- No release date yet
- Not expected to arrive until 2025 at the earliest
- Only one script has been written so far
- No other work ongoing due to Hollywood strikes
- Key cast members set to return
- Co-showrunner says he has actor in mind to play key character Abby from The Last of Us Part 2
- Story from second video game will be spread across two seasons
The wait for The Last of Us season 2 is going to be long one. The first season of the massively successful TV series pulled off the unthinkable: a TV adaptation of a beloved video game franchise that was actually good.
Gamers weren’t the only ones drawn into a dystopian world where the fungus Cordyceps had made mushroom-headed zombies of most of the human race and, for those who survived, time mostly spent fighting other pockets of humanity. In fact, The Last of Us was so popular, it set an HBO Max record that'll never be broken. Given the immense success of other HBO productions including Succession and Game of Thrones, that's not to be sniffed at. The series could also clean up at next January’s Emmy awards, with the now Max-residing show (it's available on Sky in the UK and Binge in Australia, too) up for 24 awards.
You might as well make the most of seeing its cast and crew at next year's Emmys, too, as we don't expect The Last of Us' second season to be with us for many, many months. We'll explain why later in this guide, alongside other important bits and pieces, such as its cast list, plot details, and one of the best Max shows' future. Be sure to read our review of The Last of Us, too, before you move on.
Full spoilers follow for The Last of Us season 1. Potential spoilers for season 2, as well as some story details from Naughty Dog's videogame series, are discussed, too.
The Last of Us season 2 release date: what we know
The journey continues. #TheLastOfUs will return for another season on @HBOMax. pic.twitter.com/FQNG6vhk1dJanuary 27, 2023
The Last of Us season 2 was announced by HBO just weeks after its predecessor began airing. The Warner Bros Discovery (WBD) subsidiary confirmed a sophomore outing for the post-apocalyptic drama on January 27, with co-showrunners Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin expressing excitement for its return post-announcement (per Deadline).
However, the writers and actors strikes, which have shut down Hollywood, have put paid to its chances of landing on Max anytime soon. Per Variety, Mazin and company were preparing to audition new cast members (more on these later) in May before the writers strike began. In July, Mazin also told Deadline that he'd only penned the first episode's script, so there's lots more work to do before the cameras start rolling.
So, when could The Last of Us season 2 arrive? Before the strikes, filming had been expected to begin in early 2024 in Vancouver, meaning a 2025 launch was looking likely. Now, we're not sure. Much depends on when the industrial action ends – and, as HBO drama chief Francesca Orsi told Deadline, plans to release the show's next installment in 2025 may not be realized if the strikes continue for much longer.
The Last of Us season 2 cast
There's no official news on who'll be back for The Last of Us season 2. However, it's nailed on that the actors listed below will return, because their characters are in The Last of Us Part II, i.e. the second entry in Naughty Dog's hugely popular and multi-award-winning video game franchise:
- Pedro Pascal as Joel
- Bella Ramsey as Ellie
- Gabriel Luna as Tommy
As we mentioned in our release date section, other key characters from the series' second game couldn't be cast because of the ongoing strikes. However, to whet fans' appetite for the casting of The Last of Part II's primary antagonist Abby, Mazin teased (via The Hollywood Reporter) that he'd "maybe" found the right actor for the part.
Pushed for a more definitive answer, Mazin added: "The strike stopped us in our tracks. Things were in process. Look, Abby was the first role that we wanted to tackle. We’ve got a pretty good track record of making major cast announcements and people going 'Really?', which will probably continue. So people may disagree, but I think we got it right so far and the audience seems to feel we got it right and the Academy seems to feel we got it right."
There are plenty of other important supporting characters in The Last of Us Part II who'll feature in the TV adaptation's second season. Dina, Jesse, Lev, Yara, and Manny will all need to be cast, too. Here's hoping there's a resolution to the strikes soon and we get more details on who'll portray them.
The Last of Us season 2 plot
Major spoilers follow for The Last of Us season 1 and The Last of Us Part II.
Story details are thin on the ground but, based on The Last of Us Part II, plus what went down in the season 1 finale, we've got a good idea of what'll happen. We'll refrain from giving away any massive spoilers from the second game – we're not that heartless – but there are little snippets we can reveal for the time being.
