The Last Of Us Episode One Recap: Taking A Ride

Pedro Pascal's Joel stands protectively in front of Bella Ramsey's Ellie in a promotional photo for HBO's The Last of Us.

“I’m taking a trip with my greatest buddy.”

—Depeche Mode, “By no means Let Me Down Once more”

The primary episode of HBO’s The Final of Us is lastly right here, and never not like the early hours of the sport it’s based mostly on, this part largely serves as table-setting and prelude for the true coronary heart of the story: Joel and Ellie’s lengthy journey collectively. Nonetheless, that is tv, and there are some minor but significant deviations from the sport that shed mild on how the individuals main this adaptation—the sport’s inventive director Neil Druckmann and Chernobyl showrunner Craig Mazin—approached the duty of adapting the story to a brand new medium.

If this recap appears on the lengthy aspect, do observe that this primary episode, titled “When You’re Misplaced Within the Darkness,” runs about 80 minutes. That offers us extra floor to cowl than a typical recap will, and this opening part is especially filled with minor however fascinating variations from the sport that I wish to contact on. (I’m replaying the sport alongside my watch of the collection to assist refresh my reminiscence, and observe spots of notably fascinating distinction and departure.) Additionally, that is an episode recap, so this could go with out saying however simply in case: spoilers forward for the primary episode of The Final of Us.

Whereas the sport begins by thrusting us proper into the heartbreaking chaos of Outbreak Day, right here we start with a chat present phase from 1968. In some methods, this scene strikes me as designed to unnerve the up to date viewer, dwelling in a world wracked by covid. A scientist speaks about how, due to air journey, viruses can unfold across the globe with unprecedented pace and, as if to drive dwelling the relevance to us, he locations particular emphasis on the phrase “pandemic.” “‘Pan,’ that means all, the entire world turns into sick ,” he says.


Two scientists face a talk show host in an early scene from HBO's The Last of Us.

However viruses are outdated hat. The present’s host turns to a different scientist, Dr. Newman (performed by John Hannah of the Mummy movies), who appears unperturbed by the concept of a viral pandemic. No, it’s the specter of a fungal illness ravaging humankind that retains him up at evening. When he offers voice to this concept, the viewers snickers, however they’re not laughing for lengthy. “Viruses could make us ailing, however fungi can alter our very minds,” he says ominously, earlier than describing in horrifying element the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis infection in ants.


The other scientist, Dr. Schoenheiss, dismisses the idea that fungus could ever pose a threat to humans in this way because fungi can’t survive in beings as internally warm as humans. But then, Dr. Newman floats another idea that may seem like doom-and-gloom fantasy to the people watching in 1968, but could make the modern viewer’s hair stand on end: “What if, for instance, the world were to get slightly warmer?” he says. Such conditions, he suggests, could make fungi evolve to survive in warmer temperatures, making them capable of surviving even in human hosts. Any one of a number of fungus, he theorizes, “could become capable of burrowing into our brains and taking control, not of millions of us, but billions of us.” Such an infection would, he says, be utterly incurable. If it happens, he says with smug resignation, “we lose.” Well, fuck.

The show then launches into its striking opening credits sequence in which strands of fungal growth spread like highways and, here and there, sprout up like skyscrapers. Near the end, two shapes emerge, vaguely human in outline, one larger and one smaller, a clear evocation of Joel and Ellie.


We jump ahead to 2003 for Outbreak Day, which marks a notable change from the timeline of the video games. In that timeline, the outbreak happens in 2013, and the primary occasions of the sport happen 20 years later, in 2033 and 2034. Right here, the 20-year leap that follows Outbreak Day situates us smack dab in 2023, albeit a model of it that appears very completely different from the one we’re dwelling in proper now.


