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‘The Last Of Us’ Video Game Characters And Their Journey, Explained

“The Last of Us” came out all the way back in 2013 for the PlayStation 3 and, to this day, it is one of the best narratives told in any videogame ever. Developed by Naughty Dog, the guys known for their “Uncharted” series, “The Last of Us” was their entry into a new IP, set in a new, post-apocalyptic world featuring a cast of new characters and a departure from their lighthearted “Uncharted” series into a more serious and gritty narrative.

Not long after the game came out, it was announced that there would be a TV adaptation made for it, which sounded perfect as the game itself was extremely cinematic, and the story they told there would definitely work wonders as a TV show. However, it all went silent for a while, after the announcement, and then “The Last of Us Part 2” came out with no news related to the TV show. All of that changed some time ago, as Naughty Dog and Sony announced that “The Last of Us” will be getting a show on HBO sometime in the near future. They also announced that Pedro Pascal would be playing the role of Joel, and Bella Ramsey will be joining him as Ellie. Not only that, but Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson, who played Joel and Ellie in the game, will also be joining the TV show in some capacity. That’s all-great news, isn’t it? But when is the show coming out? January 15th, 2023, is just a month away, which leads us to today. We wanted to cover certain aspects of “The Last of Us” game and see how they fared and how truly they were adapted when compared to the TV show.

The story here is great, there’s no doubt about it, but a good story can only go so far without good characters, and let me tell you, the characters in “The Last of Us” are nothing short of fantastic. Each is extremely relatable and human. So, in anticipation of the TV show arriving soon, let’s cover some aspects of the game, starting with the game’s characters. It should go without saying, but this article will contain spoilers, so if you are someone who hasn’t played the game or want to experience the story completely blind by watching the TV show, this is your spoiler alert. You have been warned.


Joel Miller, born on September 26, 1981, in Arlington, Texas, is the protagonist of this story. Voiced and motion captured by Troy Baker for the game and will be played by Pedro Pascal in the TV show, Joel is a determined survivor who has seen a lot and will go to any extent to protect the ones he loves. A carpenter by profession before the outbreak and a smuggler afterward, Joel also has a younger brother named Tommy. Being a single parent with his wife leaving him for unspecified reasons, Joel lived in Austin, Texas, with his daughter, Sarah. Hours before the outbreak, Joel receives a watch from his daughter as a birthday gift that becomes his most prized possession. He, Sarah, and Tommy try to escape when all hell starts breaking loose, only to be cornered by military personnel who shoot at them. Unfortunately, his daughter Sarah succumbs to the bullet wound and dies on the spot in his arms. With the loss of his only daughter weighing heavily on him, Joel tried to commit suicide but found a reason to live with his brother Tommy. With nothing left to lose, Joel became a monster of sorts, killing, deceiving, and torturing innocent people in the name of survival in this ravaged world. Tommy didn’t like that about him, and the brothers ended up in the city of Boston, where they parted ways; with Tommy joining a group called the Fireflies, Joel meets a woman named Tess, Tess and he became smugglers. It is never blatantly stated that the pair shared a romantic relationship; however, it is heavily implied through dialogue and scenes showing how much they care for each other.

After a lot of events and betrayals that took place in the quarantine zone in Boston, Joel and Tess end up striking a deal with Marlene, the leader of the fireflies, who asks them to smuggle some cargo to the Capitol building in exchange for their weapons. They agree, and a little while later, the “cargo” is revealed to be a teenage girl named Ellie, whom Joel and Tess have to escort across the city of Boston. They are stopped midway by a patrol checking for bites to see if any one of them is infected, and Ellie panics and attacks them, which ends up with Joel and Tess killing the patrol officers.

Ellie reveals a bite mark and claims it’s weeks old, and while Joel wants to let her go or kill her, Tess convinces him to see through this. Once they reach the Capitol building, they find the fireflies dead and are attacked by a bunch of soldiers. Tess reveals she was bitten and sacrifices herself by buying Joel and Ellie some time so they may live and see through this mission. Throughout their journey across America, Joel develops a bond with Ellie, seeing his daughter in her as he becomes less ruthless and more human. It turns out Ellie is immune to the cordyceps virus and is the key to curing everyone, but she’ll die if the process goes through, because of which Joel kills every firefly member, including Marlene, to save Ellie’s life. Joel and Ellie move to a peaceful community of survivors in Jackson, Wyoming, after the events that transpired in the firefly lab, with Joel lying to Ellie about her being the only one and telling her there are plenty of people out there who are immune to the virus. That’s Joel in a nutshell: a survivor who has seen and been through a lot and yet always finds a way to live and protect the ones he loves, no matter what the cost is.


