Pedro Pascal is officially cast as Joel in HBO’s The Last of Us TV series, and the actor’s run of playing various shades of dad continues. Released for the PlayStation 3 in 2013, The Last of Us has been widely hailed as one of the best examples of video game storytelling ever to hit the home console. Set several decades into a zombie apocalypse-style scenario, Joel is a survivor charged with transporting a young girl called Ellie, who’ll be played by Pascal’s fellow Game of Thrones alum, Bella Ramsey.
Ellie is said to be of great importance to humanity’s battle against the infection, but through all the surprise twists, enthralling gameplay and intense action, the crux of The Last of Us is the developing father-daughter bond between Joel and Ellie as they battle through the deadly wilderness.
Given the natural cinematic qualities that made The Last of Us famous, it was inevitable that a TV series or movie adaptation would arrive sooner or later. Although a film directed by Sam Raimi was at one point planned by Sony, the project fell through, and in early 2020, HBO was revealed to be bringing The Last of Us to the small screen instead.
The casting of Pascal and Ramsey has drawn widespread praise online, but the amusing trend emerging in Pascal’s career can’t be ignored.
After making his mainstream breakthrough as Oberyn Martell in Game of Thrones, Pedro Pascal’s next major role was as the bounty hunter Din Djarin in The Mandalorian. As everyone now knows, the core story of the acclaimed Disney+ Star Wars TV show is Djarin finding a young Jedi refugee called Grogu or, as some know him, Baby Yoda.
This pair tear up the galaxy together, with Djarin going all-out to protect his little green friend and becoming increasingly parental. Towards the end of 2020, Pascal starred in two major movie releases – Wonder Woman 1984 and Netflix’s We Can Be Heroes.
In the DC effort, Pascal was Maxwell Lord, an absentee father who wanted to control the world, but ultimately realized his son was more important. In We Can Be Heroes, the actor played a retired hero whose daughter leads a new generation of young super-powered saviors.
That trio of roles has Pedro Pascal playing three different types of father figure. In The Mandalorian, he’s the anti-hero badass dad, simultaneously blowing up enemy ships and wiping puke off Baby Yoda’s mouth.
Wonder Woman 1984 takes Pascal into villainous territory. Maxwell Lord is simply awful until his redemption and promise to be a better father in the final act. Meanwhile, We Can Be Heroes places Pascal’s Marcus Moreno firmly into heroic territory.
The Last of Us adds a fourth entry to Pedro Pascal’s ever-increasing list of roles that revolve around the theme fatherhood. The loss of Joel’s biological daughter at the start of the outbreak leads to his becoming a surrogate father for Ellie, and the HBO TV series will live or die on the strength of their on-screen dynamic, as well as how Pascal’s character gradually softens towards his young companion.
Although it’s certainly fun to see Pedro Pascal become Hollywood’s archetypal single dad of the 2020s, the trend is in no way a criticism of the actor’s range or ability. In fact, it’s testament to Pascal’s versatility that through each of his fatherly performances, he’s portrayed parenthood in wildly different ways, from the desperate and failing Maxwell Lord, to the subdued but meaningful connection between Din Djarin and Grogu, via the uber-heroic super dad of Marcus Moreno.
Playing Joel adds a completely new color to that parental palette, with The Last of Us’ protagonist a reluctant caretaker who transforms into a genuine father figure. If HBO’s Joel and Ellie show even half of the chemistry Pedro Pascal has with a bright green puppet, The Last of Us could be one of the best video game adaptations yet.