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However first issues first. We fade in on a shot of sunshine streaming in by way of a window, a transparent nod to the picture seen on the beginning display screen of the sport. A woman wakes up on a standard day, not understanding it is going to be her final. She wakes up her dad who’s sleeping by way of his alarm, and makes breakfast within the kitchen. That is, after all, Sarah (Nico Parker), sporting the identical t-shirt for a fictional band known as Halican Drops that she wears within the recreation.


Our first impression of Joel (Pedro Pascal) includes him asking her, as an apparent afterthought, “You get your, uhh, homework finished?” She seems at him like, “Are you for actual?” A second later, with good comedian timing, he says “Fractions?” It will get amusing out of her, and of me. Virtually instantly, we perceive the sort of relationship these two have, and Pascal’s inherent heat and funniness establishes itself as a presence in Joel, even when it’s a facet of his character that tragedy is about to drive out of him. It’s a refreshing and efficient departure from our introduction to him within the recreation, which establishes their bond however much less so any heat Joel might possess.

A information bulletin on the radio makes imprecise point out of “disturbances in Jakarta,” a spot whose location and significance neither Joel nor his freshly arrived brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) can determine. (I’ll be saying extra about this seemingly throwaway little element subsequent week, for…causes.) Sarah precociously informs them that it’s the capital of Indonesia, however none of them hassle to take heed of what the character of that unrest in Indonesia may be. They’ve obtained their very own lives to consider, work and college and telling Joel to carry dwelling a cake tonight to allow them to correctly have a good time his birthday.


An Operation Desert Storm Fight Veteran bumper sticker on Tommy’s truck and a smiling picture of George W. Bush in Sarah’s classroom additional set up the early 2000s timeline. Sarah’s instructor drones on about sentence construction and grammar fundamentals in probably the most crushingly regular means possible, however the emphasised cough of a classmate on the soundtrack contributes to a rising feeling of unease. “I swear you’ll use this later in life,” the instructor says, however we all know that, in Sarah’s case, that’s sadly not true.

In an image from the game's prologue, Sarah holds a Texas newspaper with the headline Admittance Spikes At Area Hospitals!


I feel the whole prologue speaks to the methods during which telling a narrative on TV is essentially completely different from doing so in a recreation. From begin to end, the sport is extra tightly targeted on its central characters, and within the recreation’s prologue, Joel and Sarah’s home is the stage for the entire storytelling that takes place earlier than they make their determined try to flee. It’s a manageable house for the sport’s builders to create and work with, and the sport makes use of it brilliantly. You discover a bit, discovering issues like a birthday card Sarah made for Joel, and in a single very efficient second, a information broadcast is interrupted by an explosion which Sarah concurrently sees happen out the window within the distance.

Sarah hands Joel a box containing a birthday present in a moment from HBO's The Last of Us.


The present lacks the immediacy that the interactivity of such moments creates, however features one thing of its personal by with the ability to take a broader perspective. We comply with Sarah as she takes the bus into downtown Austin after college to get Joel’s watch repaired as a birthday reward. The strain continues to construct as police automobiles and fireplace vans pace by the restore store, and a lady comes out of the again to say in a panic that the store is closing early, that Sarah ought to go dwelling. With moments like this, the present is setting our expectations for a narrative that tries to let the broader world in, to extra considerably transcend simply the core solid and increase our perspective on the story it’s telling.

Joel and Sarah get sufficient time collectively that evening for her to offer him the reward of the watch—right here a repaired memento versus the brand-new watch it’s within the recreation—and, as within the recreation, Sarah jokes that she obtained the cash for it from “Medication. I promote hardcore medicine.” Quickly, although, Joel has to go bail Tommy out of jail and Sarah wakes up alone in the course of the evening to heightened unrest: helicopters, the neighbor’s canine dropping it, common pandemonium.


Fungal strands protrude from the mouth of an elderly woman in a scene from HBO's The Last of Us.

