How The Last of Us rebuilt abandoned Calgary mall for latest episode

The team built 20-25 stores to turn the dilapidated Canadian mall into an American one

The Last of Us Ellie in mall

The latest episode of The Last of Us, February 26th’s “Left Behind,” was all about Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) time before meeting Joel (Pedro Pascal).

In particular, the bulk of this episode shows Ellie with her best friend, Riley (Storm Reid), as they have a charming romp through an abandoned shopping mall. Fans of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us PlayStation game will recognize this story from the downloadable expansion, Left Behind. Now, we’ve learned a bit more about how that setting came together in the show.

Speaking to Variety, John Paino, production designer on the acclaimed HBO series, explained how the crew found a real abandoned mall in Calgary to use for the episode. While Paino didn’t mention a specific name, Calgarians have identified it as Northland Village Mall, which closed in 2021 to be turned into an “open-air shopping centre.”

As Paino notes, the mall had been “completely stripped” and didn’t have a usable second floor. However, those who have watched the episode will know that a two-story setup was key thanks to a cute scene involving an escalator. Therefore, the rooftops were created using CGI.

Meanwhile, Paino’s team built 20-25 stores to turn the dilapidated Canadian mall into an American one. That said, some of the fast-food joints got to play themselves, such as A&W.

Elsewhere, Paino says the merry-go-round featured in a key scene had to be brought into the mall just for the shoot. “It actually used to be in that mall, but when it went out of business, another mall took it, so we made a deal to rent it,” he said.TLOU merry go roundFinally, there’s the arcade. As Paino points out, the name and font of this spot (“Raja’s Arcade”) were taken straight from the game. This is a fun reference to a hot-headed character named Eddy Raja from another beloved Naughty Dog series, Uncharted.

Beyond that, though, the production team assembled a lineup of real arcade cabinets, including those for FroggerTetris and, most prominently, Mortal Kombat. Interestingly, though, Paino says they actually built LED displays for each game because their original cathode-ray tube (CRT) retro screens came out blurry on their modern cameras.

Naturally, seeing the old Calgary mall has brought out some fun reactions from viewers:

After ‘Left Behind,’ only two episodes of The Last of Us remain. However, the series has already been renewed for Season 2, which doesn’t yet have a premiere window.

For more on The Last of Us, check out what Paino had to say about transforming CanmorePascal and Ramsey’s favourite place in Alberta — into Jackson, Wyoming for the show. Earlier this year, Paino also revealed how “shocked” he was to see how clean Alberta ended up being.

Image credit: HBO

Source: Variety