Ellie Williams is the second protagonist of this story; she is voiced, and motion captured by Ashley Johnson in the game and will be played by Bella Ramsey in the TV show. Ellie didn’t know much about the world before the outbreak and hadn’t seen anything outside the walls of the quarantine zone in Boston. Ellie spent her life studying inside a strict military school in Boston after her mother’s death and befriended a girl named Riley, who became her best friend and romantic interest. Ellie and Riley were bitten by a clicker, and while Riley got infected and died, Ellie survived and realized she was immune. She brought her news of immunity to the firefly base and met Marlene, who handed her over to Joel and Tess to get her to the Capitol building. Things go south, and Tess sacrifices herself to protect Joel, as Joel promises her that he’ll take Ellie the rest of the way, kicking off this adventure and building an inseparable bond between these two. Despite her age, Ellie is hardened by all the loss she has seen throughout her life and is as tough as they come. She finds comfort and solace in Joel, as she very emotionally reveals to him that he’s the only one who hasn’t abandoned her. Ellie is the driving force of “The Last of Us” and is a character that is extremely relatable, very human, and exceptionally well written.


Tommy Miller is Joel’s younger brother and a supporting character voiced and motion captured by Jeffrey Pierce. Tommy is a kind and loving man who loves his brother and his now-deceased niece, Sarah. He spent his time with Joel and Sarah before the outbreak and worked alongside Joel as a carpenter. Growing up, he and Joel shared a lot of common interests and spent a lot of time together, even after becoming fully grown adults. The loss of Sarah impacted him too, and he and Joel spent a lot of time together, surviving and committing countless atrocities in the name of survival. Not long after they arrive in Boston, Tommy parts ways with Joel, citing reasons like they are becoming way too inhuman and never wanting to see Joel’s face again. He joins the fireflies after Marlene convinces him, reigniting his hope and the possibility of getting to see and live a normal and happy life once again. He ran with the fireflies for a long time, after which he left them too to join a community of survivors in Jackson, Wyoming. That’s where he meets a woman named Maria, falls in love with her, and marries her as she becomes his reason for redemption. Joel stumbles on Tommy while looking for him in a power plant with him, Maria, and a few other survivors trying to get the power back on for their settlement. He welcomes his brother back with open arms and talks about having nightmares from the horrific things they did in the name of survival. Joel convinces Tommy to escort Ellie to the fireflies lab in his stead but later changes his mind. The brothers part ways once again, and Tommy invites Joel and Ellie back to live with them in their settlement once they are done with the firefly business, where they come back to at the end of the game.


Theresa “Tess” Servopoulos is another supporting character and a survivor of the quarantine zone in Boston, and she is potentially Joel’s love interest. As voiced and motion captured by Annie Wersching, Tess is a strong and ruthless smuggler who packs a no-BS attitude, is rich with street smarts, and is not to be trifled with. Tess and Joel became partners and ran their operation together for a long time, as she affectionately calls Joel “Texas.” The pair had quite a reputation and were infamous for their no-holds-barred mentality, with Tess believing in the “dog eat dog” philosophy, which sat well with Joel. Another smuggler named Robert orders a hit on Tess and pays the price with his life as Tess and Joel kill him brutally, after which the pair meets Marlene and are tasked with smuggling Ellie. After fighting their way across clickers and patrols, they arrive at the Capitol building and find the group of fireflies they were supposed to hand Ellie, dead. Tess starts panicking and makes Joel promise to see this mission through and escort Ellie himself, and that’s when Joel realizes that she’s bitten. In a last-ditch effort to save them from the soldiers who killed the fireflies, Tess sacrifices herself to buy Joel and Ellie some time to escape.


Marlene is another supporting character and antagonist (that’s a very gray area) in this story, and she is voiced, and motion captured by Merle Dandridge. Marlene was close friends with Ellie’s mother, Anna, and had made a promise to her that she’d look after Ellie. Marlene was responsible for putting Ellie in the military school as she thought that’d be the safest place for her. Marlene fought toe-to-toe against the totalitarian regime that was the military and became the leader of the fireflies. She is tough and looks out for her people. She finds out about Ellie’s immunity to the virus when Ellie visits her after she is bitten. Marlene then decides for the scientists among the fireflies to do tests on her, as she may be the key to end this outbreak. Marlene then tasks Joel and Tess with escorting Ellie, as she can’t do it herself because she is injured. We meet her again at the very end of the game, where she reveals that Ellie will die if this process goes through, and despite that there’s no guarantee that we’ll have a cure, Joel, who is very attached to Ellie at this point tries to reason with Marlene and when all else fails, he kills Marlene to save Ellie’s life.


