Editorial: Will The Last of Us 2 Show Be Canceled?

Even though it is speculative on my part, at this juncture, I believe fierce discussions and contract negotiations are going on between Sony and Warner Media over the future of The Last of Us’ television show. It has become apparent over the prior weeks the IP’s future had more significance for Sony than many previously envisioned.

This is again speculative on my part, but the intended plan was likely to have The Last of Us 2 generate massive fanfare and hype that could be translated into viewers for the show. The show people would have to subscribe to HBO Max to watch. As the show airs, it would retain audience interest in the IP in-between titles, or it would directly lead or tie into each installment of the series.

During the self-feeding system, books, comics, and toys would be leveraged by both Sony and Warner Media. A plan similar to this is likely what has driven Sony’s frantic obsession with managing the image of their game and for it to be a success. Unfortunately for Sony, neither has turned out very favorably.

Sony indeed succeeded in gaining over 4 million sales within the first week of the game’s launch. There is no denying such a strong launch week. Then came the second week with an 80% decline in sales and the game dropping to fourth in Japan. Compounding the sales issue is the virtual lack of any form of hype outside the legacy media and “journalists” for the property.

This is the same establishment media that spent weeks lambasting the decision to complete the Snyder Cut of the Justice League. A decision they called “dangerous”, “racist” and without a doubt normalized sexism and discrimination against women.

Not exactly the types of outlets that Warner Media are going to be taking seriously when considering the viability of the franchise.

Despite a March announcement, the show itself has yet to enter production.

On his podcast show director Craig Mazin had the following to say:

Craig: Walking down the aisle of HBO. So it was going to be a movie for a long time, so Neil was working on it as a movie for one of Sony’s divisions. And, you know, my feeling was you can’t make a movie out of this thing. It has to be a show. It needs length. It is about the development of a relationship over the course of a long journey and so it has to be a television show and that’s that. And that’s the way I see it. And happily Neil agreed and HBO is delighted and so here we are.

So, we can’t start on it right away because they’re still finishing up the second game. But pretty soon we’re going to get, I mean, we’ve been talking about it for months and coming up with little plans and things. But we’re going to dig in in full, full earnest pretty soon, just as soon as they kind of wrap up their final work-work on the sequel. And so hopefully more exciting news to come on that front, because it’s something we’re both motivated to see on TV.

John: Great. So, distant time horizon for it. But I actually like having things that are going to be great and in the future because it gives me hope on those dark days when things look kind of grim. I know that there will be a Last of Us TV show at some point. I know Beyoncé is going to drop a new album for us at some point. So, the things that I don’t have in front of me but I can look forward to sometimes is all I need to get through the day.

 

Production not starting until post-release of the game likely entails the contract for the show is heavily reliant on the success of the game. Sony’s problem is unlike other companies; AT&T and their subsidiaries do take note of the current climate in fandom and see what various YouTube channels have to say about their properties and ongoing plans.

Clownfish TV, on numerous occasions, has confirmed this. Proving that is not merely their assumption, HBO has, on two occasions, sent them a goody box citing their awareness of their coverage as their motivation. What is most damning about this for Sony, is their DMCA spree is going to come and haunt them.

HBO, without a doubt, is aware of the sentiment towards Sony, Neil Druckmann, and Naughty Dog following the suspension of Twitter accounts, having memes taken down, and filing false claims against channels for just talking about their behavior. They’re aware of how Sony intentionally prevented reviewers from discussing critical points in the game and are aware of how they contacted reviewers over negative or mixed reviews for the game.

They know all this because they watch what the various geek culture channels have to say about the incidents. Without a doubt, they are aware of the palpable ire directed at Sony over these incidents.

As we examine this issue, there is one thing essential to remember. AT&T, the owner of Warner Media, is fighting for its existence as a result of a 150 billion-plus dollar debt load. Not only are they strapped for cash, their latest investor, Elliot Management, wants the company to sell off non-essential businesses. That includes, but is not limited to, Direct TV and Warner Media, who owns and operates HBO.

Owing to their awareness of everything that has and is transpiring, they are going to be well aware the show will receive little positive coverage from YouTube. Nor will even the inclusion of Joel garner much excitement following his tragic golfing accident. In fact, it would be in the cash strapped company’s best interest to avoid the PR nightmare the show will bring for them and halt production.

Concern regarding the future of the show is likely what is driving the incessant references from Troy Baker and Neil Druckmann. During their typical tirade of how fans are racist, basement-dwelling sexist man-children.

What is curious about these mentions is both these people would be well aware the show has not progressed beyond the initial green light. There is no ordered episode count, nor prepared script or casting preferences. As nothing outside, spitballing ideas has been done for the show. Effectively meaning they are talking about a show that doesn’t exist and that is coming from the show’s director.

Does all this mean the show will be canceled? That’s difficult to say. Thus far, a pilot has been discussed, but its future was to be determined by the success of the game. Warner Media may decide to give the show a chance despite the complete alienation of its market base. A market base they have carefully attempted to cultivate for HBO Max by pushing anime and new seasons of popular cartoons on the platform. It does sound insane, but stupider business decisions have been made. See literally everything Disney has done with Star Wars and everything that has been done by CBS to Star Trek.

In both instances, viewers weren’t happy. Toy manufacturers were displeased with sales that they began dropping the franchises, but both continue to see their production companies double down on the same poor decisions ruining the franchises.

What truly drives the possibility the show is canceled is ironically Neil Druckman’s behavior. He is utilizing the same alienation tactics that destroyed the Star Wars fanbase, that destroyed the Star Trek fanbase, and caused several movies to join the Master List. Producing a show in a franchise currently utilizing these tactics is akin to signaling to the general audience their platform endorses this, and the average consumer is not welcomed on HBO Max unless they start adopting the correct opinions.

That beyond the DMCA abuse, the failing sales, and the complete loss of interest in the franchise by its fanbase, could drive HBO to cancel the show.