This article contains full spoilers for The Last of Us Part 2. If you have not played the game and want to remain spoiler-free for HBO’s TV show stop reading now!
HBO’s The Last of Us has been an undeniably successful television adaptation of the beloved Naughty Dog game. Now the challenge for creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin will be how to tackle the emotionally complicated beast that is The Last of Us Part 2. So, I’ve (perhaps foolishly) had a go at planning out the show’s second season and sketching a rough outline of what could happen in each episode.
The video game sequel is over twice as long as its predecessor, so cramming it all into one more season of TV seems like a bit of a stretch to me, so let’s assume this is going to be a story told over two. Alongside issues of length, there’s also no doubt that Part 2 is in need of more of a tinkering with than the mostly straight adaptation that was Part 1. Despite being a masterpiece in my eyes, Part 2 relies more heavily on gameplay and the involuntary nature of your actions to get its point across, which is inherently not viable in a TV show. But through some minor restructuring of the story and a liberal use of flashbacks, I think there could be an effective way of telling the layered and divisive tale.
The key will undoubtedly be in how season two opens and deals with the story’s inciting incident, as well as keeping the viewer connected to the plot’s two leads – Ellie and Abby. My best idea on how to do this is to make Abby – a character largely unexplored until the game’s second half – more integral to the story during its Ellie-led first half by creating a pre-existing bond between them. Abby could infiltrate the Jackson community and befriend Joel in the weeks before her revenge. This is actually something that Druckmann seemingly played with the idea of if some of the game’s early concept art is anything to go by.
I’d also utilise a series of cold-open flashbacks that tease young Abby’s story – much like how the brief openings to each of Netflix’s Mindhunter episodes set up the reveal of the mysterious man we’re watching becoming the BTK killer, but with more zebras. These brief glimpses into Abby’s background would eventually culminate in the reveal of Joel being the man who killed her father at the end of season one, allowing the second season of the show to end with the same crucial twist delivered by the game at its halfway point.
Now I’ve established the season’s overall format, here’s my best guess at how each episode of the show might play out. (No doubt Druckmann and Mazin have some much better ideas up their sleeve, but they should feel free to call me if there’s any gold in here.)
Episode 1 – Jackson Part 1
Season 2 opens with Joel admitting the truth of his choice to Tommy in a house just outside the Jackson settlement, just like in the game. As they leave, however, they are attacked by a group of raiders and look to be cornered until a couple arrives to help them out – they happen to be Abby and Owen. Of course, Abby doesn’t realise who it is she is saving until the raiders have been dealt with, and at this point, she’s been badly injured and is in no position to complete her mission. She accepts Joel and Tommy’s offer to patch her up back in Jackson.
Days progress as Abby and Owen integrate into Jackson life. During the time it takes for Abby to fully recover, we are introduced to Ellie’s friends, Dina and Jesse, and life looks set to be relatively good. After some conversations tinged with a palpable tension, Abby and Owen are convinced to stay in Jackson, despite their insistence that this isn’t the life for them. Having proved themselves already capable of handling themselves in combat, Joel and Tommy offer to take the pair out on patrol to teach them the ropes. Ellie and Dina also begin their own patrol. The episode ends as the two groups exit the town gates and branch off in two directions through the snow.
Episode 2 – Jackson Part 2
This episode would spend time cutting between the two groups in the snow. We start with Ellie and Dina as they check a local suburb for infected, before the first signs of a blizzard show and they hole up in a library where they open up on their feelings for one another. As the blizzard picks up we follow Joel, Tommy, Abby, and Owen as they too have to avoid the storm, but get ambushed by infected. As they fight and ultimately run, Abby says she tracked through here on her way to Jackson and knows somewhere they can shelter for the night. Joel and Tommy agree to follow.
Back with Ellie and Dina, Jesse arrives to find them in an awkward situation and the love triangle begins to take form. He’s come to help them get back through the blizzard, but mentions Joel and Tommy haven’t been heard from on the radio in some time. Worried, Ellie stubbornly sets off to look for Joel, despite Dina and Jesse insisting it’s too dangerous. We cut back to Joel and Tommy as they arrive at an abandoned lodge where they are ambushed by a small group and knocked unconscious. The episode cuts to black.
Episode 3 – Goodbye Jackson, Hello Seattle
After tracking from Joel’s last known location, Ellie is lured by the lights emanating from a nearby lodge. She heads down to the basement to discover Joel in quite some distress, and is forced to watch as Abby kills him. Ellie and Tommy are then set free, with Abby claiming to have no issues with them.
