The Last of Us season 2: what we know about the hit Max show's return

 Joel and Ellie stand on a roof top in The Last of Us season 1, which precedes The Last of Us season 2.
Joel and Ellie stand on a roof top in The Last of Us season 1, which precedes The Last of Us season 2.

The Last of Us season 2: key information

- No release date revealed
- Not expected to arrive until 2025 at the earliest
- Filming set to begin in February
- Key cast members set to return
- Batch of new cast announcements made in January
- Story from second video game will be spread across two seasons
- Will contain plot points not seen in the games
- Season 3 hasn't been greenlit yet

At last, work on The Last of Us season 2 is about to begin. The wildly successful HBO TV show will start filming very soon, which means the countdown to its arrival will be on shortly.

Of course, it'll be a long time before we see The Last of Us return to our screens. The post-apocalyptic series won't make its return to Max in the US (Sky Atlantic in the UK and Binge in Australia) until 2025, so you should settle in for a lengthy wait.

In the meantime, there's plenty of reading up to do on The Last of Us' second season. In this guide, you'll find more information on one of the best Max shows' next installments, including its cast list, plot speculation, the series' future, and more. Don't forget to read our review of The Last of Us season 1, either, if you're found this page and are sitting on the fence about watching it.

Major spoilers follow for The Last of Us season 1 and Naughty Dog's video games of the same name. Potential spoilers for season 2 are also discussed.

The Last of Us season 2 release date: what we know

The Last of Us season 2 doesn't have a release date, but filming is set to start very soon. As reported by Variety, co-showrunner Craig Mazin confirmed principal photography will begin on February 12.

Unsurprisingly, we shouldn't expect The Last of Us season 2 to arrive this year. It'll require a lengthy shoot and that's before its considerable post-production phase begins. We think, then, it'll be 2025 before its first episode airs, which was  hinted at by HBO drama chief Francesca Orsi in a 2023 chat with Deadline.

The Last of Us season 2 confirmed cast

A seated Tommy smiles in The Last of Us TV show
A seated Tommy smiles in The Last of Us TV show

Here's the official cast for The Last of Us season 2 so far, including a number of new hires who'll play major characters from Naughty Dog's The Last of Us Part II:

  • Pedro Pascal as Joel

  • Bella Ramsey as Ellie

  • Gabriel Luna as Tommy

  • Kaitlyn Dever as Abby

  • Young Mazino as Jesse

  • Isabela Merced as Dina

As we reported in mid-January, The Last of Us season 2's executive team cast No One Will Save You's Kaitlyn Dever as Abby, the second game's deuteragonist. Dever is joined in on the newcomers roster by Beef star Young Mazino, who will play one of Ellie's friends Jesse and Madame Web's Isabela Merced, who will portray another of Ellie's companions and girlfriend in Dina.

According to industry insider DanielRPK (thanks to Reddit for the catch), Catherine O'Hara (Home Alone, Schitt's Creek) has been tapped to play a brand-new character called Gail, too. Unlike Dever, Mazino, and Merced, though, no confirmation has come from HBO's official social media channels, so take this with a pinch of salt for now.

There are plenty of other important supporting characters in The Last of Us Part II who could feature in the TV adaptation's second season, including Lev, Yara, and Manny. Hopefully, we'll learn who has been cast as these individuals once filming gets underway.

The Last of Us season 2 plot speculation

Joel shines a flashlight in a dark room in The Last of Us season 1
Joel shines a flashlight in a dark room in The Last of Us season 1

Major spoilers follow for The Last of Us season 1 and The Last of Us Part II.

Story details are thin on the ground but, based on The Last of Us Part II, plus what went down in the season 1 finale, we've got a good idea of what'll happen. We'll refrain from giving away any massive spoilers from the second game – we're not that heartless – but there are some spoiler-less aspects we can discuss.

Firstly, The Last of Us Part II is set five years after the first game, so expect to see an aged-up Ellie and a more gruff Joel. Additionally, the duo have moved back to the Wyoming camp to be with Joel’s brother Tommy.

However, things won't remain rosy for long. As you'll remember from season 1's final episode, Joel decided not to tell Ellie what actually happened at the Fireflies camp – i.e. that they were going to kill her in order to develop a cure for the Cordyceps infection. Ellie is completely immune to the disease, hence why the Fireflies were so keen to get their hands on her.