David is an antagonist who is voiced, and motion captured by none other than Nolan North, and you meet him halfway across the game. After Joel gets impaled and is taken care of by Ellie during the winter, Ellie ventures out to get supplies for them and is attacked by a bunch of clickers. She is saved by a kind man named David, who helps her survive and teaches her a lot. David slowly builds trust with Ellie and reveals his true colors, letting her know that he is responsible for the attack back at the university that put Joel in this condition and has been tracking Joel ever since. It doesn’t stop there as David shows what a true monster, he is by letting Ellie know that he and his group of survivors are cannibals, and he then tries to rape and kill Ellie. Ellie kills David in order to survive and continuously stabs his corpse in a fit of rage, shock, and fear, crying as she does this and comes out of her state of shock when Joel tracks her down, finds her and comforts her.


Bill is a supporting character voiced and motion captured by W Earl Brown. He is a survivor living alone in Lincoln and knows Joel and Tess from their smuggling runs. Bill surrounds his safehouse with a bunch of traps, as the number of infected in Lincoln is very high, and he lives there alone. He doesn’t like it very much when Joel and Ellie arrive at his safehouse, destroying most of his traps and alerting a bunch of infected. He traps them, fearing they are infected. Ellie escapes and finds Bill to be a threat and attacks him and picks a fight with him, but Joel lets her know about their history and manages to stop her before things escalate even further. Joel and Bill share a heated moment together, after which Joel asks for Bill’s help and asks him if he could borrow a car. Bill doesn’t have one sitting around but knows where he can get the parts to fix one. Joel and Ellie venture out to get the parts and return with them, and Bill fixes a car for them and makes it driveable while also giving them some extra survival tips. Once Joel and Ellie get a car, they part ways with Bill, and his fate remains unknown.

Henry And Sam

Henry and Sam are voiced, and motion captured by Brandon Scott and Nadji Jeter, respectively. A pair of brothers, with Sam being the younger and Henry being the older. Henry is overly protective of his younger brother Sam and goes to any lengths to protect him. Both survivors left Hartford behind once the military disbanded the zone and moved toward Pittsburgh. On their way, they get ambushed by a bunch of hunters and take refuge in a radio tower for a few days. That’s where they encounter Ellie and Joel. Ellie and Joel introduce themselves, get along well with the two brothers, and spend a fun-filled night with them. An oasis in the middle of the desert, of sorts. Henry talks with Joel about how he only has his brother and what lengths he’ll go to protect him, while Sam has a heart-to-heart with Ellie about how his brother openly chastises him if he makes a mistake and acts very over-protective. After an evening of fun, they settle in for the night, and in one of the most tragic events this game throws at us, Sam is bitten and turns overnight, leaving Henry no other choice but to shoot his little brother. Consumed by grief and sorrow and being unable to protect his brother, Henry points the gun to his head and kills himself right then and there. This was gut-punching.


Finally, we have Riley, voiced and motion captured by Yaani King. A Girl born in the Boston quarantine zone and became one of Ellie’s closest friends, a love interest even. She was briefly mentioned during the course of the game and was properly introduced with the Left Behind DLC, serving as the second most important character throughout the course of that DLC. Riley also lost her parents at a very young age, with her dad turning into a clicker and ripping her mom into pieces. She was forced to kill her dad in order to survive, and she joined the military school afterwards as she had no other choice. She was offered to join the military after she passed, and she did so for some time, after which she left the military. Riley sided with the fireflies and hated the totalitarian rule the military imposed. Ellie and Riley spent a lot of time together growing up in the military school, because of which they grew really close to each other and often spent time in each other’s companies, exploring locations like museums and more. It was during one of their expeditions that the two of them were attacked by clickers and bitten. Riley helped Ellie escape as she succumbed to the bite, while Ellie found out that she was immune and rushed back to the fireflies.

Final Words

There are no happy endings in the world of “The Last of Us,” as you can see for yourself. There’s still hope there, regardless, despite most of it being gloomy and sad. This has been a brief look at some of the main and supporting characters you’ll meet throughout “The Last of Us.” Don’t worry; there are a lot more, but these are the ones you’ll spend the most time with. I would like to see if all these characters make an appearance in the TV show come January 15th, 2023, and how true to the game versions they are. The writing here is very well done, and the characters feel believable and very relatable. It’s just tragic how tragic every story here is, but then again, it’s a very grim, dark, and gritty post-apocalypse, so expecting sunshine and rainbows would be stupid. They nailed it, and it’ll be fun to see all those memorable moments in live action this time and pull out our box of tissues once again. We’ll have more on “The Last of Us” soon.

See more: A Tour Of The Open-World Of ‘Gotham Knights’ Video Game

Kartik Sharma
Kartik Sharma
Kartik is sometimes a freelance content writer and an actor. He loves spending his time reading books, playing videogames, dabbling in music, exploring different cultures and languages, etc. loves everything that is art and loves to explore new horizons.