The Last of Us series has premiered, and fans of the best-selling video game (like myself) have been eagerly awaiting this day. The first episode, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness”, introduces us to interesting thoughts about what the future could hold. In 1968, on a TV show, two doctors discussed the possibility of a global pandemic based on a fungal infection. This scene gives incredible insight into how the story has been written for television.
As we process the discussion on a pandemic, we then fast forward to 2003, where we follow Sarah (Nico Parker), a 14-year-old in Austin, Texas. It is heartfelt to see more of Sarah’s story at the beginning of this episode and expand on what we already know and love about her character (for those who’ve played TLOU). The important thing to remember is that as viewers and players of the game, we need to fall in love with this young protagonist quickly, and with a strong storyline and pace, plus the acting by Nico Parker, we do just that in such a short period.
The episode covers a normal day in the life of Sarah, which includes going to school, where we see her father Joel (Pedro Pascal) and her uncle Tommy (Gabriel Luna), fixing a present for her father, and dropping in on the neighbors after school. It’s these small moments that also give hints to how the writers have adapted this story for television screens.
As the first few scenes pass, we see father and daughter settle in for a night on the couch watching a movie for Joel’s birthday. Sarah falls asleep, and it’s at that moment Tommy phones to ask for help in getting out of the county lockup for the weekend. Joel, reluctant to leave Sarah sleeping, still goes to help Tommy as he insists that he didn’t do the wrong thing; he was protecting someone else in a bar fight as the other person just “flipped out.” We then see Sarah wake well into the early hours of the morning as she wakes to loud noises. This is where we know something is amiss, and as Sarah takes the neighbor’s dog back to their home, she stumbles upon a gruesome mess.
Running for her life, Sarah then meets her father and uncle in the street. Joel protects her by killing one of her neighbors, and Sarah is shocked, but she realizes that he had no other choice at that moment. As they scramble to leave in their car, the next scenes that follow are nothing short of amazing, both in performances and cinematography.
Fans of the game will remember the burning house, speeding cars, frantic scenes of people running in the streets, and much more. As they are driving to escape, they barely make it out alive as the vehicle is upended and totaled. Sarah is hurt from the accident, and the pair are then separated from Tommy. As they go to escape, they are met by army personnel, and the person is ordered to kill on sight. The devastation that comes from this one bullet ripples the course of Joel’s life, and we lead into where he is in the future.
Twenty years later, it’s now 2023, and we now know that the Cordyceps fungi has destroyed civilization as we know it. We meet up with Joel and are introduced to Tess (Anna Torv) as they live in a military quarantine zone.
Joel and Tess are smugglers and are savvy at getting contraband in and out of the FEDRA-run location. As Joel plans to leave to find Tommy (who has now been missing for some time), Tess gets herself into some trouble trying to obtain a car battery. This then leads them to Marlene (Merle Dandridge), the leader of the Fireflies, who is trying to protect Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Now, with all parties needing each other’s help, Marlene tasks the smugglers with getting Ellie out and to her people without explaining why it’s so important.
As the newly formed trio sneaks out, they are unfortunately spotted by a FEDRA guard who scans them all. Ellie is fearful and stabs the guard, leading him to threaten to shoot her. Joel is triggered by the past and protects Ellie at all costs by killing the guard, but as they soon find out, the scan is positive, indicating that Ellie is, in fact, infected with Cordyceps fungi.
Episode 1 adapts the video game story well, and the changes to the story complement the original body of work. The chosen actors give exceptional performances, especially Nico Parker, who plays Sarah. The production, writing, and directing are also incredible, and I can’t wait to continue with the direction of The Last of Us story.
Episode 1: When You’re Lost in the Darkness
Director: Craig Mazin
Written by: Neil Druckmann & Craig Mazin
Air date: January 15th, 2023 (January 16th, 2023 Australia)
Lover of all things gaming, film and technology from 80’s to now. My background in Marketing & Operations Management has provided me with a strong work ethic and ability to think outside the box.