The Last of Us season 2 will be shorter than the first – here are 3 reasons why that's exciting for the hit Max show

Ellie and Joel look at someone off camera in The Last of Us episode 6
The Last of Us' second season will be two episodes shorter than its predecessor. (Image credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO)

Bad news for The Last of Us TV show fans: the hit Max series' second season, which is still on course to be released in 2025, will be shorter than its forebear.

Speaking to Deadline, co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann revealed The Last of Us season two will only have seven episodes, which is two less than the popular show's first installment had. In some ways, next season's episode count was expected. In January, only seven directors were announced for The Last of Us TV show's sophomore outing, which indicated that season two wouldn't be as long as its predecessor.

Explaining why the second season won't have nine episodes, Mazin said: "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, 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 natural breakpoint felt like it came after seven episodes."

Just like House of the Dragon season two, which debuts on Max on Sunday, June 16 (it'll be out on Sky in the UK and Binge in Australia) and only has eight episodes instead of 10, then, The Last of Us' second season will be episodically truncated. There are, however, positives to be taken from the dystopian drama's shorter installment. Indeed, there are three big reasons why The Last of Us' shorter next entry is actually exciting:

1. A narrative refresh – and a bombshell ending

Joel looks at someone off-screen in a dimly lit room in The Last of Us season 2

The Last of Us season 2 might change the order of its videogame namesake's events. (Image credit: HBO)

The Last of Us Part II, i.e. the second entry in Naughty Dog's critically acclaimed and multi-award-winning videogame series, packs an emotional punch from a storytelling perspective. However, while it's only been four years since Joel and Ellie's journey continued in the second game, there may be parts of its narrative that Druckman now wishes he could have improved upon or reworked from a structural standpoint.

Now, for anyone who hasn't played The Last of Us Part II, I'm not going to spoil its biggest and most shocking story beats, which will definitely be part of one of the best Max shows' second season. What I will say, though, is that there's the potential for Mazin and Druckman to tweak when certain events take place in the TV adaptation. There's one particular sequence, which takes place early in the game, that would actually lend itself extremely well to a jaw-dropping, emotionally impactful end to season two. It'll be interesting, then, to see if Mazin and Druckman take the opportunity to change the order of events depicted in the game to tell a richer, reformatted narrative in the show.

2. Building a bigger world with intriguing subplots

Ellie raises a shotgun in a barn in The Last of Us season 2

The Last of Us season 2 won't just focus on Joel and Ellie (pictured). (Image credit: HBO)

As we mentioned in our review of The Last of Us season one, HBO's TV adaptation was a near-perfect live-action remake of Naughty Dog's beloved 2013 game. As much as it was a direct one-to-one translation of said game, though, the TV series expanded upon its post-apocalyptic setting, as well as the people inhabiting it, to terrifically poignant effect.

None more so was this evident than in season one episode three; an entry that Joel and Ellie are largely absent from as The Last Of Us focuses on two other characters. Without getting into spoiler territory, it's an emotively powerful installment that zooms out to paint a portrait of how the Cordyceps outbreak has impacted the US as a whole and the survivors left behind to fend for themselves. It's so well put together, in fact, that many viewers labeled it season one's best episode.

Buoyed by the success of that slight narrative detour, it sounds like Mazin and Druckman are planning similar standalone tales for season two. Speaking to Deadline, Mazin teased: "We’re taking our time [with the story] and go down interesting pathways which we did a little bit in season one, too". With so many new characters set to appear in The Last of Us season two, their introductions and backstories will be ripe for exploration – more so than in the game it's inspired by – in self-standing episodes. How about giving us even more background on Abby, who'll be played by No One Will Save You's Kaitlyn Dever in season two? Or why not flesh the histories and/or adventures of Isabela Merced's Dina or Young Mazino's Jesse?

3. Even more seasons

Joel and Ellie stand on a roof top in The Last of Us season 1

The Last of Us may, well, last for four seasons. (Image credit: Liane Henstcher/HBO)

We already knew, based on previous comments made by Mazin and Druckman, that The Last of Us' TV adaptation would need at least two seasons to cover The Last of Us Part II's full story. Well, how about fleshing its plot out even more and tell it over three seasons instead?

That's right, Mazin has strongly suggested that The Last of Us won't end with a third season. In more quotes carried by Deadline, the series' co-creator said: "We don’t think that we’re going to be able to tell the story even within two seasons [two and three]... We feel like it’s almost assuredly going to be the case that – as long as people keep watching and we can keep making more television – season three will be significantly larger. And indeed, the story may require season four."

Yes, stretching The Last of Us Part II's story over three seasons might be a big risk, especially if it feels like it's taking forever to reach its endgame. But, if Mazin and Druckman find the right balance between following the game's overarching narrative and peppering each season with bite-size standalone episodes that flesh out the backstories of its supporting cast, you won't hear me complaining.

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Senior Entertainment Reporter

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