The Last of Us showrunner Craig Mazin opened up about Joel's fate in Season 2.
The Last of Us Part II surprised everyone when Joel was killed by Abby during the opening minutes of the game. As a result, this led to speculation if Pedro Pascal's Joel will meet the same fate, especially after a game-accurate Season 1.
In April 2023, Pascal addressed if Joel will die in the show's sophomore season, coyly remarking that if it were to happen, "[he doesn't] know that [he's] emotionally ready for it."
The Last of Us Showrunner Reflects on Joel's Season 2 Fate
Speaking with Josh Horowitz on the latest episode of the Happy Sad Confused podcast, The Last of Us showrunner Craig Mazin explained why fans shouldn't necessarily expect Joel's death to play out in the way it does in the game.
When Horowitz asked directly if Joel's death fits under the category of "slavish interpretation" or if it is something that the crew "can diverge from," Mazin admitted that he can't say anything about it while also opening up about the reality of adapting a storyline from a source material:
Horowitz: “So, major spoiler alert going into Season 2, game 2, we’re facing a lot of major events but none more so than the death of Joel, of course. Does that fit under the category of slavish interpretation or does that feel like something that you can diverge from?”
Mazin: “I mean, I can’t tell you anything about that season. Joel dies? Okay. I’m not saying a goddamn thing. People will have to wonder. And you know what, good. Because here’s the thing. First of all, anytime you’re making… anytime you’re adapting something where there’s source material, there’s certainly an expectation that the adaptation will hit the main source material points and that is mostly what happens."
Still, The Last of Us Season 2 scribe then pointed out that adapting the fates of certain characters, like Joel, from the game revolves around "[doing] what [they] want to in a way that is best for the show that [they're] making:"
"But the way they happen I think is what matters, how they happen, when they happen, the way they happen, those are the things that matter. It’s why I started 'Chernobyl' with 'Chernobyl' exploding. I was like, ‘I’m not gonna make you wait and wonder if it’s going to explode.’ So look, when it comes to the fate of characters, no matter who they are, all I can say is, we will do what we want to do in a way that is best for the show that we’re making and we will always be thinking about… I think the two perspectives that we have, which is Neil [Druckmann]’s perspective as a creator, and my perspective as a fan.”
At one point in the interview, Horowitz asked if The Last of Us creative already had a plan in mind on how to execute Joel's death in Season 2, noting if they have "full creative freedom" on handling the character's fate.
Mazin responded by saying that "[they] know exactly what [they're] doing" in Season 2:
Horowitz: “Has that decision, whatever it is in terms of how to treat that event, however you’re going to do it… has that been in kind of in stone for a while? because I would imagine, cynically speaking, a power that be might say, ‘Your biggest star… you can’t kill Pedro [Pascal] in Episode 3 of Season 2.’ Are there influences at play or do you feel like you have full creative freedom to do what serves this story best?”
Mazin: “Yeah again, I’m not gonna even say… I don’t want to even… I question your premise. (laughs) Here’s the thing, honestly… look, I’ll answer this question: we know exactly what we’re doing. I’ll say that. We know exactly what we’re gonna do."
Mazin ended by saying that his response should be considered as a "can neither confirm nor deny" statement regarding Joel's death:
"But I question your premise, because everyone presumes that we’re gonna do things and they shouldn’t. So, this is a ‘I can neither confirm nor deny anything that you’re saying,’ because the articles that will be written should the headline should be: ‘Showrunner can neither confirm nor deny.’”
How Will The Last of Us Season 2 Adapt Joel’s Death?
The Last of Us showrunner Craig Mazin's comment about Season 2's adaptation of Joel's death is promising considering that the creative crew has a solid plan in mind for the execution of the unfortunate sequence.
It's possible that showcasing Joel's death in Season 2 will follow how Season 1 managed to strike the balance between unveiling game-accurate moments while also including its own takes on specific plot points from the game.
Given that Mazin is understandably tight-lipped about Joel's fate, it remains to be seen how the character's tragic demise will be revealed in Season 2.
In The Last of Us Part II, Joel's death was an early moment in the game, and it's possible that the same could be true for The Last of Us Season 2.
Doing this would prove Bella Ramsey's earlier tease about Pedro Pascal's reduced role in Season 2 while also staying true to the source material.
The Last of Us Season 1 is streaming on Max.