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HBO’s The Last of Us looks like a faithful adaptation, with an exception

Melanie Lynskey will play a new character, in a new city

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Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

Craig Mazin and HBO’s The Last of Us looks like it’ll largely stick to the story laid out in developer Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, taking Joel and Ellie through a fungus-ravaged United States. But judging from the trailer, there’s at least one major exception: Melanie Lynskey.

Monday’s The Last of Us teaser trailer also served as a casting announcement for Yellowjackets star Melanie Lynskey in the HBO series. She’s playing a character named Kathleen, a “ruthless leader of a revolutionary movement in Kansas City,” an HBO representative told Polygon. Joel and Ellie travel across a huge portion of the country in the games — from Massachusetts to Pennsylvania, before heading on to Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah. Their journey across the middle of the country is largely skipped over in the game, but it sounds like the HBO show will fill in some of those gaps. Between Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Jackson, Wyoming, it sounds like Ellie and Joel will also visit Kansas City, Missouri.

If you’ve been following The Last of Us’ casting announcements, this might not be news to you. HBO confirmed to IGN in early August that Henry (played by Lamar Johnson) and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) — two notable characters from the game — will encounter Ellie and Joel in Kansas City instead of Pittsburgh, the original location. At that time, HBO said Sam and Henry were “hiding from a revolutionary movement seeking vengeance,” and it looks like Lynskey’s Kathleen is the ringleader behind that group.

Usually when I’m thinking The Last of Us, the word “revolutionary” is tied to the Fireflies, the group that fought oppressive government control and the Federal Disaster Response Agency (FEDRA) in the country’s quarantine zones. But Kathleen’s group sounds more like the Hunters, which were basically all the nameless bad guys in the game — and the ones that chase Ellie, Joel, Sam, and Henry around in that notorious armored truck.

My theory is that the HBO show will build out this group a bit more, making them feel more organized under Kathleen’s lead. Of course, that’s all speculation; I’m not sure we’ll get answers there until a few episodes into The Last of Us’ 10-episode season, which premieres in 2023, HBO said.

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