The Last of Us 1×01 “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” is a defining moment in TV where one of the greatest games gets its well-deserved adaptation. And even though the year has only started, it’s already the best show of 2023. A show that proves that what has been lost can be reclaimed. And a show that makes you appreciate every single moment that you spend with your loved ones, big and small. Because these moments are fleeting and can be gone any second. So if you’ve got the time for some healing, growth, and a study on why family (especially found family) are the building blocks of living, then watch The Last of Us.
Warning: This writer, Lyra Hale, has watched The Last of Us game multiple times and these reviews will be hit from that perspective. You’ve been warned.
Sarah and Joe Hurt All Over Again
The beginning of The Last of Us is one of the hardest things I’ve ever watched. I know there are plenty of other tragic scenes in other shows. But there has always been something about the love that Sarah and Joel shared that drew me in. It was family. A little one at that. But it was theirs and it was perfect. Personally, I’ve never felt a love like the one these two have. Because of that, I wished that I was like Sarah. Sweet, funny, and living an ordinary life with a dad that loved her to the moon and back. That’s why her death in the game hit so hard and why every time I watch The Last of Us, the beginning tears me open and leaves me feeling raw and alone, just like Joel.
So, when The Last of Us was green-lit, I knew that this scene would hurt me. I just didn’t understand that it would hurt even more. Pedro Pascal, he’s wonderful. He’s everything that I wanted and expected from Joel. He’s funny, hard-working, and sweet as Joel. And he plays the part of Joel Miller, now and in the future, in a way that is believable and shows his range as an actor. But it’s Nico Parker that absolutely stole the show in “When You’re Lost in the Darkness.” She brought to life Sarah and made her something into something more. Someone gentle, caring, and curious about the world around her. She made Sarah into someone that I wanted to see, more than ever before, make it through the apocalypse.
When Joel was trying to escape, with Sarah in his arms, I was hoping that maybe things would be different. I knew that Sarah would have to die for Joel to become the man that we know pre-Ellie. But I fell in love with this version of Sarah all over again and wanted things to be different. And when it did happen, when Sarah was shot, I was angry. Angry that someone so bright and wonderful would never get the chance to spend time with her dad, would never grow up into a brilliant woman, or show the world how much of a fighter she truly was. And at that moment I understood Joel’s pain in a way I’ve never done so before. Because if I was angry that someone as wonderful as Sarah was cut down, imagine how her father must feel?
The Perfect Ellie
From the very first moment Bella Ramsey was announced as Ellie I knew that they would kill it. I mean, who would doubt them after their performance as Lyanna Mormont on Game of Thrones? Apparently, a lot of the internet did. They didn’t trust Ramsey or their ability to bring Ellie to life. And now that The Last of Us 1×01 has dropped, I hope the haters realize they were wrong. Ramsey is perfect as Ellie and follows in the giant footsteps of Ashley Johnson, who we will always close to our hearts. But our hearts can hold two Ellie’s. And that’s especially true after Ramsey’s loud, rude, brash, and completely memorable introduction. That’s our girl. Our survivor. And the one will find a family with Joel.
Unlike Joel or Tess, who we’ll talk about in the section below, Ramsey’s Ellie was born into this. She doesn’t know anything else outside of Fedra. So much so that she hasn’t experienced all the horrors of the world because she has been sheltered. Yes, she’s definitely been trained because all kids are in a Fedra world. And yes, she has experienced loss. But she’s in a unique situation where she’s still a kid trying to figure out who she wants to be and the role she’ll play in the lives of others. Being captured by the Fireflies and treated like cargo wasn’t part of the plan, but she’ll work with it because at the heart of it all, Ellie is a survivor. She always has been and she always will be.
As much as Joel is going to learn to love again in this series, Ellie’s story is so special because she’s going to find family and a father figure the likes that she’s never experienced before. And that will define the kind of woman she becomes in a world that is so cruel and shattered. That’s not to say that she’s going to follow Joel around like a puppy. That’s not our Ellie and that’s not Ramsey’s Ellie. Our girl is going to challenge Joel. She’s going to make him laugh, she’s going to hold him accountable, and she’s going to change him just as much as he’s going to change her. The Last of Us 1×01 is just the beginning. The rough cut where they’re testing each other’s boundaries as they go on a journey unlike any that they’ve experienced before.
And as fans of The Last of Us, we’re ready to experience it all over again or for the very first time.
The World Joel & Tess Live In
The world that Joel and Tess live in The Last of Us 1×01 is cruel. Because of that, these two have transformed, leaving behind the people they were before to become something that could survive. And it kind of goes to show you the resilience of the human spirit that they found trust in each other. (Even to the point where they played big and little spoon, which was still kind of cute at the end of the world.) Because both have suffered loss; we know Joel’s but not Tess’s loss. But they’ve scrapped together a semblance of a life, even though their jobs and apartment are kind of crappy, and they’re kind of just surviving in a safe zone run by Fedra.
Joel’s life, post the death of Sarah and the end of the world, is one where he is disconnected from everyone but Tess. (And even then, he keeps Tess at a distance, never really defining what they have but knowing that they can trust in each other when shit hits the fan.) He puts one careful foot in front of the other, is wary of threats, and lets family (Tommy) be the only thing that he follows with his heart. And it goes to show you Pascal’s range of acting that he can shift from a carefree dad to this hardened man who is just trying to survive. And it’s going to be interesting to see how he’ll continue to transform as a character as he gets to know Ellie and everything that comes next. Because right now, she’s cargo. But as we know, time changes things. And it will change him.
And as much as I love Joel, dear lord it pales in comparison to how much I love Anna Torv as Tess. I love seeing women characters like this. Women who are unapologetically themselves, who demand to be treated as equals, and who look like they are roughing it just like everyone else. Because for some reason, shows love to have women in post-apocalyptic shows still look pretty, clean, and smooth. No. Tess is messy, probably hasn’t brushed her hair in a long time, and knows who is in this world. Characters like this are what we want to see more. And it doesn’t hurt that Tess is played by Torv, who is a world-class actress who blew everyone away with her Olivia Dunham in the FOX show Fringe. Hopefully The Last of Us is a sign that we’re about to get more of Torv. Because those who have played the game, know what comes next.
The Last of Us airs new episodes Sundays on HBO.