The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 1 Review: When You’re Lost in the Darkness

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When news broke that HBO was adapting The Last of Us, there was excitement, but some concerns, too.

Video game adaptations haven’t had the best track record when translated to the screen, but thankfully, The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 1 was an excellent introduction to the universe made famous in 2013.

Extended episodes are tricky to pull off, but by the end of the series premiere, not a single scene was wasted in setting up the characters and conflicts that will drive The Last of Us Season 1.

We’ll go back to the start because there was undoubtedly a lot of excitement at seeing more of Sarah, Joel’s daughter.

Sarah witnessed the outbreak’s origins, and everything she went through leading to her death was harrowing.

All she wanted was to have the best birthday for her father, but instead, they had to leave their home in the dead of night because people were turning into killers.

It was easy to understand her mindset because you could see the panic on her face after realizing what was happening.

Back in 2003, social media and mobile phones were barely a thing, so it’s not like she could have learned what was happening the way people do in 2023.

All she could do was proceed with her day and hope for the best because no one knew how badly things would turn out.

The saddest part of Sarah’s journey is the horror she endured before her untimely death.

The government clearly had orders to contain the virus because, back then, there were probably certain people who thought containing it was an option.

As we learned in the jump to the present, the world was decimated. We’ll get to that in a little because we still have some more to address with Sarah and Joel.

Sarah and Joel had this great father-daughter dynamic, and Nico Parker and Pedro Pascal were excellent in every scene they had together.

The look of terror on both their faces as the soldier listened to the kill order was well-played, and Sarah’s death was the perfect place to end the flashback.

My hope is that Sarah continues to have a presence in flashbacks because she was an excellent character, and her death was shocking.

Joel in 2023 is the polar opposite of Joel in 2003.

He probably blames himself every day for not saving his daughter.

There are many unanswered questions about Joel’s journey following his daughter’s death, and from his body language alone, you can tell he is so over the world.

His daughter’s death was undoubtedly eating away at him every day, even 20 years later, and it’s sad.

As a father, he was supposed to protect her, and he probably can’t shake thinking about what would have happened if things were a bit different.

Joel is clearly still suffering from PTSD over the fateful event 20 years ago, and it was evident when the guard aimed the gun at Ellie.

Boston is in a state of disrepair, but with the simmering tension between Fedra and the Fireflies, there’s plenty of back and forth.

Fedra has turned that area into an oppressive one where people are hung for the slightest missteps. It was difficult to watch everyone being told what to do and threatened with death.

What made it worse was the burning of the bodies. Burning a body has to be tough, but burning the bodies of infected children must be torturous

That poor kid. I was hoping he would somehow pull through, but with the infection spreading rapidly, there’s only a tiny window to neutralize someone before bodies begin piling up.

The kid’s death successfully shows that people aren’t taking any chances in 2023. The world is on its knees, but Fedra isn’t letting people live any semblance of a life.

For that reason alone, it’s easy to understand why the Fireflies want to restore democracy to the world. Fedra is the dictator in this narrative, but you also have to imagine whether there would be any survivors without the government.

If Marlene had her wish, civilization would be back and thriving, but after seeing the decay even in the zones with civilians, it’s hard to imagine the world returning to the way it was in 2003.

Having Merle Dandridge, who voiced Marlene in the videogame series, in the flesh as the character was a stroke of casting genius.

Marlene’s having Ellie chained up painted her as a villain, but she was warm despite the precautions.

There don’t appear to be many Fireflies left, and Marlene admitted that she planned on having an army of them transport Ellie to a mysterious location.

Joel and Tess were in the right place at the right time to become a part of this mission, but they signed up without fully understanding the true extent of the mission.

Joel wants to be reunited with his brother at any cost, and sometimes, people don’t make the best decisions when they set their minds on something.

Joel and Tommy were joined at the hip in 2003, so I didn’t have Tommy joining the Fireflies on my bingo card.

I have to imagine the relationship between the brothers imploded after Sarah’s death because how do you pick up the pieces from something so traumatic?

Tommy is an interesting character because we know he straddled the fine line between these two overarching entities, so we need to see where he is in 2023 and whether his tenacity in fighting for something more paid off.

Joel and Ellie’s first meeting was more dramatic than I anticipated, but in Ellie’s defense, she knew something was amiss and probably heard the gunshots.

How did she know Joel wasn’t the one pulling the trigger? That being said, Ellie was pretty badass in her attempt to take Joel down.

It’s a meeting they won’t forget any time soon and was crucial in its attempt to set up the relationship between them as they embark on this mission.

Anna Torv turned in a riveting performance as Tess. I especially loved her reaction to Ellie’s infection.

Tess knows how quickly these things can change, and she knew there was the risk Ellie would turn and attack them both.

Someone being bitten three weeks ago and still being themselves is hard to compute for anyone in this universe because, as the diagram teased, the infection spreads quickly.

The revelation utterly turned the mission on its head, but you could see that Tess still wanted to keep the youngster safe, which means there’s a good chance she believes the story.

After seeing how badly the world is coping in 2023, Ellie might represent the hope that things will be able to get back to some semblance of normal.

Ellie is analytical and studies her surroundings, so something tells me she’ll be able to pick up on everything Tess and Joel are thinking about her and the mission.

The message from Bill was sad at the end, but I suspect Joel, Tess, and Ellie will be crossing paths with him fairly soon.

We’ll switch gears and return to the opening scene because that was a true shocker. Frequently, people speak about the possibility of something happening and are laughed at because it sounds so out of the ordinary.

If we take the scientist’s words at face value, are we to assume that global warming is to blame for the fungus being able to reside in humans?

All things considered, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” was a solid entrance to this universe, perfectly setting us up for the coming events.

What did you think of the jump from 2003 to 2023? Did it work for you?

If you weren’t a fan of the videogames, were you surprised about Sarah’s death?

What are your theories about what’s coming next?

Hit the comments.

Catch new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m., only on HBO and HBO Max.

Paul Dailly is the Associate Editor for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.

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