Who are The Last of Us characters? The horror series based on classic video game The Last of Us has now aired its first season, and we’re still reeling from the gore, the grief, and the drama.
When it was released in 2013, the original horror game was immediately lauded as one of the very best narratives that the interactive medium of videogames has ever produced. It’s clear to see why, too: the traipse across post-apocalyptic America proved just how powerful games can be, and with such dense characters across Ellie and Joel’s journey, the story adapted perfectly as an HBO drama series. Plus, with the likes of Gran Turismo, Horizon and God of War getting video game movie and TV series too, there’s every chance that The Last of Us will now lead the charge on a new era of adaptations.
So, we should probably get better acquainted with the protagonists, their enemies, and their allies. Here’s everything you need to know about the goodies and baddies of The Last of Us characters ahead of The Last of Us season 2 release date.
Leading the charge on the thriller series is Joel, brought to life by The Mandalorian himself and all-around hunk Pedro Pascal. We meet Joel in the game as the world spirals into disarray, making an attempt to escape the chaos of the ensuing panic with his daughter Sarah, and his brother Tommy. Suffering at the hands of the unforgiving military, in their attempt to flee, Sarah is shot, and she dies in Joel’s arms.
Understandably, as the story picks up 20 years later, we meet him hardened and grizzled, never truly able to recover. With his friend Tess, he works as a smuggler in Boston until Marlene tasks him to help guide Ellie across the country to Utah, and the Fireflies. He’s a bit moody, and he’s been forced to look out for himself first and foremost. The outbreak forces him to retreat inwards, and though he’s a tough cookie, he has a heart of gold, that seemingly only Ellie can find.
Ellie is the driving force of The Last of Us, and for good reason, she’s regarded as one of the very best characters in video game history. Coming to live action in the form of Bella Ramsey, Ellie is discovered to be immune to a bite from an infected, giving those who know the secret hope that there could be a chance for a vaccine to be made and bring an end to the infection for good.
She is an orphan when we meet her, and she is one of the few characters in the game who has never known a life before the infection.She’s sarcastic and snarky, but she can clearly hold her own against the infected and is incredibly resourceful. She’s not particularly keen on Joel’s secrecy and attitude to begin with, but their relationship blossoms over their post-apocalyptic road trip.
Tommy, played in the series by Gabriel Luna, is Joel’s brother who helped him to flee from the chaos of the opening of the game, and helped him to survive after the loss of Sarah. He is very similar to Joel in many ways, but he has a gentle compassion that Joel doesn’t, and it’s his morals that lead the pair to go their separate ways in the years before we meet Joel again.
Tommy leaves Joel to join The Fireflies, the militia groups that intends to reclaim the country’s quarantine zone and establish a new government. Once he becomes disillusioned with them too, he builds his own settlement with his wife Maria, where Joel and Ellie will eventually arrive on their cross-country trek, reuniting the two brothers.
Joel tries to convince Tommy to take Ellie off of her hands, and though he’s reluctant at first, he eventually offers to take her to the Fireflies himself – before Joel changes his mind and continues with Ellie.
Marlene is the leader of The Fireflies, and the person who tasks Joel with taking Ellie across the country in hopes of developing a vaccine with Fireflies stationed at a hospital in Salt Lake City. She was tasked by Ellie’s mother to take care of her in Boston, to which she agrees, but the discovery of Ellie’s immunity to the infection leads her to offer Joel and Tess the return of merchandise stolen from them in exchange for the transport of Ellie to the hospital.
She is a capable leader and incredibly strong-willed, though her experiences during the infection has left her morals a little askew. Fundamentally, though, she is implied to be a good person who will stop at nothing to ensure the greater good for mankind in the face of the infection’s takeover. She was played in the series by Merle Dandridge, who also voiced her in the game.
Lincoln native Bill is a business partner of Tess and Bill’s, who we meet during Joel and Ellie’s journey as a paranoid man without trust. Joel goes to him in hopes that he’ll repay a debt to him and supply him with a working car, but he’s not exactly riveted by the idea to begin with. He’s a little squirrely, but he’s important to the framework of The Last of Us, as he serves to reflect Joel’s concerns about taking Ellie across the country.
He’s a relatively minor character in the games, but he played a much bigger role in the series (Bill and Frank were the best thing in it) with Nick Offerman in the role (yes, comedy series legend Nick Offerman).
Riley, who we only see in the games in the DLC prequel Left Behind, is Ellie’s closest friend and first love interest in The Last of Us. The pair met at the same FEDRA military boarding school that Ellie was sent to when she turned thirteen, and in Left Behind, Riley returns to the school to find her, and she takes Ellie to an abandoned shopping mall, a place they once hung out.
To a certain degree, Riley and Ellie, during their time together, rely on each other to survive both boarding school life and the ensuing apocalypse, and her voice actress Yaani King felt that Riley served as something of a mentor to her friend. Storm Reid took on her role in the series.
Those are the characters of The Last of Us. If you want to know more about the horror series, then check out our guide to The Last of Us cast and learn how to watch The Last of Us. We’ve also got an article explaining what the infected and Clickers in The Last of us are exactly.