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Murray Bartlett and Pedro Pascal team up for HBO’s super gay video game adaptation ‘The Last Of Us’

(left to right) Storm Reid, Pedro Pascal, Murray Bartlett in ‘The Last of Us’ | Image Credits: HBO

These days, few networks are creating series that inspire weekly water-cooler chat quite like HBO. Need evidence? Look no further than your Twitter feed every Sunday night through Monday afternoon, and it’s sure to be filled with theories about The White Lotus: Sicily—or reactions to its latest nude scene!

With our check-out date at The White Lotus rapidly approaching, it should come as no surprise that the premium cable channel is gearing up to launch its next event series that everyone’s going to be talking about. It’s called The Last Of Us and, if you don’t know anything bout it yet, you will very, very soon.

*Caution: If you want to go into The Last Of Us cold, we’re about to get into some character/story details from the video games it’s based on.*

Adapted from the massively popular Playstation video game series of the same name, The Last Of Us is set in a post-apocalyptic America, one ravaged by a deadly fungal disease that gradually turns people into horrifying, aggressive creatures. Dubbed “The Infected,” they’re like zombies except much more… mushroom-like?

Society has basically collapsed, but many survivors have taken up residence in strictly run quarantine zones. One such survivor is Joel (The Mandalorian‘s Pedro Pascal) who works as smuggler in a Boston-area zone, and finds himself recruited to transport a very different kind of cargo: A young girl named Ellie (Catherine Called Birdy’s Bella Ramsey).

It turns out, Ellie was previously attacked by one of The Infected, but has shown no symptoms, leading a rebel militia group to believe she may hold the key to immunity. Together, Joel and Ellie set out on a perilous, cross-country journey, where they’ll encounter shaky allies, frightening foes, and some gnarly looking monsters—all in the hope that they can save the future of humanity.

Over the weekend, HBO shared the first full trailer for The Last Of Us, which you can watch below to get a better idea of the series’ epic scope:

So, how gay is The Last Of Us?

You might not expect it from reading the above, but the answer is: Pretty gay!

Created by popular game development company, Naughty Dog, The Last of Us, its follow-up downloadable content, and its 2020 sequel game have created a lot of space for LGBTQ characters and stories in its post-apocalyptic world.

For one, our protagonist—and the key to humanity’s survival—Ellie is queer, and the budding exploration of her sexuality is expected to play a significant role in the series. The expansion pack game, The Last Of Us: Left Behind, serves as a prequel adventure to the main series, and it delves into Ellie’s complicated relationship with a childhood friend named Riley. Euphoria actress Storm Reid was announced to star as Riley—and can be seen briefly in the trailer—so we imagine their story may be told through flashbacks.

We also know the HBO series will also prominently feature Bill and Frank, a gay couple played by Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett, respectively. Bill is a smuggler who has worked with Joel in the past, and the two have been living a survivalist lifestyle on their own in a Boston suburb. The men offer a crucial travel aide to our heroes, which could help their journey west to Salt Lake City go much quicker.

 

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And, no, of course we’re not just going to breeze by the name Murray Bartlett! The out, gay actor has been a Queerty favorite ever since he tried to get that Peri-Peri chicken place off the ground in the sorely missed gay dramedy, Looking, and we’re thrilled to see his incredible year continue. After his unforgettable work in the first season of The White Lotus—which won him an Emmy—Bartlett’s been on a roll, seen in the second season of AppleTV+’s dark aerobics dramedy, Physical, as well as Hulu’s current can’t-miss true-crime series, Welcome To Chippendales. Seeing him among the cast of another buzzy HBO show just makes sense with our fantasy.

Related: Murray Bartlett’s short shorts, a killer cast, and more reasons to watch ‘Welcome To Chippendales’

Elsewhere in the ensemble is beloved character actor Melanie Lynskey (Yellowjackets), the handsome Gabriel Luna (Terminator: Dark Fate), Broadway royalty Merle Dandridge (Once On This IslandSpamalotRent), and the great Rutina Wesley (True Blood), among others.

And we’d be remiss if we didn’t circle back to Pedro Pascal, who is both an absolute hunk and total ally. The actor’s always been a very vocal supporter of the LGBTQ community, and has shown up in a big way for his trans sister, Lux Pascal. In a ’21 interview, Lux said of her brother: “He is also an artist and has been a guide. He was one of the first to give me the things that formed my identity.” You simply love to see it!

 

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Related: Pedro Pascal has our “corazón” with his love for his trans sister

Long story short, there’s quite a bit to get excited about in The Last of Us, and there could be even more to come! Assuming the first season spans the story of the first video game (and its expansion packs), a yet-to-be-announced second season could delve into Part II, which features plenty more intriguing characters, including Lev—considered (one of) the first trans male characters every included in a major video game.

Unsurprisingly, conservative gamers have long decried the series for being too “woke,” but the gays are excited to see this inclusive, thrilling story make its way to our TV screens. Here are just a few fan reactions to what we’ve seen so far:

The Last Of Us premieres January 15, 2023 on HBO, and streams exclusively on HBO Max.

Related: Despite years-long troll campaign, LGBTQ developers keep creating super-queer video game