Now we get our first glimpse of the actual risk: the docile, aged lady subsequent door, who earlier within the day we noticed convulse frighteningly, has unusual fungal strands protruding from her mouth and is on a senseless, bloody rampage. (I’m pretty positive that oral protrusion is one thing created solely for the collection, and is supposed to be the mechanism by which the illness transmits itself from one host to a different when bites happen. Keep in mind this picture, because it’s deployed once more subsequent week in methods we’ll positively be speaking about.)


Joel and Tommy pull up simply in time to avoid wasting Sarah from the specter of aged, contaminated Grandma Adler, but it surely’s out of the frying pan and into the fireplace as they attempt to get the hell out of Austin. In a query reflective of the American psyche of the interval, and paying homage to a moment in Steven Spielberg’s nice put up 9/11 model of Conflict of the Worlds, Sarah asks, “Is [the infection] from terrorists?”

The sequence that follows takes many cues from that within the recreation. A burning farmhouse is indicative of the chaos to return. A household with a child begs Tommy and Joel to cease however Joel urges Tommy to maintain going. “Another person’ll come alongside,” each Joels say, although Pascal’s model offers the road a high quality that claims even he is aware of he’s mendacity to himself.


Quickly, the three discover themselves trapped by stationary automobiles and crowds of panicking individuals, and whereas within the recreation their truck is sideswiped by one other automobile, the present ramps up the explosiveness of the second by having a jumbo jet plummet close by, hurtling wreckage that flips the truck and leaves Sarah injured. Carrying her in his arms, Joel darts by way of an empty diner whereas pursued by a really fast-moving contaminated, additional serving to to determine the terrifying risks of the brand new world our characters immediately discover themselves in. A soldier shoots the contaminated and saves them, however, after all, contaminated aren’t the one risk right here. Establishments are, too. After a distressing order from his commanding officer, the soldier opens fireplace.

Everybody who’s performed the sport is aware of how this ends.


A boy looks out over a ravaged city with the words Boston 2023 displayed onscreen in a scene from HBO's The Last of Us.


As soon as once more, whereas the sport is anchored to the characters we play, the present correctly makes use of its untethered perspective to tell our understanding of what the world is like, 20 years after Outbreak Day. The primary particular person we comply with after the soar isn’t Joel or anybody else recognized to us, however a younger little one, ragged and stumbling. The poor boy seems out on a decimated Boston and collapses in sight of a FEDRA quarantine zone. He’s wheeled right into a makeshift hospital the place indicators on the wall give viewers some vital contextual details about how the an infection works, that we are able to file away behind our minds for the moments when it turns into related: an infecting wound on the leg or foot will lead to full-blown an infection in 12-24 hours; one within the torso or arm space 2-8 hours, and one on the top a mere 5-Quarter-hour. It’s a wise solution to convey vital particulars to viewers organically, with out the necessity for clunky expository dialogue.

Signs on a hospital wall detail the time to full infection from cordyceps in a scene from HBO's The Last of Us.


The scene additionally performs one other little bit of vital table-setting. As a kindly officer talks to the boy, one other presses a tool towards his neck, after which reveals that the display screen is crimson. The officer tells the boy that they’re gonna give him some drugs after which get him some new garments, some scrumptious meals, and all of the toys he may hope to play with. All of it sounds too good to be true, and naturally, it’s—nothing however a small kindness to ship the boy off with comfortable ideas. The injection that comes isn’t drugs, however demise. The crimson display screen meant an infection—one thing we have to know for a future visible to land—and the demise of this helpless little one establishes simply how brutal life on this world could be.

A grim world calls for grim work, and that’s precisely what Joel is doing once we discover him once more, tossing our bodies of contaminated lifeless on a pyre. Seeing the euthanized little one, the girl he’s working with says she will’t carry herself to do what have to be finished. However Joel can. The sport tries to light up the sorts of lean, depressing existences individuals carve out within the QZ whereas following Joel and Tess on their quest to get their weapons again from a prison named Robert, however the present takes time to do extra, depicting simply what the terrible enterprise of sustaining the QZ calls for.


