HBO’s The Last of Us — starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey — took a shotgun to the idea that video games can’t make good adaptations, blasted it in the face, and buried it in a shallow grave.
The dream team of Chernobyl’s Craig Mazin and The Last of Us co-creator Neil Druckmann brought the 2013 game to life on the small screen across nine episodes of fungi and farewells.
The mushroom monsters of the Cordyceps infection shuffled back to the grave with season one coming to an end, but with HBO already confirming The Last of Us season two, we know they’ll be spreading their tendrils again soon.
With this in mind, here’s everything we know about The Last of Us season two release date, cast, plot and more.
The Last of Us season 2 release date
Looking at the history of prestige HBO shows, the timeframe from season one to two is usually between 1.5 to 2 years. Talking on The Jonathan Ross Show in 2023, Bella Ramsey said of season 2: "It will be a while. I think we'll probably shoot at the end of this year, beginning of next. So it'll probably be the end of 2024, early 2025."
Mazin confirmed shooting took 200 days to the Washington Post and said it had a “feature-film-like production schedule,” while post-production meant it was 18 months from shooting the first scene to the series debut.
After The Last of Us broke HBO viewing records, the network (unsurprisingly) renewed the series for season two in January 2023. Pascal gave Collider a glimmer of hope that filming could start in 2023 and simply said, “Yes, there is a chance. Yes."
Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, Mazin assured fans that production on the show's new season won't be impacted by the ongoing Hollywood strikes. "We were able to map out all of season 2," he told the outlet, adding "I also wrote and submitted the script for the first episode and sent it in [to HBO] around 10.30 or 10.40pm right before the midnight [makes a "kajoomph" sound] and the strike began."
While this is promising news, he was quick to point out that finding a production start date will be trickier: "I think it's becoming essentially a near certainty that we won't be able to start [filming] when we were hoping to start, which is upsetting. We are all raring to go. This is what we are born to do."
As HBO shows like Game of Thrones have proved, there can sometimes be a lengthy wait between seasons. Remember, season one was pushed from its expected 2022 release into 2023. Rest assured, though, the next run of episodes are growing in the dark like a crop of dormant Infected.
The Last of Us season 2 cast
Front and centre, Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal will be back as Ellie and Joel. The Cordyceps-immune slugger and her grizzled travelling companion are the core of this world, and with the finale having Joel save Ellie from the Fireflies, they’ve cemented themselves as adoptive father and daughter.
Despite some backlash toward Ramsey’s casting, Druckmann said they’re “extremely lucky to have Bella” and told a pre-finale press conference (via IGN), “The only way we would ever, ever consider recasting Bella is if she said, 'I don't want to work with you guys anymore.'
"Even then, I'm not sure we would grant her that. We might still force her to come back to Season 2."
As for complaints that Ramsey will be “too young” to play Ellie due to a time jump between games, Mazin assured Deadline, “When she joined us, she was 17.
"She’s only, she’s 19 now. Which by the way is the age of Ellie in The Last of Us, Part II. People were like, ‘She doesn’t look like [Ellie]. I’m like, it doesn’t matter. Just watch what happens.”
Read more: Is The Last of Us virus based on reality?
Following the plot of the games, we can also expect to see more of Gabriel Luna’s Tommy. The younger brother of Joel appeared in the season premiere and returned in episode 6. Here, Tommy had settled in the peaceful community of Jackson and married a woman called Maria (Rutina Wesley).
Speaking at SXSW (via Variety), Luna said he’s been brushing up on Part II and explained how Tommy will be going through a “de-evolution.”
The season finale ended with Ellie and Joel heading back to Jackson, and with the shocking reveal that Maria was pregnant, we’re sure to see more of Wesley.
In terms of big bads, Booksmart star Kaitlyn Dever will play Abby Anderson. The video game version of Abby is originally a major antagonist but becomes the secondary protagonist and a playable character.
Ellie’s love interest, Dina, will be played with Isabela Merced, reteaming with Dever who she co-starred with in the 2022 rom-com Rosaline.
Speaking of the casting, co-creators Mazin and Druckmann said: “Dina is warm, brilliant, wild, funny, moral, dangerous and instantly lovable... You can search forever for an actor who effortlessly embodies all of those things, or you can find Isabela Merced right away. We couldn’t be prouder to have her join our family.”
Described as “a free-wheeling spirit whose devotion to Ellie will be tested by the brutality of the world they inhabit," Merced will deliver her performance as Dina in between filming roles in a range of exciting upcoming projects including Fede Álvarez's new Alien movie Alien: Romulus and James Gunn's Superman: Legacy in which she'll play Hawkgirl.
We also know that Beef star Young Mazino will appear as Jesse. The news was made official via a post on the series' official Instagram account, with the character described as a skilled fighter living in the city of Jackson. Jesse first appeared in the second game and is the ex of the character Dina mentioned above.
He's also someone who will do anything necessary to survive, with his character labelled a "pillar of his community who puts everyone else’s needs before his own, sometimes at terrible cost".
The Last of Us season 2 plot
The Last of Us season one was an almost perfect adaptation of the first game, while the season finale neatly lined up with the end of the first game. Assuming we’ll get a similar time jump, season two will pick up four years after Joel’s attack on the Fireflies, with him and Ellie calling Jackson their home.
Speaking of Jackson, it looks like romance is on the cards for Dina and Ellie. Discussing their union, Ramsey told the Happy Sad Confused podcast, "I’m really excited, to be honest, for the Ellie/Dina story. I’ve watched a cut together, someone's made a phenomenal – I don’t know how they do it – like an amazing edit of just the gameplay, like Ellie and Dina’s love story. So I'm excited to play that out."
Despite the acclaimed Episode 3 being review-bombed (currently rated as the worst of season one) and similar pushback about Ellie and Riley’s (Storm Reid) relationship, Ramsey is standing strong against homophobia and championing the introduction of the transgender character called Lev. The star told GQ, "If you don’t want to watch the show because it has gay storylines, because it has a trans character, that’s on you, and you’re missing out. It isn't gonna make me afraid. I think that comes from a place of defiance."
This is where things get complicated. Because Part II is a much bigger game, Druckmann and Mazin have already confirmed its story will span at least two seasons. When GQ asked post-finale about how many seasons it’ll take to adapt Part II, Mazin threw fuel on the fire that there could even be a mythical The Last of Us season three, stating, “You have noted correctly that we will not say how many. But more than one is factually correct.”
We won’t go into spoiler territory too much, but if Part II is being split across two seasons, it would neatly set the season two finale up for a major death from the games.
Mazin warned ComicBook.com, “It will be different. Just as this season was different,” but we expect beats like major character deaths to play out in the same way. Defending differences like the overhaul Bill and Frank story from season one, Mazin added, “It won't be exactly like the game. It will be the show that Neil and I want to make.”
In April 2023, speaking at a Las Vegas conference, Mazin confirmed the show hoped to go beyond two seasons saying there’s “quite a bit of story to tell”.
“Our plan is to do it not just for one more season. We should be around for a while.”
This was doubled-down upon during a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, where Mazin suggested that "four seems like a good number" when it came to additional seasons. During the same chat, he also hit home that "anyone can die at any moment, as far as I’m concerned" and that no one is safe.
The Last of Us season 1 is streaming on NOW with an Entertainment Membership.