outstanding video game series, HBO was able to bring to life one of the most anticipated shows in television history with the release of the live-action version of The Last of Us. Of course, the first episode of the series has already gotten fans talking about how well done the adaptation is compared to its video game counterpart. But the thing that fans of the games noticed quickly is the different timeline of HBO’s The Last of Us.
In the video games, The Last of Us starts off in 2013, which is the year when Joel and Sarah were forced out of their home due to the outbreak of the Cordyceps Brain Infection (CBI) pandemic, which took the entire world by storm. However, fans also noticed that the year in which HBO’s The Last of Us starts off is different from the timeline of the video games. So, what year does the live-action version of The Last of Us start?
The prologue of The Last of Us takes place in 2003, which is a ten-year difference when compared to the games. As such, if you look at it, The Last of Us takes place just three years after the start of the new millennium and two years after 9/11. This also means that during the start of The Last of Us, things like social media and smartphones are yet to exist.
Of course, the ten-year change between the live-action adaptation and the video game will be explained later. Although some fans weren’t exactly happy about the fact that the live-action adaptation was not a clear 1:1 adaptation due to the change in the timeline of HBO’s version, it will actually make sense when we explain it later.
What Year Does The Main Story Of The Last Of Us Take Place?
While the prologue of the video game version of The Last of Us takes place in 2013, fans of the games know that there is a 20-year gap between the outbreak of the CBI and the events of the main story of the games. Then again, we did say that the HBO version started off in 2003. So, in what year does the main story of The Last of Us take place?
The main story of the live-action adaptation of The Last of Us takes place in 2023, which is the current year in the real world. On the other hand, the storyline of the video game version takes place in 2033.
In that regard, it was clear that the series creator actually changed the timeline in such a way that it takes place in the here and now. This allows the story to become more relatable to the viewers as they would be able to see what today would look like had the CBI pandemic happened 20 years ago.
Craig Mazin, the series co-creator, was actually vocal in saying that he changed the timeline on purpose. In a roundtable interview, he said:
“I have this thing about jumping into the future. I feel like, if I’m watching a show and the year is 2023, and the show takes place in 2043, it’s just a little less real. Even if I’m watching a show in 2023 and it takes place in 2016, it’s a little less real.”
Essentially, Mazin changed the timeline because he didn’t want to fast-forward the series into the future. It is possible that he doesn’t like jumping into the future due to how unpredictable the future can be. As such, he didn’t stick with the original 2033 timeline of the games and didn’t try to start the series off in 2023 and allow the main story to happen in 2043.
Allowing The Last of Us to start in 2003 and take place mainly in 2023 would allow the series creator to have more control over the state of the world as it takes place in the current timeline of the real world. And it is also interesting to take note that the series creators also didn’t want to start the series off in 2023 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Had Mazin and his crew decided to start The Last of Us in 2023, people would think that the CBI would be somehow similar to COVID-19. They didn’t want to create a series that people might think is based on COVID-19. As such, the 2003 prologue and the 2023 series timeline are perfect due to how it makes the series more relatable to fans.
Of course, time essentially froze in the world of The Last of Us because the culture and technology of the world were stuck in 2003 after the CBI pandemic broke out. That’s why you won’t be able to find references to smartphones and social media in HBO’s The Last of Us.