Earlier than Tess is launched, we see shoelaces being traded for ration playing cards and folks portray over Firefly graffiti (although within the present, we don’t but know what the Fireflies are), whereas Joel walks previous a public execution to secretly meet up with a FEDRA officer in a small enlargement of the sport’s narrative. They’ve an association: the officer offers Joel ration playing cards, Joel offers the officer drugs. The officer warns him that the Fireflies—apparently some sort of rebel group—are inflicting hassle at evening and he’d be safer staying off the streets.

In an image from the game The Last of Us, Joel stands on a rooftop and in the distance, one skyscraper can be seen leaning against another.


Now, we meet Tess (an impressive Anna Torv), Joel’s smuggling accomplice, and be taught of one other small however vital shift from the sport. Tess, freshly beat up, is speaking to Robert: in the sport he betrays the duo over some weapons, however right here, it’s over a truck battery. The scene establishes that, within the QZ’s underground dealings, Joel is a power to be feared, as Robert worries that Joel can be on the warpath after seeing how Tess has been handled. Within the recreation, when Tess and Joel meet Robert, they completely brutalize him, breaking his bones to torture him for data earlier than executing him, level clean.

Such brutality so early on from our protagonist, nevertheless, would have been fairly completely different in a TV present than in a recreation, and so the collection opts to deduce that Joel scares the hell out of individuals with out instantly displaying us why. (Don’t fear, we’ll nonetheless see loads of his violent aspect earlier than all is alleged and finished.) Simply earlier than Robert is about to let Tess go, an explosion on the road exterior blasts a gap within the wall, and Tess escapes to search out herself within the midst of a shootout between FEDRA officers and Fireflies.


And now, simply over 45 minutes in, eventually we meet Ellie (Bella Ramsey), in a scenario that marks one other vital tonal departure from the sport. Within the recreation, once we first see Ellie, she and Firefly chief Marlene (Merle Dandridge) have one thing of a bond, with Ellie displaying concern for the injured Marlene and professing that she’d reasonably keep along with her than go on the cross-country journey with out her. Right here, Ellie’s a prisoner. Marlene and the Fireflies have her chained up in an empty home, and when a Firefly asks Ellie to rely slowly from one to 10 to ensure her thoughts continues to be functioning correctly and never ravaged by an infection, she ends her rely with a center finger and a “Fuck you.” Teenagers, amirite?

In the meantime, Joel visits a person who makes radio contact with far-flung members of the family of QZ residents, passing messages backwards and forwards, and right here we be taught that Joel’s motivations are altogether completely different than they’re within the recreation. There, what units his quest in movement is a want to get better the weapons from Marlene that Robert betrayed him and Tess over. Right here, we be taught that Tommy’s gone silent in Wyoming, not having despatched a message in three weeks, and Joel wants the truck battery to go on the lookout for him. This looks like one other shift designed to make Joel extra approachable to viewers, and to determine that nothing is extra vital to him than household. The radio man seems at Joel in disbelief on the suggestion that he’s going to move for Wyoming to search for him. “There are worse issues than contaminated on the market…there are raiders, there are slavers.”


Joel tends to wounds on Tess' face in a scene from HBO's The Last of Us.

Joel is, after all, undeterred, and heads again to his condo the place he rummages below some floorboards for an outdated atlas, and begins planning his route, accompanied by drugs and pictures of arduous liquor. It’s right here, for the primary time, that we see he nonetheless wears the watch Sarah had mounted for him, its glass cracked by a bullet. Quickly he plunges onto the mattress for a fitful sleep, interrupted by Tess coming dwelling and placing her arms round him in the dead of night, suggesting that the association they’ve includes extra than simply being enterprise companions. The following morning, Tess tells Joel that Robert bought their battery to another person. Joel, offended and anxious about Tommy, needs blood, however Tess appears to have some energy to rein him in. “Robert is scared of you,” she says, “so that you march out of right here all Clint Eastwood, he’s gonna get wind of it and skip. I want you to take a breath.” They got down to quietly “hunt that motherfucker down,” get better the battery, and go discover Tommy.