First up, The Last of Us Part II is set five years after the first game, so you can expect to see an aged-up Ellie and a more gruff Joel. Additionally, the duo have moved back to the Wyoming camp to be with Joel’s brother Tommy.
However, things won't remain rosy for long. As you'll remember from season 1's final episode, Joel decided against telling Ellie what actually happened at the Fireflies camp – i.e. that they were going to kill her in order to develop a cure for the Cordyceps infection. Ellie is completely immune to the disease, hence why the Fireflies were so keen to get their hands on her.
Of course, when Joel finds out about their real plan, he massacres them all to keep Ellie alive. It's an understandable decision to make, particularly in light of what happened to his own daughter Sarah in the season 1 premiere (and the game it's based on). Still, he's effectively consigned humanity to extinction with his decision, and the guilt he'll have felt over the five years since will be eating him up inside when we're reunited with him and Ellie in season 2. Well, until he finally comes clean, which won't end well...
Elsewhere, there are new intruders looking to avenge deaths from season 1, and one specific event will culminate in a catastrophic and shocking death (if you know, you know). Other remaining characters will have to forge new alliances, there’s a new religious cult on the scene – the Seraphites – for Ellie and company to deal with, a new ex-Fireflies militia force called the Washington Liberation Front, and another terrifying group who enslave people called the Rattlers. All in all, our heroes are in for a stressful, violent, and emotional sequel season.
"It’s darker," Ramsey told Vanity Fair in June. "It’s really a story about revenge, and a continuation from the first season about the dangers of unconditional love."
If it sounds like The Last of Us season 2 will ignore its Infected in favor of human-on-human action, don't fret. Critics said the TV adaptation had a zombie problem (something we said was missing the point of the story it was trying to tell) but its creators have heard the negativity loud and clear. Speaking to Variety in March, Mazin and Druckmann said of the Infected - whose design was inspired by bean sprouts, according to the show's VFX animation supervisor – confirmed there'll be a greater variety of flesh-hungry monsters for the gang to deal with.
In much the same way as The Last of Us season 1 expanded on the franchise's universe and wider set of characters, its follow-up will do likewise. Previously, Druckmann told TechRadar that "we couldn't have told this story in the game", the TV adaptation's timeline change was made to "help make the story more real", and the show's third episode allowed it to "go in a different direction" to what plays out in the games.
So there's a precedent for Naughty Dog, HBO, and Sony Pictures Television (the show's three production companies) to make changes where necessary. And, chatting to Deadline, Druckmann said the show's executive team is playing around with how much might change in the TV adaptation's next entry. "The moment-to-moment beats and characters, they might stay the same, they might change," he teased. "We will do what needs to happen to that story as it transfers from one medium to another."
Adding to Druckmann's comments, Mazin also suggested we won't see every storyline from The Last of Us Part II in the show's second season. But we'll discuss that in more detail in our future seasons section later.
The Last of Us season 2 trailer: is there one?
There’s nothing on the horizon. Hold tight for a long time, dear reader.
Will The Last of Us season 2 be the final installment?
In this together.Congratulations to #TheLastOfUs cast on their #Emmys2023 nominations. pic.twitter.com/5nHfPTXTfPJuly 12, 2023
Despite there only being two video games (there are rumors a third game is in early development, though) the series could potentially run for three seasons, says Orsi. Speaking to Deadline, she explained: "I think Craig and Neil are still figuring out where they’re going to come to an end. We have loosely heard that there will be a season 3 idea, but at this point, we’re taking it one season at a time. There’s no guarantee at this point that we’ll have a season 3, but I know that they both have a vision for season 3. Whether that lends itself to doing more [seasons], I don’t know yet."
Happily, Mazin has confirmed plans for season 3 in another interview with Deadline. "It’s going to be more than one season," he confirmed. "There’s more story, so this show will not end with season 2 unless people don’t watch it and we’ll get cancelled". And there’s pretty much no chance of that happening.
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Laura Martin is an entertainment journalist who covers TV, film, and music. She's written for numerous big publications, including TechRadar, Esquire, BBC Culture, The Guardian, and The i newspaper. Her favourite stories usually involve prestige TV drama, reality TV, or true-life documentaries. Basically, the more obscure, the better!
- Tom PowerSenior Entertainment Reporter