5 potential mistakes The Last of Us HBO series needs to avoid

The Last of Us HBO series was announced last year (Image via thelastofusgame, Instagram)
The Last of Us HBO series was announced last year (Image via thelastofusgame, Instagram)

Naughty Dog's magnum opus, The Last of Us Part II, was symbolic of a studio at the height of their creative powers. With an ambitious plot, a deep dive into characters, and themes that caught players off-guard, the game makes a great showcase for videogames as a storytelling medium.

The Last of Us Part II continued to raise the bar in terms of the medium of video games. However, before the sequel to the critically acclaimed was released to the world, another potentially great news emerged from The Last of Us camp.

It was announced that HBO would be producing a Last of Us series headed creatively by Craig Mazin (Chernobyl) and Neil Druckmann (director and writer of The Last of Us). It is fascinating because TV and its episodic nature have proved to be a better fit for video game properties.

The cinematic medium and movies have been famously home to the most critically panned and ill-received video game adaptions. However, the recent success of Netflix's The Witcher should provide enough reason as to why video games have a better chance on streaming platforms and TV.

However, there are a few potential mistakes that The Last of Us HBO series needs to avoid to be a well-received piece of entertainment.

5 potential mistakes The Last of Us HBO series needs to avoid

5) A re-tread of familiar themes


With only two games and one DLC, The Last of Us franchise has done a solid job of letting audiences know what to expect from a Last of Us story. The games have dealt with extremely nuanced and layered themes of loss, grief, vengeance, and even identity.

While that is a great base to work off, if the HBO series has an identity unique to itself, it must break new ground. Whether it means ditching the established plotline to discover other themes and facets of existing characters' personality, then that's the risk that it must take.

While Neil Druckmann has stated many times, there can't be a Last of Us story without Joel and Ellie. But that does not mean that the HBO series must also deal with the same themes as the games.

Mazin and Druckmann are extremely talented writers, and fans should expect a fresh and unique look into the game's devastating world.

4) Taking no risks in terms of character choices and personality


In tandem with the previous point, the HBO series needs to take risks as it simply cannot just be a live-action re-telling of the same couple of stories. The creators can truly tell a different story without alienating or losing touch with the core themes of the property.

As so much of The Last of Us' appeal depends on its characters and whether audiences can invest in them, the show must attempt to paint them in a different light. Whether it means re-contextualizing their actions or changing facets of their personality, if it helps tell an ambitious story, then that is what the writers must do.

One of the main reasons television and streaming works better for video game properties is that audiences have a longer time to invest in the characters.

This way, a relationship between the audience and the characters can form organically instead of forcing it down their throat in a 2-hour movie.

3) Relying too much on the games for context


Both games and the DLC are fantastically-written stories with plenty to inspire the creators of the HBO show. However, the show needs to exist on its own two feet without relying on the games to provide context.

More likely than not, a large part of the audience tuning into the show will not have played The Last of Us or the sequel, or the DLC. Instead, they would be going into the HBO series with fresh eyes and will only know what the show tells them.

Therefore, for the thematic points to hit home and truly land, the show itself needs to establish the context, instead of the audience trying to fill in the gaps by their knowledge of the game.

The world-building in The Last of Us games is on par with some of the best literature or movie, and the show must find innovative and organic ways to set the world up without relying too much on the games.

2) Fan service


A great example of how a show was able to balance its artistic integrity while also providing plenty of fan service is the recent Disney Plus hit "The Mandalorian." The show carefully balanced the tight-rope act of providing enough fan service without it turning into intertextuality-land.

The Last of Us HBO series must also strive to hit this balance, and if it means no fan service, then that's the route it should take. The goal should always be to succeed in a vacuum, with no context of The Last of Us games.

As mentioned previously, it is not a given that only people who played the games would be watching the show. Therefore, fan service must be kept to a minimum, and the focus is always on telling a great story.

1) Tonal shift


It would be a shock, to say the least, if Joel and Ellie are suddenly MCU protagonists, cracking one-liners after each enemy encounter. While new themes and identity should be the goal, the tone and the heart of the property must also be considered.

The Last of Us ushered in an era of video games where character development and the themes explored in video games grew more ambitious and handled more seriously. Rather than the story providing padding to the gameplay, it was almost flipped upon its head, and the gameplay was in service to the story.

That kind of serious consideration to the writing and tone of The Last of Us should be a priority for the creators. However, considering Druckmann is at the helm alongside Craig Mazin, who has proved his mettle with one of the best shows of the modern era (Chernobyl), it is safe to assume that the show and its tone are in safe hands.

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Edited by Srijan Sen
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