Spoiler alert: This article reveals plot details of the first episode of The Last of Us.
If you’re already hooked on The Last of Us after just one week, there’s some extra insight into how the first episode came to be. HBO released a behind-the-scenes look at episode 1 and interviewed the cast and creatives about the tragic events that play out and how they set up the rest of the series.
Set in a post-apocalyptic America, The Last of Us follows a smuggler named Joel (Pedro Pascal) who is tasked to safely escort a 14-year-old girl named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) out of a quarantined area filled with humans infected by a mutating fungal infection.
Before the outbreak, Joel lived with his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker). “We asked Nico Parker to play an incredibly challenging part,” said Craig Mazin, the co-creator and co-writer of the show. “We have to fall in love with her.”
When it comes to Sarah, Pascal also said, “My original daughter, my Sarah, she is the person that I live for. Without her, I don’t have purpose.”
And what’s so challenging about that, you ask? Well, by the end of the first episode, after getting audiences to fall in love with her, Sarah is dead. “She is almost the protagonist until disaster strikes,” Mazin adds.
In the first episode, Sarah is shot and killed by a soldier as the father and daughter are trying to escape the infected. “This is how it begins. It begins with tragedy,” Mazin said, “The emotion there is heartbreaking, and it’s ugly. The way she dies is not pretty. It’s not meant to be pretty. Her death is the fulcrum point for everything.”
Pascal describes the scene as “the event that shapes [his] character for the rest of the show [and] for the rest of his life. It is the point of identity for Joel.”
And Parker, said they didn’t do a lot of rehearsing for that pivotal scene. “I think we both kind of wanted to savor all the passion and everything. The feeling I had after the first take of adrenaline.”
After Sarah’s death, co-creator and co-writer Neil Druckmann said as a writer, it was important to him “to construct a scenario” for Joel that was “a fate worse than death.” For Joel, that would be experiencing death again if he were to fail at his mission to keep Ellie safe. “He would probably not survive that,” Druckmann said.
The Last of Us is currently streaming on HBO Max.