Now that the entire season is out, are there any parts of the game that nearly made it into the show but didn’t make the cut to fit? Or, Neil, is there any part of the game that you fought for that you decided to not adapt?
Mazin: I know there are sequences that people were very excited to see that weren’t in the show. One that would come up a lot was the hotel basement.
The scariest part of the game!
Mazin: That is a terrifying sequence. But it’s harder to pull off solo sequences like that, where it’s one character alone and it’s just about action and atmosphere. What we find in the passive medium is that those action sequences are best appreciated by us watching through the reactions and interactions of the characters. So the episode Neil directed, where Tess, Joel and Ellie are in the museum and the clickers come. So much of that is about them looking at each other. And that is where the character magic happens.
Druckmann: One of my favorite sequences in the game is when Joel falls on the rebar. And you’re playing as Joel and Ellie’s leading you and protecting you. If we’d done that the same exact way, the show would have suffered. Joel falling on the rebar is less realistic for the show we we’re building. So for everything we’ve set up until that point, we’re giving up some reality. Ellie having to lead you and kill a bunch of people takes away from her killing David and James [in Episode 8]. The question is always “What’s the least we need to do to tell this version of the story?”
In the finale, we were struck by how Joel’s rampage felt so much more accentuated than it does in the game, because of how much less conflict is peppered throughout the episodes. It felt like Joel almost turns into John Wick for a moment. Was this intentional?
Druckmann: We had a lot of conversations. That, in withholding a certain amount of violence, we’re going to really accentuate when it comes through. When Ellie shoots and kills someone, or injures them so badly and Joel has to kill them, it has a lot more impact. When it’s time for Joel to rise to the occasion and show us what he’s made of, to save Ellie, we don’t shy away from it. We show it in all its awfulness and awesomeness.
Mazin: You mention John Wick and that’s an interesting point because John Wick does live in a slightly heightened world. With this, we’re trying to be a bit more grounded. But when we get to the very end, we do give him his John Wick moment. The one thing that gives him the god mode power-up to not get shot and to shoot everybody else is saving Ellie. Because that’s where we want to see overpowered Joel and we understand that he’s fueled by this love that is beautiful and dark at the same time.