Is Kathleen in ‘The Last of Us’ games?

Melanie Lynskey as Kathleen in 'The Last of Us'
Image via HBO

Warning: The following article contains spoilers for both The Last of Us Part 1 video game and episode four of the HBO series, “Please Hold My Hand.”

HBO’s adaptation of the Naughty Dog series of video games, The Last of Us, is and should be applauded for sticking with the source material, especially in regard to locations, storylines, and even just the general vibes. Just because it is faithful to the games does not mean that the show has not taken creative liberties with some of the story, adding in characters and plotlines to fill out the world we fell in love with.

So far, most of the episodes have diverted in some way or another, changing a storyline, or adding in a flashback. Episode four seemed to have the largest diversion so far and introduced multiple characters who had not been in the series as of yet, like Henry and Sam. It also introduced a woman named Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), and you might be wondering what her role was in the games. So let’s take a look at episode four and the story of the games to see where Kathleen fits into it all. 

Is she part of games?

Melanie Lynskey as Kathleen in 'The Last of Us'
Image via HBO

Kathleen’s role is non-existent in the games because her character was solely created for the HBO series. In both the games and the series, as they arrive in the city, they get attacked by bandits, even though it is Pittsburgh in the games and Kansas City in the show. In the game, they are just nameless bandits, whereas in the show it is made much clearer that they took over Kansas City from FEDRA and are being led by Kathleen.

Neil Druckmann spoke about the choice to add Kathleen to the show during the fourth episode of the companion podcast, HBO’s The Last of Us Podcast. He explained that while the games were solely focused on our protagonists, Joel and Ellie, the series could explore more of the world and the antagonists within it. Therefore, instead of having nameless bandits be responsible for rerouting Joel and Ellie, it was Kathleen’s group. 

Kathleen seemed to be hunting Henry, one of the characters who is introduced at the end of this episode. It is unclear why she is targeting him. However, in the game, everyone in Pittsburgh was being tracked down. We could find that Henry and Sam’s stories are more complex and have a history with Kathleen. This proves Druckmann’s point; in the game Joel and Ellie are just making their way through bandit after bandit, whereas in the show, we already have a short backstory for who these characters are.

Although, this does not mean that we have not had camps led by humans in the games before; after all, Joel is delivering Ellie to the Fireflies. There are even more human factions you run into in The Last of Us Part 2, like the Washington Liberation Front and the Seraphites. While Kathleen is not a copy of any of these faction leaders, you can certainly see elements of her character in those other leaders, but it is clear that she is not allied with FEDRA. That being said, it will be interesting to see just how large of a role she plays in the story to come.

There is a concern that adding in Kathleen and her faction could detract from Joel and Ellie’s story or that of Henry and Sam. Druckman and the creative team have been expertly weaving in material fans will recognize from the games with new elements and storylines, like when they changed Bill’s story for the third episode. Fans might have to give Druckmann and Craig Maizin the benefit of the doubt on this one, as they have not dropped the ball so far.

Although Kathleen is not a character in the game, she already fits into the world quite well. Let’s see how long she manages to last. With bloaters in town, nobody in Kansas City is safe. You can catch The Last of Us as it airs on Sunday nights on HBO Max, except for episode five, which will release on Friday.