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The Last Of Us' Showrunner Wants Viewers To Be Affected By The Deaths Of Even Minor Characters

The long-awaited streaming series "The Last of Us" finally debuted on Jan. 15, and it's impressing audiences with its ratings and its successful adaptation of a video game exclusive to the PlayStation console. Variety noted earlier this week that the first 1-hour 20-minute episode, "When You're Lost in the Darkness," was HBO's second-biggest premiere since 2010 — reaching 10 million viewers in its first two days.

Of course, one of the strengths of "The Last of Us," which was first released in 2013 by Naughty Dog, has always been the moving story about a father-daughter-style relationship between the two leads (played in the TV show by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey), who are trying to navigate a post-apocalyptic landscape caused by a mutated fungus. It — and the 2020 sequel, "The Last of Us Part 2" — had been dubbed the "game of the generation," with reviews praising their atmosphere, writing, and deep characterization.

For now, fans seem to think "The Last of Us" is living up to the hype. And part of this is making sure that the series packs as big an emotional punch as the video game did. Or maybe even more so.

Showrunner Craig Mazin says he'll be thrilled if he can replicate the impact of the game's deaths

As "The Last of Us" was approaching release, some fans were concerned about the way deaths would be portrayed in the series, thanks to an interview that showrunner Craig Mazin did for the New Yorker in December. He said, "Watching a person die, I think, ought to be much different than watching pixels die." While this quote seemed to imply that video game deaths seem less meaningful than deaths in movies and television, Mazin later clarified to The Washington Post that he was discussing NPCs, or non-player characters; their deaths have less emotional weight, though in "The Last of Us" games, even NPC enemies have their moments of humanity and pain (via VG247).

And while his initial quote may have seemed dismissive of minor character deaths in the game, it nevertheless bodes well for what he plans for the series. After all, it implies that he views even NPCs as characters that can be developed more fully. He told The Post, "I don't think anybody playing 'The Last of Us' — maybe there was somebody, but I can't imagine — were feeling the impact of random hunters or FEDRA [Federal Disaster Response Agency] officers that you're having to get through to get to the other side of the gameplay," he said. "For us, with the show, we want you to feel everybody's death. Everybody."

The deaths of major characters were so important and well done in the game; it's no more than the bare minimum for the TV show if it wants to be a decent adaptation. "I think when we're talking about the deaths of main characters, those were handled so beautifully in the game, and I felt them tremendously," Mazin said. "If we can equal the emotions and impact that those deaths had in the game in the show, I will be thrilled."

The rest of the first game's plot should be covered in the next eight episodes releasing Sundays at 9 p.m., so fans will have to see how that looks going forward.