The Last of Us season 1 has just concluded, to pretty thunderous applause. It’s safe to say that the acclaimed HBO series has taken video game adaptations to new heights and will be the benchmark all future works are compared against.
Needless to say, there’s already a lot of discussion about The Last of Us season 2, what we should expect and when we might be able to watch it. The series is already one of the best HBO Max shows, but how will it get better?
Here’s the thing, though, I don’t want HBO to release the second season of The Last of Us anytime soon. In fact, I don’t want it to hit TV screens until sometime in 2026. It’s a long time to wait, but I am convinced that the new season will become better for it.
The Last of Us season 2 is a ways away
There aren’t a huge number of TV shows that still stick to the old 1-season-a-year production cycle these days. Pandemic-induced delays probably didn’t help, but as TV shows get bigger and more elaborate, the time it takes to produce them increases accordingly. Even with reduced episode counts now common to a lot of prestige shows and streaming services.
The Last of Us season 1 was no exception to that. Casting for the show started being finalized in early 2021, shortly around the time preparations for filming began. Filming itself didn’t kick off until July of that year, and took place until the following June — 11-months later.
From there, you also have to take into account the amount of time needed for writing and other aspects of pre-production, plus editing, visual effects and any potential reshoots that might be required. All in all it explains why the first season of The Last of Us took almost three years to arrive on our TV screens.
While some of that work won’t need to be repeated for future seasons, plenty of it will. Writing, filming, casting new roles, and all the other things that bring a TV production together. It’s not a fast process for any scripted TV show, particularly one that has to make you believe the world had ended.
For that reason alone, many of us at Tom’s Guide suspect that The Last of Us season 2 isn’t likely to arrive until late 2024 at the absolute earliest. In all likelihood we’re probably looking at least a two year wait before the second season premiere.
Rushing will only make The Last of Us season 2 worse
The Last of Us has been a pretty reasonable success for HBO. The premiere episode garnered 4.7 million viewers, the second-largest debut for HBO since 2010 behind House of the Dragon. The finale clocked in 8.2 million viewers, and while still lower than House of the Dragon’s 9.3 million-strong finale it was a series high for the show.
A cynic might assume HBO would push to produce more episodes of The Last of Us as quickly as possible. Likewise: audiences, who seem to have grown more impatient over the past couple of years, will no doubt want to see Joel and Ellie back on screen sooner rather than later.
But it's not a good idea to rush anything, least of all a multi-million dollar TV franchise. Speeding ahead to meet strict production deadlines, or pressuring crews to work as fast as possible will only ever lead to problems.
Just look at the effects in the latest batch of Marvel movies and you’ll see that the quality of visual effects has taken a sharp downturn — which is pretty serious considering Marvel CGI was never particularly good. Then you hear the stories about overworked effects teams and pressure to meet release dates, suddenly the crappy VFX makes perfect sense.
If that kind of thing can happen on a blockbuster movie with a nine-figure budget, just imagine how much worse rushed production would look on a TV budget. So let the team take their time and let them do season 2 correctly. Because if the reaction to the Last of Us Part II is anything to go by, the season may have its fair share controversial moments. You won’t hear any spoilers here, of course.
Plus we’re pretty sure that a third Last of Us video game will be coming at some point in the future. Taking the time to get to adapting the second video game means Naughty Dog has more time to get a sense of what that game might involve.
The Last of Us season 1 already made some subtle changes (opens in new tab) in anticipation of adapting the second video game. Taking their time with season 2 could come with the added benefit of being able to do the same for this hypothetical third game we suspect is coming — ultimately making for a more smoother and seamless story in the process.
The Last of Us season 2 will likely have a time jump anyway
The Last of Us has been fairly faithful as far as video game adaptations go. A bunch of stuff was changed, but it all seamlessly fit into the greater story that was, functionally, identical. So it makes sense that season 2 would stick with the five year time jump that occurs between The Last of Us Part I and The Last of Us Part II.
If there’s going to be a lengthy gap before the premiere of The Last of Us season 2, and since nobody is being recast, it makes sense to maintain some kind of gap to let the actors age into the roles a little better.
Bella Ramsey may be 19, but she proved she could pass as a 14-year old. Likewise Pedro Pascal is 46, while Joel is 56 in during the events of the first season. It makes sense to give both actors an opportunity to age up in real time, to a certain point, so that their performance as their season 2 ages is more realistic. The last thing we need to see is Pedro Pascal in noticeable old man makeup.
Waiting five years is unnecessary, especially since there are already measures in place to ensure both actors (and their co-stars) appear to be the correct age. But the more chance they have to mature and better match their characters’ true age, then the less chance there is for something to go wrong.
Outlook: Yes, we should wait
The Last of Us season 2 is coming, and given how well the first season went I have no doubt that the cast and crew will knock it out of the park again. But that’s only really going to happen if they’re given the chance to do things right. Taking the time to perfect scripts, doing the filming, and making sure the VFX teams are happy and well-rested.
But there’s also a case to be made for deliberately pushing back season 2’s premiere for creative reasons, rather than logistics. As much as many of us would like to see the new season quickly, I know I’d rather wait for something great than rush into something extremely average. But we’re just going to have to wait to see what HBO and the producers actually decide to do, and hope they make the right decision.