Scenes The TV Remake Cannot Leave Out

Warning: SPOILERS for The Last of Us and The Last of Us: Left Behind

HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us video games has a lot to live up and the show will have to include some important scenes to ensure that audiences get the proper emotional payoff for this narrative. A live-action adaptation has been in the works since shortly after the original video game’s release in 2013. With plans for a movie to be scrapped, the adaptation changed to be a TV show with hopes that the medium would be better able to explore more of the characters’ narratives.

Set 20 years after the downfall of civilization as it is known today, The Last of Us sees the remains of humanity trying to survive in a world plagued by a cordyceps brain infection that turns hosts into creatures similar to zombies. The protagonists Joel Miller (Troy Baker in the game, Pedro Pascal in the TV show) and Ellie (Ashley Johnson in the game, Bella Ramsey in the TV show) struggle to make their way across the United States in search of a cure. While the story includes their run-ins with monsters (both human and infected) and their battle against nature, ultimately the focus is on the character narratives and their interpersonal relationships.


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The writers for the series have said that the majority of changes being made for the TV show are additions to the original story rather than cutting any large elements out. One of those writers is the writer and director of The Last of Us video games, Neil Druckmann, who will be adding in content that had to be cut from Ellie and Joe’s original adventure. The problem with this philosophy is that there is a risk that an apparently small scene might be cut to allow for new content in its place. Here are the scenes that are necessary to keep to ensure that the best aspects of the original game are not lost.

Sarah’s Death

Joel and Sarah in Last of Us

One of the most important scenes for HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us to include is also one of the game’s very first scenes. In the only part of the game that takes place before the infection spreads across the United States and the rest of the world, the player controls Sarah, Joel’s daughter. As Sarah and Joel flee the infected they are saved by a soldier who is then ordered to shoot them in an effort to prevent the infection from becoming a full outbreak. The soldier fires as Joel dives to protect Sarah. Tommy, Joel’s brother, then kills the soldier before he can shoot again. However, Sarah has been mortally wounded and dies in Joel’s arms.

The scene is a huge part of Joel’s character as twenty years later he still struggles to accept his daughter’s loss, avoiding talking about her and still wearing a watch that she gave him. Sarah’s death is the driving element behind Joel’s relationship with Ellie and the fact that Sarah was killed by the military, not the infected, motivates his distrust of organizations like FEDRA. While the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us needs to include this scene, and behind-the-scenes photos suggest that they will, it has been criticized for fridging Sarah purely to drive Joel’s character. The show can mitigate this element by using the medium to provide additional flashbacks to pre-infection life and make Sarah feel like a more fleshed-out character.

Tess’ Sacrifice

The Last of Us Tess Death Joel

Tess is Joel’s friend and partner in illicit dealings in the Boston quarantine zone who persuades Joel to take the job of getting Ellie out of the city against his better judgment. When they find that the team of Fireflies they were supposed to get Ellie to are dead, Joel is ready to take her back to the quarantine zone. Tess argues that Ellie presents a credible hope for a cure and insists that Joel takes her to another group of Fireflies. She reveals that she has been bitten and sacrifices herself to buy Joel and Ellie time to escape from FEDRA soldiers.

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Tess’ sacrifice is the first death of a major character after the prologue and demonstrates what is at stake in this new world. However, more than that, it forces Joel to push through his own cynicism about the world as he tries to get Ellie across the country. HBO’s The Last of Us adaptation needs to include Tess’ sacrifice to show that at his roots Joel cares about the people he is close to before anyone else as his original motivation for continuing the mission is not to find a cure for humanity or for Ellie, but for Tess.

Joel And Ellie’s Fight at the Ranch

The Last of Us Joel Ellie Ranch

After Ellie realizes that Joel intends to hand her off to Tommy in Jackson and have him take her the rest of the way to the Fireflies, Ellie steals a horse and runs away to a nearby ranch. Joel catches up with her and the two have an argument when Ellie challenges Joel about abandoning her. Ellie reveals that Tommy’s wife has told her about Sarah’s death and she tries to assure Joel that she won’t end up the same way.

The scene is crucial for HBO’s The Last of Us adaptation as it presents a pivotal moment in Joel and Ellie’s relationship. While Joel aggressively asserts that Ellie isn’t his daughter and that they are going separate ways, once they return to Jackson, Joel has a change of heart and continues the journey with Ellie. It shows that the two have come to rely on each other and that Joel has accepted Ellie as someone he truly cares about.

The Giraffes In Salt Lake City

The Last of Us Joel Ellie Giraffes

Not long before the end of the first game, The Last of Us provides a brief respite from the chaos when in Salt Lake City Joel and Ellie come across a herd of giraffes and share a moment together. It might seem like a small scene and could be tempting to cut due to the logistics of representing giraffes on screen, but it is an important moment that HBO should keep in their The Last of Us adaptation. There are a string of small giraffe easter eggs that recur throughout the game, often around children or areas that once held children. They become a symbol of youth and innocence within the game and the herd’s presence towards the end of the story highlights the idea that there is hope and beauty still in the world, despite all the horrors that Joel and Ellie have seen.

Related: What The Uncharted Movie Can Learn from The Last of Us

Joel’s Hospital Showdown

The Last of Us 1 Most Memorable Moments Joel Saves Ellie

In the climactic finale of The Last of Us game, Joel gets Ellie to the hospital where the Fireflies are searching for a cure. It is revealed to him that the process to try and develop a cure will kill Ellie. Joel can’t accept trading Ellie’s life for the potential of saving humanity and cannot face losing her at this point and instead kills the Fireflies and takes Ellie from them while she is unconscious, later lying and saying that the Fireflies simply didn’t need her.

The scene is important to maintain in the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us as it is the culmination of Joel and Ellie’s journey together. The finale demonstrates the connection that the two have made across the whole game while also being the inciting incident for all of the events of the sequel. While this moment pays off their relationship and shows how much Joel cares for Ellie, it also underscores the selfishness of Joel’s actions. As The Last of Us Part II highlights, the choice was not his to make and resulted in him placing his own interests above the rest of humanity’s.

Ellie And Riley’s Trip To The Mall

Riley Last of US Part II

The final scene that the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us needs to keep from the games strangely didn’t appear in the original game, but instead was the subject of the game’s one and only DLC, The Last of Us: Left Behind. The scene is a prequel to the main game that sees Ellie and Riley sneak out after curfew to go to an abandoned mall. When the two are bitten, it provides the origin story for Ellie learning that she is immune, while also demonstrating the source of her survivor’s guilt, an aspect that is key to her fight with Joel at the ranch.

This final scene can be peppered in throughout the series with flashbacks and will also allow the showrunners to highlight The Last of Us’ consistent LGBTQ+ representation and themes. The Last of Us Part II took these themes further, including multiple other queer characters. It seems likely that the HBO adaptation of The Last of Us might improve on the game’s original LGBTQ+ representation as they have cast Murray Bartlett as Frank, who is implied to have been in a relationship with Bill but only appears as a corpse in the video game.

Next: Every Last Of Us Game Character Confirmed For HBO’s Show

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