On the Fireflies’ HQ, stress is brewing, and one member confronts Marlene over why they’re risking their lives to assault FEDRA all through the QZ. Marlene lets her in on a secret: they’re about to skip city with that mysterious teen in tow and head west. Ellie’s significance isn’t spoken aloud, however the different Firefly is left awed by a message Marlene fingers her on a chunk of paper and replies, “No matter you want, no matter it takes. We’ll get her the place she must go.”

Tess bribes a man with ration playing cards for data on Robert’s whereabouts, whereas a short scene offers us a glimpse of the Fireflies’ recruitment efforts, as somebody sidles as much as Joel and says, “If you happen to’re feelin’ misplaced…” Earlier than he can end his pitch, Joel says, “You inform me to search for the sunshine and I’ll break your jaw,” which shortly sends the would-be proselytizer on his means. I like that the present tries to offer us a greater thought of how the Fireflies really operate; within the recreation, we’re left to deduce a great deal about simply what their entire deal is and what sort of operation they’re operating.


Ellie and Marlene sit on the floor in a scene from HBO's The Last of Us.

A dialog between Ellie and Marlene fills in some vital backstory, and crops seeds for revelations but to return. Releasing her from her chains eventually and glad that she isn’t going to show contaminated, Marlene tells Ellie that it was she who positioned her within the FEDRA college the place she’s grown up. When Ellie asks why terrorists would place her with FEDRA, Marlene retorts, “Was Riley a terrorist?” The point out of this identify almost strikes Ellie to tears, however it might be a while but earlier than collection viewers be taught simply who Riley is.


Whereas the sport’s variations of Joel and Tess should shoot, sneak, and shiv their means by way of many dudes to get to Robert, the best scare this TV pair should face is the physique of a person, totally built-in right into a wall by fungal development. And reasonably than needing to torture Robert for data, after they discover him, he’s already lifeless, a ineffective battery subsequent to him. Close by, they encounter Marlene, who Tess describes as “the Che Guevara of Boston,” and Ellie along with her.

Tess shines a flashlight on an infected person who's been totally fused to the wall by fungal growth in a scene from HBO's The Last of Us.


Although the circumstances that introduced the 2 teams up to now are fairly completely different than within the recreation, the reckless fierceness Ellie shows on her first encounter with Joel, coming at him with a knife to guard Marlene, may be very comparable, as is the dealmaking that ensues. Marlene’s been injured within the firefight with Robert’s guys and may’t journey with Ellie to the rendezvous level on the statehouse. If Tess and Joel can get her there, Marlene guarantees a fueled-up truck, weapons, and no matter provides they should go search for Tommy. Joel, cautious of connection and the ache that may include it, tries to keep away from the association, protesting that he and Tess don’t smuggle individuals. However earlier than you already know it, a deal’s been struck, and the 2 head out with a teen in tow.

Joel and Tess point guns at Marlene and another Firefly in the foreground while Ellie looks on in a moment from HBO's The Last of Us.


Again at Joel’s condo, Ellie pokes round whereas Joel and Tess speak, quietly making point out of probably visiting “Invoice and Frank’s.” Ellie finds a slip of paper in a e-book about hit songs that references “B/F,” clearly the aforementioned pair, and lays out a code. A ‘60s tune means “nothing in,” a ‘70s tune means “new inventory,” and an ‘80s tune means…crimson X. “What’s ‘80s?” Ellie asks Joel, who offers her the silent remedy, earlier than we get a second that’s lifted straight out of the sport. He collapses on the sofa, she asks what he’s doing, and he responds, “Killing time.” A second later she says, “Your watch is damaged,” and immediately all of the little departures this preliminary a part of the present has taken—a automobile battery as an alternative of weapons, a Joel who hasn’t killed anybody onscreen but—appear fairly minor, contemplating simply how fully we’ve wound up on the similar place.

