In anticipation of its release on January 15th, HBO have started to ramp up the marketing push for their TV adaptation of Naughty Dog’s acclaimed video game series The Last of Us. Nowhere is this more apparent than with the release of what is likely the final trailer before its debut, and it speaks to how hotly anticipated this series is that it is the first and only non-teaser trailer released, merely a month before debut. And as it should, the trailer offers our best look yet at the dynamics between Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), as well as the characters they meet along their perilous journey.
Previous trailers of HBO’s The Last of Us had only offered glimpses of the show with sparse dialogue and voiceover, serving more to highlight characters from the video game, such as Nick Offerman’s Bill and Storm Reid’s Riley, and new characters such as Melanie Lynskey’s revolutionary leader Kathleen. They also lightly touch upon the budding father-daughter relationship between Joel and Ellie, but the latest trailer goes all in in a manner that undoubtedly has fans of the video games salivating for its release.
It opens with Ellie questioning Joel on why he keeps going when he has no hope for the world, to which he responds, “You keep going for family,” before insisting that she is nothing more than “cargo” to him. This is wholly representative of the early icy relationship between Joel and Ellie in the video game, with the former remaining distanced due to the untimely death of his daughter Sarah (who will be played by Nico Parker, daughter of Thandie Newton) during the initial cordyceps outbreak, a sequence hinted at in this trailer and those before it. However, by the trailer’s end, we are shown how deep their relationship becomes, with the trailer’s final piece of dialogue being Joel almost rhetorically asking Ellie, “Do you trust me?”
The brilliance of the trailer, however, is the way in which it shows, in such a brief period of time, all the dangers and adversity they will face in order to get to that point in their relationship.
One of the initial scenes shown – and it has been hinted at in previous promotional material – is an incredibly faithful recreation of the famous museum section in the earlier part of the game, which was not only a great source of tension but also emotional turmoil as Tess (Anna Torv), Joel’s long-time partner in crime, meets her demise, albeit in an honourable manner. This scene has been a clever marketing tool used to not only entice fans of the video game with its well-documented faithfulness to the source material, but also introduce newcomers to the frightening Clicker, which is arguably the video game’s most infamous enemy type.
Perhaps most significantly, we get our first look at David (Scott Shepard), a seemingly benevolent character from the video game who turns out to be the leader of a group of cannibals, and he plays a significant role in one of the game’s most compelling sections, where it is Ellie who essentially saves Joel, necessarily proving her own mettle and love for him in the process. It is absolutely worth noting that alongside the character David as one of his followers is Troy Baker, who did the motion capture and voice acting for Joel in the video games and is considered one of the foremost video game performers alongside Newfoundland native Jennifer Hale and Nolan North, who, interestingly enough, played David in the video game.
While we were already shown segments from the parts of the story involving Bill and Riley in previous trailers, and though more footage from their respective stories are more than welcome in the trailer, perhaps the greatest testament to just how close HBO is keeping things to the source material is the unveiling of scenes involving Henry (played by Toronto actor Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonnn Woodard), whose story is unquestionably one of the most tragic in the entire series.
With the release of each piece of promotional material, including new character posters, it is near-impossible not to be excited for the sheer potential of the series, not to mention the promise offered by everything we have seen thus far. Thankfully, we will not have to wait much longer for our patience to be rewarded with the show’s January 15th release date.