The Last Of Us debuted last Sunday to resounding applause, as the videogame adaptation starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey was celebrated for its faithful recreation of the source material as well as the performances of the cast. Every week, we are going to highlight the differences between the video game and the show, as we gauge whether The Last of Us follows the blueprint of another HBO smash in Game Of Thrones in respecting its source material before potentially setting it on fire. We begin Game to Screen with episode one of The Last Of Us, which only had one major difference with how the game opened but some subtle differences that may impact the larger story.
In Naughty Dogs’ The Last Of Us, we get a prologue where we see Joel’s daughter Sarah killed by a soldier, and die in Joel’s arms. That’s it, really. However, the show expands on her scenes so that the death hits even harder than it did in the game. In the show, we see her at Joel’s birthday party, visiting friends, baking, and being a more well-rounded character than we saw in the games. Nico Parker deserves a ton of credit for making such a lasting impact in such little screen time. Joel’s relationship with his daughter is deepened by these additional scenes in a very poignant manner.
Speaking of deepening relationships, the show does a great job of deepening the dynamic between Gabriel Luna’s Tommy and Pascal’s Joel. In the game, their relationship after the death of Sarah is virtually non-existent until they run into each other while Joel is taking Ellie to the Fireflies. In the show, we see Joel doing what all brothers do: spending time with each other and then bailing your brother out of jail over a bar fight. All in all, the changes are subtle but they do add more depth to someone who may play a bigger role down the line.
Another interesting difference between the game and the show is that Joel and Tess are explicitly romantically linked in the show whereas the game just toyed with the idea. In the games, she is his business partner who helps him smuggle things into Boston, but the show adds another layer to their relationship that really didn’t exist in the games. This makes a lot of potential future events that much more interesting, and it sets the stage for some hard decisions to have to be made by our characters given their new proximity to each other.
Lastly, a subtle change is how the virus is transmitted. In the game, the person who is carrying the virus has to bite someone or pass the virus through airborne spores. It’s why Ellie’s immunity is so impressive, in that she has both survived repeatedly being bitten and has not caught the virus via breathing. In the show, poison-ivy-like vines transmit the virus from a carrier to a victim, with the reasoning given that the showrunners loved the idea of each victim being connected by the host of the vine that infected them.