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Who Is Kathleen in The Last of Us? How Hunters Differ in Video Game

So far this season on The Last of Us—Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann’s adaptation of the 2013 video game also written by Druckmann—fidelity to source material has been near absolute. With dialogue lifted from the game’s screenplay and sequences filmed and edited to match several cutscenes, The Last of Us may be the most narratively and aesthetically faithful video game adaptation in some time. Maybe ever. (Ignoring Halo’s attempts at recreating fist-person shooting gameplay.) Deviations thus far this season have mostly included rounding out peripheral characters from the game—with Episode 3 unspooling the tale of Bill and Frank, two characters who appear only momentarily during events of the video game.

In Episode 4, the co-writers introduce the first substantial addition to source material in the character of Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), the leader of a rebel-like military force. Mazin and Druckmann spoke about the decision this week on The Last of Us Podcast, with Druckmann explaining what Kathleen’s character allows the series to now accomplish: “The show affords us the ability to leave Joel and Ellie and flesh out other characters in different ways. The best thing I think you can do in The Last of Us is flesh out your antagonist to show that there’s a motivation behind what they are doing.”

That antagonist—Kathleen—is a significant addition to the world of the series, if only because it introduces a kind a villainy the game never explores. Mazin compared Kathleen to Madame Defarge in A Tale Of Two Cities, highlighting the writerly decision for some moral ambiguity. (Defarge is both a revolutionary and antagonist in Dickens’ novel.) Druckmann on this type of character: “They don’t see themselves as villains or the bad guys. We are just at odds with each other because our goals somehow overlap what we want which are different things.” But unlike the Bill and Frank storyline, this departure from the game seems less successful.


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