Turning the action into drama also helped flesh out some of the more derivative aspects of the game. Do not get around the similarity with station eleven, walking corpses, children of men, I’m a legendand Road. But the show is changing Last of us into a full blown ecological fable.
The action-packed scenes of Joel and Sarah fleeing the house are preceded by a preamble: a 1968 Jack Paar-style talk show featuring two epidemiologists. One warns that humanity is at great risk of a pandemic caused by a flu-like virus. Others scoff: the real threat is not just bacteria, but a fungus like cordyceps, which controls its victims by flooding their brains with hallucinogens and turning them into “billions of mind-poisoned puppets,” he says, “with one unifying goal: to spread the infection to all living people.” (cordyceps it’s a real fungus that has a comparable effect on ants.) The owner wants to crack the LSD gag, but the expert is serious. It would only take a few degrees of global warming to induce the fungus to move to humans.
The second episode visits the site of origin of the infection, a flour and grain factory in Jakarta. The fungus snatches from the victim on the undertaker’s table. “That makes more sense than monkeys.” – EllieGame of ThronesBella Ramsey says at one point, talking about the origin of the outbreak.
For Mazin, zombies are mortality, forcing us to confront the corpse that we will all become. cordyceps the great equalizer born of our relentless consumption. “I think the thread under that is this: you don’t want to be too successful on planet Earth,” says Mazin. “I am not an opponent of progress and I am not a supporter of a return to the Stone Age. But we have to regulate ourselves, otherwise something will come and regulate us against our will.”
There is also a genuine attempt to explore the traditional imagery of the apocalyptic setting, such as the descent into Hobbesian sadism. In the game, Joel and Ellie run into Bill, a weirdo who has taken control of the city and littered it with insane traps. His story in the series is much sharper. Bill, played by Nick Offerman, is a full-fledged survivalist who seeks to herald the apocalypse. But when he traps a wandering survivor in his trap, the couple begins a 20-year love story. As they rebuild the city, Bill eventually discovers the poverty of his worldview. Despite the fact that some of his paranoid views were correct – the end of the world really came, and the government was taken over by the Nazis – he lived a meaningless life in anticipation of the end of the world.
Later in the season, Mazin promises to explore the roving lunatics, sadistic gangs, and religious zealots that commonly populate the zombie genre and give the player simplistic cannon fodder. In a scene set in Kansas City, the Pittsburgh counterpart of the game, Mazin and Druckmann wanted to find out why these people are cheating, killing and robbing innocent travelers to get their supplies. “Neal and I thought: let’s get under the hood, let’s understand some of these people and don’t steal their humanity because it devalues the consequences of their sins,” says Mazin.