Adaptation is an exercise in expectation management. As such, HBO’s The Last of Us, the television series translation of the beloved PlayStation video game franchise, arrives with plenty of preconceived notions about what should or shouldn’t make it onto the screen. Initially released in 2013, The Last of Us was a remarkable leap forward for storytelling in gaming. Bolstered by motion-captured performances that transcended the screen, dynamic cinematography, a memorable narrative, and richly memorable environments, the video game ostensibly functions as a playable movie. 

The show’s creative team and cast spoke to Complex about the unique challenges and new opportunities they faced while translating that experience to television. Anchored by game co-creator Neil Druckmann and Chernobyl helmer Craig Mazin, The Last of Us series presents the same story as the game, smuggler Joel (Pedro Pascal) is tasked with transporting precocious 14-year-old Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a post-apocalyptic America in hopes that she holds the key to developing an antidote for a fungi-based, zombie-like infection that’s ravaged the population. The Last of Us tells a brutal yet hopeful tale of surviving and fighting to save just one person’s life.