Back in Jackson, Ellie mourns Joel and – despite Tommy and Maria’s advice – sets off to find Abby and get her revenge. Belongings that Abby left behind in Jackson hint towards her being from Seattle, so Ellie heads that way along with Dina. They arrive in Seattle, where they learn that a group called the WLF calls the city home. As they ride through the streets looking for clues, an explosion throws them from their horse and the episode ends.
Episode 4 – Eastbrook Elementary and Channel 13 TV Station
Ellie is being held hostage in an Eastbrook Elementary classroom by a member of the WLF who she recognises from the night Joel was killed. He intends to keep her there while he waits for backup, but just after he puts the radio call in he’s attacked by Dina. Ellie kills her captor, and finds a map of the city on his body. The couple decides to head to a nearby TV station as their next port of call.
They find the station abandoned and littered with the corpses of WLF soldiers, their bodies pierced by arrows and surrounded by cultist drawings. Whistles in the distance soon become soaring arrows, so the pair decide to run for their lives. They escape into a nearby subway station where they must navigate through tunnels overrun with clickers. After making it through such a near-death situation, they set up camp in a movie theater where Ellie reveals her bite and immunity to Dina, and Dina reveals she is pregnant with Jesse’s baby.
Episode 5 – The Birthday Gift
As Ellie dwells on the future birth of Dina’s baby she reminisces about a birthday she spent with Joel a couple of years ago. They have fun at a natural history museum with dinosaurs, pretend to be in space, and tell jokes. The flashback concludes with Joel teaching Ellie how to play guitar, just as he promised in season one. The episode cuts back to the present for its final scene, and Ellie serenades Dina with A-ha’s Take on Me in the front row of the theatre.
Episode 6 – Hillcrest and Hospital
Ellie finds a radio in the theatre and listens in on WLF messages about a man matching Tommy’s description seen in the nearby suburb of Hillcrest. She heads there to find him but to her surprise is instead grabbed by Jesse, who helps her escape a WLF patrol.
The pair head back to the theatre together where Dina tells Jesse that she’s pregnant with his child. Jesse reveals he has a lead on one of Abby’s associates, Nora, who is stationed at a Seattle hospital. He agrees to stay with Dina while Ellie goes to find Nora. Initially looking for information about Abby’s location, Ellie lets vengeance take control and kills Nora in a brutal fashion.
Episode 7 – Road to the Aquarium and Joel’s Truth Flashback
Having gained the clue of Abby sometimes staying at the Aquarium from Nora, Ellie and Jesse make their way towards the coast. They encounter some infected in a tense horror scene before a heavy rainstorm rolls in. A rifle shot that sounds like Tommy’s gun prompts Jesse to suggest they go to help him. Blinded by her mission, though, Ellie refuses and decides to push ahead alone through the storm toward Abby.
Ellie makes it to the coast and begins to swim over to the aquarium but is knocked unconscious by the crashing waves. The episode ends with a flashback of Ellie finding out the truth behind Joel’s decision to rescue her from the Fireflies back in Salt Lake City.
Episode 8 – Abby’s Reveal and Return
The season 2 finale ends with the culmination of all of the small flashbacks we’ve seen from young Abby’s perspective. It’s revealed that her father was the Firefly doctor who Joel killed just before he was due to operate on Ellie.
Back in the present day, Ellie awakes in a daze by the aquarium and makes her way inside. After nervously making her way through the building she finds a backroom where Owen and Mel – another of Abby’s group present at Joel’s murder – are talking. Ellie asks where Abby is before killing both in cold blood, but soon becomes distraught after discovering that Mel was pregnant. She collapses onto the floor just as Tommy and Jesse arrive to console her.
Back at the theatre, Ellie has been convinced by Dina and Jesse that now is the time to leave this all behind and go back to Jackson. They make their way to the theatre lobby only to watch as Jesse is shot dead in front of them. Ellie finally comes face-to-face with Abby, who tells her “We let you both live and you wasted it.” The scene cuts to black, ending the season on a cliffhanger.
So, that’s what I think could happen in season two of HBO’s The Last of Us. How do you think they’ll handle Part 2’s story? Let us know in the comments below. For more on The Last of Us, check out my full season one review or how well the show compared with the game.
Simon Cardy has never written a TV show and has probably shown why here. Follow him on Twitter at @CardySimon.