Less is More

The Last of Us Season 2 will be shorter and that might be a good thing

A year and a half and a writer’s strike later, The Last of Us fans are getting a huge information dump on the upcoming seasons. That’s right—seasons plural. In addition to the episode count for the upcoming second season, showrunner Craig Mazin and creator Neil Druckmann have revealed that their current story roadmap will extend through Season 4.

In an interview with Deadline, Mazin and Druckmann revealed that Season 2 (which will be the first of multiple to adapt the 2020 video game The Last of Us: Part II) will consist of seven episodes. While that’s two less than the first season’s nine, Mazin explained that the length was chosen to coincide with “natural breakpoints” in the game’s plot.

“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,” Mazin said. “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.”

At the same time, each episode will vary in runtime, with some episodes running less than an hour and at least one that is not exactly “feature length but quite big.” Between that and the dedicated focus on just one segment of Part II’s plot, there’s much room to expand on the source material.

“We just want to put people’s minds at ease that the idea that this season coming up is a little bit shorter than the first one is not because we’re taking less time to tell the stories, it’s because we want to take more time,” Mazin explained. “The story that we’re telling is much bigger than the story of Season 1, there’s just a lot more going on, it’s a lot harder to produce but we want every episode to feel like its own blockbuster to be honest with you.”

So how long will it take to tell the story of Part II at this scale? While it was already confirmed that Part II would span Seasons 2 and 3, it seems likely to run as far as Season 4.

“We don’t think that we’re going to be able to tell the story even within two seasons because we’re taking our time and go down interesting pathways which we did a little bit in Season 1 too,” Mazin said. “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 3 will be significantly larger. And indeed, the story may require Season 4.”

In a later comment, Mazin seemed more definitive on this point. “One thing is absolutely for sure, I don’t see how we could tell the story that remains after Season 2 is complete in one more season,” he explained.

The Last of Us has only been renewed for a second season. Given that it was one of the most popular and critically acclaimed series of 2023, it’s hard to imagine a mid-series cancellation. Hypothetically, stretching out Part II’s story would also give the show some buffer time for Naughty Dog (the studio behind the game series) to develop and release (the unannounced but heavily rumored) Part III.

Mazin has stated that, without a Part III, the TV adaptation would not continue into unwritten territory, the way Game of Thrones and The Handmaid’s Tale did.

“As a fan, I’m thrilled that there might be a third Last of Us game,” he said. “As the co-creator of this television show, there’s no world where I would want our show to go beyond the source material that people have in the world.”

Unfortunately for fans of Bill and Frank, the gay couple that broke our collective hearts will not make a flashback cameo in the upcoming season. But fortunately for LGBTQ+ fans in general, Part II contains a plethora of queer main cast members, including Ellie (Bella Ramsey), whose storylines are a huge focus of the plot.

Season 2 of The Last of Us is currently filming and slated for 2025.

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