The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 1 Recap – how do Joel and Ellie meet?

By Ricky Valero
Published: January 16, 2023 (Last updated: last month)
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A carefully crafted and delicately written pilot that checks every box to set the tone for an incredible season.

We recap the HBO series The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 1, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness,” which contains spoilers.

The moment we’ve been waiting for since the announcement in November 2020, The Last of Us is here. I am equal parts excited and scared as we head into season one. This game is one of the best games ever made. Can they capture that magic? Let’s dive into episode one.

The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 1 Recap

The episode began in 1968 with us listening to Dr. Newman talk on a talk show about a global pandemic that could be ahead for the world, in what is a deeply harrowing moment because as they talk about this plague, you can’t help but think about what we’ve gone through with COVID. Following this, we get a beautiful montage that is the opening credits. I will always credit HBO and its way of making stunning opening sequences with music.

We fast forward to 2003 and see Sarah making breakfast for her dad because it is his birthday. As the duo shares a bonding moment, we see Tommy enter, looking for his portion of breakfast. Joel mentions they will have to work late, which upsets Sarah because she wants to celebrate his birthday, but he promises to be home by 9 PM with a cake. Moments later, we see Sarah digging into one of the drawers to take a little money out of them.

After school, we see Sarah head to a jewelry shop to get that watch fixed, presumably for her dad. While she waits, a lady comes out of the back and says they are closing the shop and freaks out quite a bit, telling Sarah she needs to go home. She heads over to the neighbor’s house and asks if anything has changed on the news cause there are plenty of cops out on the roads. Later that night, Joel gets home and forgets the cake, upsetting Sarah, but the two share a beautiful little bonding moment over the present she got him.

While they are watching a movie together, Tommy calls Joel from jail and asks him to come to bail him out. He begrudgingly does so after putting Sarah to bed. That night, while Sarah is sleeping, loud noises happen outside, and they wake her causing her to look for her dad. However, after scouring the house, she realizes he isn’t there. Next, we see her go outside and next door, where her neighbors have been killed and turned into somewhat of a zombie. Finally, Joel arrived and knocked out the older neighbor.

The entire city has gone crazy, not knowing what is happening. We follow Joel, Tommy, and Sarah throughout the city, trying to figure out a way out of town. Then the moment happens when we see Joel and Sarah face the confrontation of the army, leading to her getting shot, and right before Joel is next, Tommy saves him. However, we see Sarah slowly fighting for her life. Honestly, this was an incredibly directed scene here that felt so much shot for shot from the video game. You know, throughout the series, we will be looking for moments like that to take us back into the game, and this was a perfect way to set that tone for us in episode one.

Fast forward twenty years later, and we are in Boston. The city looks ravaged as we see a little girl approach, and the guards take her to the facility. Next, we see Joel, who is working for the military, and as he gets paid, he is looking for more work. Then, we see Joel walking around and stumbling across an area where the people in charge are about to hang people for not following directions. He is wheeling and dealing with one of the military men mentioning a vehicle.

Ending Explained

Now, we finally meet Ellie, who is tied to a radiator by a chain. Ellie isn’t thrilled and answers the lady’s question with sarcasm. Next, we see Joel head to talk to someone asking about the communication with Tommy, who he last heard from three weeks ago. Joel is unhappy with how things are progressing, so he asks the man for a map of the tower.

Tess informs Joel that Robert sold their battery, and he flips out because they need it for the truck. She tries to comfort him by saying they will make it work. Next, we meet Marlene, who tells her team they are leaving and taking the random girl (Ellie) out west. She says whatever they need, whatever it takes, they will get her where she needs to go. Now, Marlene and Veronica (Ellie) meet together, and she informs her of the plan to get her out of there.

While on their hunt for their battery, they run into Marlene and Ellie, and things get tricky. Because of all the noise made, Marlene tells Joel it’s his job to get Ellie where she needs to go. He discusses the plan with Tess. After that, Tess says that the deal is they get everything they want before they hand over Ellie. Otherwise, they kill her, Marlene says deal. All of this leads to the intensely shot sequence of them attempting to get out of town.

This was one of the better dramatic pilots that we have seen in quite some time. They did a great job of tying in the authentic moments of the game. But, then, they did an excellent job of grabbing the attention of those who didn’t play it.

What did you think of The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 1? Comment below.

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