Of course, when Joel finds out about their real plan, he massacres them to safe Ellie. It's an understandable decision, particularly in light of what happened to his own daughter Sarah in the season 1 premiere (and the game it's based on). Still, he's seemingly consigned humanity to continue its fight against the infection with his selfish actions, and the guilt he'll have felt over the five years since will be eating him up inside when we're reunited with him and Ellie. Well, until he finally comes clean, which won't end well.

Joel carries a drowsy Ellie in The Last of Us season 1 finale
Joel carries a drowsy Ellie in The Last of Us season 1 finale

Elsewhere, there are new intruders looking to avenge deaths from season 1, and one specific event will culminate in a catastrophic and shocking death (if you know, you know). Other remaining characters will have to forge new alliances, there’s a new religious cult on the scene – the Seraphites – for Ellie and company to deal with, a new ex-Fireflies militia force called the Washington Liberation Front, and another terrifying group who enslave people called the Rattlers. All in all, our heroes are in for a stressful, violent, and emotional sequel season.

"It’s darker," Ramsey told Vanity Fair in June 2023. "It’s really a story about revenge, and a continuation from the first season about the dangers of unconditional love."

If it sounds like The Last of Us season 2 will ignore its Infected in favor of human-on-human action, don't fret. Critics said the TV adaptation had a zombie problem (something we said was missing the point of the story it was trying to tell) but its creators have heard the negativity loud and clear. Speaking to Variety last March, Mazin and Druckmann said of the Infected – whose design was inspired by bean sprouts, according to the show's VFX animation supervisor – confirmed there'll be a greater variety of flesh-hungry monsters for the gang to deal with.

A clicker scans the room for any human hosts in The Last of Us TV show
A clicker scans the room for any human hosts in The Last of Us TV show

In much the same way as The Last of Us season 1 expanded on the franchise's universe and wider set of characters, its follow-up will do likewise. Previously, Druckmann told TechRadar that "we couldn't have told this story in the game", the TV adaptation's timeline change was made to "help make the story more real", and the show's third episode allowed it to "go in a different direction" to what plays out in the games.

So there's a precedent for Naughty Dog, HBO, and Sony Pictures Television (the show's three production companies) to make changes where necessary. Chatting to Deadline, Druckmann said the show's executive team is playing around with how much might change in the TV adaptation's next entry. "The moment-to-moment beats and characters, they might stay the same, they might change," he teased. "We will do what needs to happen to that story as it transfers from one medium to another."

Adding to Druckmann's comments, Mazin also suggested we won't see every storyline from The Last of Us Part II in the show's second season, but we'll discuss that in more detail in our future seasons section later. Finally, in November 2023, Druckmann confirmed season 2 will contain brand-new material not seen in the games, too, so there'll be some new content for long time fans to immerse themselves in.

The Last of Us season 2 trailer: is there one?

Ellie and Riley explore an abandoned arcade in The Last of Us season 1
Ellie and Riley explore an abandoned arcade in The Last of Us season 1

Nope. We don't think we'll see any footage until the end of 2024, but we'll update this section once a trailer arrives.

Will The Last of Us season 2 be the final installment?

Despite there only being two video games (there are rumors a third game is in early development, though) the series could potentially run for three seasons, says Orsi. As HBO's Francesca Orsi told Deadline (see the article linked in our release date section): "I think Craig and Neil are still figuring out where they’re going to come to an end.  We have loosely heard that there will be a season 3 idea, but at this point, we’re taking it one season at a time. There’s no guarantee at this point that we’ll have a season 3, but I know that they both have a vision for season 3. Whether that lends itself to doing more [seasons], I don’t know yet."

Happily, Mazin has confirmed plans for season 3 in a separate Deadline interview, saying: "It [the second game] is going to be more than one season. There’s more story, so this show will not end with season 2 unless people don’t watch it and we’ll get cancelled". And there’s pretty much no chance of that happening.

For more Max-based coverage, read our guides on House of the Dragon season 2, the best Max movies, all of the new new Max movies, and the best Max documentaries to stream today.