Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller in 'The Last of Us' season 2

Why Anxious Joel Fans Need To Calm Down About ‘The Last of Us’ Season 2

Despite HBO’s The Last of Us receiving near-universal praise from fans and non-gamers alike, some still haven’t learned to trust showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, and one big fear about Joel in season 2 is seeming pretty unfounded.

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Season 2 is already inspiring bad-faith skepticism based on leaked photos from the set, but a recent interview with Mazin and Druckmann about the seasons to come should set minds at ease. In an interview with Deadline, the showrunners revealed that season two of The Last of Us will consist of seven episodes, which will be shorter than its nine-episode first season.

Composite image of Craig Mazin (left) and Neil Druckmann (right), showrunners of HBO's 'The Last of Us." Mazin is a bald, white man with a salt and pepper beard wearing a blue buttondown shirt over a grey t-shirt. Druckmann is a white man with short, dark, wavy hair and a dark beard wearing a black t-shirt. Both are mid-speech during an interview.

Mazin and Druckmann want to head off fan concerns at the pass, making it clear that a shorter season doesn’t mean that the story will be rushed, nor that important story elements will be cut. In fact, season two is so short because the showrunners are trying to pace the story properly.

“The story material that we got from Part II of the game is way more than the story material that was in the first game,” Mazin explained. “So part of what we had to do from the start was figure out how to tell that story across seasons. When you do that, you look for natural breakpoints, and as we laid it out, this season, the national breakpoint felt like it came after seven episodes.”

He went on to explain that the second game’s story may require more episodes than even seasons 2 and 3 would theoretically hold, possibly going into season 4. So, as long as the viewership is there, The Last of Us will have several more seasons to do the story of the games justice.

Bella Ramsey as Ellie in a scene from season 2 of HBO's 'The Last of Us.' Ellie is a young, white woman wearing a dark red winter hat and a black parka with grey fur around the hood. She's standing in a barn and holding a rifle.

Meanwhile, Druckmann revealed that, since the events of both games are so interconnected, season two of the series will be revisiting story threads from season one.

The season one episode “Long, Long Time” was also a divergence from the game’s story in the best way, and gave the first season one of its finest moments. With several seasons of room to play, The Last of Us will no doubt give us more side-journeys and new stories even as it portrays the story beats from the game. Mazin explained:

“We do tricks sometimes, we do some interesting things. The Bill and Frank story from Season 1 was inspired by the characters in the game but it was a very different approach. There will be things that we do that are different, as in before, but we were very much focused on telling the story of the second game, which, as Neil says, is inextricably linked and intertwined with the events of Season 1. Sometimes that means we do things just like the game, sometimes we do them differently. I think it’d be fair to say that since we are taking our time to dig into the story and expand certain areas, of course there are going to some things that are are going to be expanded, but which characters and how we’ll keep that secret.”

Craig Mazin

The story will be given room to breathe, and the major events of TLOU Part II could happen across a longer timeline than the material from the first game. That’s especially important to remember because of one fan concern in particular.

**SPOILERS AHEAD for The Last of Us and TLOU Part II.**

The golf club-size elephant in the room

Pedro Pascal as Joel in a scene from HBO's 'The Last of Us." He is a white Latino man with shaggy dark hair, a mustache and facial stubble. He's wearing a dark green button-up, jeans, and a brown backpack and he's holding a gun on Merle Dandridge's Marlene, who is on the floor with her back turned to the camera.

As players of The Last of Us know all too well, the story of Part II hinges on two important events. First, there’s Joel murdering the surgeon who is about to go digging into Ellie’s brain at the end of the first game. Then, there’s Abby, the surgeon’s daughter who, after growing up to seek revenge on the man who murdered her father, brutally kills Joel in Part II by beating him to death with a golf club, prompting Ellie to seek revenge on the woman who murdered her father figure and turning the story into a dad-avenging ouroboros that both Ellie and Abby are challenged to break.

Pedro Pascal has taken up the Joel mantle from OG Troy Baker stunningly, and his performance in The Last of Us is one of several that have contributed to the recent Pascalaissance where Pedro Pascal can do no wrong. It’s understandable, then, that fans of Pascal who are also fans of the games and the show are concerned for how much time we have left with Pascal in the role, assuming that the second game would get one season of TV, like the first.

Less understandable, however, are the bad-faith critiques from supposed fans of the game who insist on passing judgement on a season of television that is only now in production, based on minimal information and leaks they shouldn’t even be looking at out of context.

Fan speculation is understandable, but people trying to guess how the season’s going to be laid out based on leaked photos? Even now, after the announcement of a seven-episode second season and plans for a third (and fourth!), many Joel fans are assuming that he will meet his end within these seven episodes—or that the structure of the story is ruined because they’re shooting stuff with Isaac in it, etc. ad infinitum.

Tell me you don’t know how TV works without telling me you don’t know how TV works. Let’s keep the following in mind, shall we?

  • Stuff in TV gets shot out of order all the time. You can’t guess when something is going to be used based on when it’s shot.
  • Part II uses flashbacks—like, a lot. The idea that the second season of TLOU won’t be chock full of them is bananas. It’s also possible that the story will be told in a more linear way than the game was, meaning that we won’t even get to Joel’s death until season three.
  • Lastly, the first season of TLOU stayed close to the story of the game while also allowing for huge departures.

The Last of Us is a brilliant show in its own right, let alone as an adaptation. Mazin, Druckmann, and HBO know what they have in Pedro Pascal, so it’s unlikely they’ll let him go before they absolutely have to. Why don’t we just let the nice writers, cast, and crew do the job of storytelling, and we can watch it and judge when it comes out, huh?

I think we’re gonna get to love Joel for a “Long, Long Time.”

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Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.