Joel follows Tess through an urban landscape overgrown with greenery in the game The Last of Us.


Ellie quickly methods Joel into revealing the that means of the code, telling him when he wakes up {that a} tune got here on the radio whereas he was asleep, one thing that included the lyrics, “Wake me up earlier than you go-go.” Joel freaks out earlier than Ellie, apparently a WHAM! fan, reveals he’s been had. “Gotcha, code damaged! ‘80s means hassle.” It’s one other instance of the present delivering data not for the advantage of the characters however for us, as this revelation will repay for us in just some minutes.

Tess returns from scouting out their escape route and it’s time to go. “Observe obligatory curfew to struggle an infection and revolt,” a recorded message with some good inside rhyme blares from FEDRA audio system, because the three sneak past the wall by way of an underground passageway. Sadly, earlier than they’re away from FEDRA’s surveillance, they encounter the exact same officer who Joel attached with some drugs earlier within the episode. (They’re stopped within the recreation, too, however there, it’s by a pair of nameless FEDRA officers, not one Joel has a relationship with.) He orders them to get on their knees, and retrieves the similar system we noticed used on the boy within the present’s opening. Ellie seems terrified as he will get nearer to her, the display screen flashing inexperienced in response to Tess after which to Joel.


Ellie staring at something offscreen, fixated, in a scene from HBO's The Last of Us.

When he will get to her, she doesn’t even look forward to the take a look at end result. She takes her switchblade and plunges it into his leg, and the officer turns his rifle on the group. Within the recreation, Tess shoots the officers, however in an emotional affiliation that’s wholly new for the HBO present, Joel, being held at gunpoint, flashes again to the soldier who killed Sarah and tried to kill him, earlier than charging the FEDRA officer and beating him to demise. It’s his first kill of the present, finished together with his naked fingers, and since we’re not desensitized to it, it hits more durable than the 15 or 20 kills Joel’s racked up by this level within the recreation. Making it all of the extra unnerving is the best way Ellie seems on, not disgusted or horrified, however not directly excited by Joel’s willingness to go to such lengths to guard her.


After which we see it, the crimson display screen on the system, the exact same crimson display screen we noticed when that little boy couldn’t be saved. Tess cries out in alarm, and Ellie reveals her secret: she’s immune. The wound that contaminated her is three weeks outdated and principally healed. Joel and Ellie is probably not satisfied, however there’s no time to debate it. Extra FEDRA are approaching, so Joel grabs the officer’s gun and the three head by way of a close-by fence, into the organic contamination space past.

An image of one nearly-collapsed skyscraper leaning against another from HBO's The Last of Us.


In the meantime, again in Joel’s condo, the radio crackles to life. The tune, which the sooner dialog tells us is a sign from Invoice and Frank, is “By no means Let Me Down Once more” by Depeche Mode. 1987. Meaning hassle, ending the episode on a observe of foreboding. And, sure, a fairly nice needle drop to exit on, because the lightning flashes and a leaning Boston skyscraperone of many recreation’s most putting visuals—looms within the distance. (Is a present even status TV if it doesn’t have the occasional sick needle drop?)

One factor I miss within the TV model of those early goings are the gorgeous, vibrant greens we typically see in and across the recreation’s QZ. The sport’s visible design makes you are feeling the pure reclamation of the world proper from the start, as Joel and Tess traverse locations lush with greenery and spoil. The early elements of the TV collection don’t fairly replicate that, and the distinction made me respect the sport’s visible design that rather more. However there’s an entire lot of wide-open panorama left for our heroes to cowl, and the journey’s simply getting began.


Had been there any variations from the sport you discovered notably fascinating or noteworthy? How are you feeling concerning the adaptation following the premiere? Let me know within the feedback, and we’ll see you once more subsequent week.


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