One of the biggest franchises in Playstation’s roster gets its own series, and unlike the recent “Resident Evil” adaptations, it’s clear this is far from being a cash grab.

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One of the biggest franchises in Playstation’s roster gets its own series, and unlike the recent “Resident Evil” adaptations, it’s clear this is far from being a cash grab.

Aired (HBO) 1/15/2023
Episode Title When You’re Lost in the Darkness
Director(s) Craig Mazin
Writer(s) Craig Mazin, Neil Druckmann
Noted Characters
Joel Pedro Pascal
Tommy Gabriel Luna
Sarah Nico Parker
Ellie Bella Ramsey
Marlene Merle Dandridge
Tess Anna Torv


This content contains pertinent spoilers. Also, images and text in this post may contain affiliate links which, if a purchase is made from those sites, we may earn money or products from the company.

2003 (Austin, Texas) – Joel, Tommy, Sarah

In 2003, Joel was a single father but generally happy. He had a construction job with his brother, his daughter went out of her way to get his favorite watch fixed, and September 26th didn’t seem like a bad day. But then, a fungal virus began to spread from the cities to the suburbs, and Joel’s special day became the start of a long shared nightmare.

In fact, it made his birthday not just the worst day because that is the point the world changed, but because it was the day the military shot his daughter, and in the process of her physically dying, a part of Joel died as well.

2023 (Boston, Massachusetts) – Joel, Ellie, Marlene, Tess

Twenty years later, Joel and Tommy left Texas for Boston and find themselves in a military-controlled area where Joel does whatever odd jobs he can find, sanctioned or unsanctioned, and has a partner in Tess. Now, being that the world is post-apocalyptic, Tess and Joel might be partners, but there is no time or effort when it comes to romance. Their bond is about survival and having at least one person they can trust. Especially since both would like to make it out of Boston since its menial opportunities don’t provide much of a way to live.

Marlene (Merle Dandridge) character poster
“Marlene (Merle Dandridge),” The Last Of Us, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness,” directed by Craig Mazin, 2023, (HBO) | Photograph by Courtesy of HBO

Enter Marlene, an associate of Tommy, head of the Boston area’s Fireflies, who offers an opportunity to Joel and Tess to leave town with supplies. The only catch is they’d have to smuggle human cargo in a young woman named Ellie. She’s a spitfire who curses like a sailor and has an attachment to a switchblade she is itching for a reason to use. The combination of human smuggling, dealing with Fireflies, who are seen as terrorists, and Joel’s desire not to attach himself to this kid, leads to an immediate no.

However, Tess is able to convince him that this isn’t an opportunity they can pass up. Especially since getting a vehicle, never mind a working one, is rare, and with a recent opportunity falling through, this could put them back on their self-imposed schedule.

A Catalyst – Joel, Ellie, Tess

As you can imagine, Joel being stuck with a kid, maybe a little bit older than his daughter when she died, is hard. He quickly puts up a wall, but he snaps when their escape from Boston is interrupted by a soldier Joel is familiar with. For as the soldier points a gun at him and Ellie, memories of Sarah rush in, and with Joel not wanting the weight of two kids dying because of his inaction, he kills the soldier.

This act doesn’t alarm Ellie or Tess, but when Tess discovers Ellie is infected yet somehow alive after three weeks, that is a cause for concern for her. However, with being close enough to the outskirts of Boston that a FEDRA soldier could appear and pick up where the last one left off, there isn’t time for discussion as they have to get somewhere safe enough to rest and then pick up on what the hell they got themselves into.

Things To Note

Question(s) Left Unanswered

  1. What happened to Ellie’s parents to leave her an orphan?
  2. Should we expect this to be the last we see of Marlene?
  3. How many seasons will it take to cover the first game, and will this series, similar to “Game of Thrones,” go beyond its source material?

What Could Happen Next

  1. Flashbacks to when Ellie was bitten
  2. Getting to know more about the FEDRA and different groups that exist in post-apocalyptic America



If You Played The Game, It Touches On Your Nostalgia

From seeing Sarah, and the escape from Austin, to Marlene, Tess, Tommy, Joel, and Ellie, if you played the first game, you just get a rush of memories coming your way from all that is presented in episode 1. And the actors and writing of “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” compliments your memories, rather than competes to usurp them. For while Bella Ramsay seems a bit more vulgar and aggressive than my memories of Ellie, it still fits. And with everyone else very in line with the character they are inhabiting, or in Dandridge’s case, taking the character she already played and making them live-action, it’s very easy to sit back and enjoy yourself.

On The Fence

Almost Wishing The Sarah Stuff Was Spread Out

Sarah (Nico Parker) at a neighbors house
“Sarah (Nico Parker),” The Last Of Us, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness,” directed by Craig Mazin, 2023, (HBO)

To me, we didn’t need half of the episode focused on Joel’s origin story and the death of Sarah. That could have been spread across the season, broken up as Ellie reminded Joel of what he lost or through the dreams he supposedly mumbles through. Now, maybe I don’t find the value in it because I know what happens or because I feel like establishing a character lost a child does often feel cheap. It’s hard to say.

However, it does feel like the whole Sarah and Joel thing was meant to get a necessary story out of the way than really allow it to have the emotional impact it was meant to have. Looking at the season as a whole, it might be fine. But taking in the first episode alone can make you wonder how it will approach the more sensitive or emotional moments if one of the biggest in Joel’s story was handled like an obligation?

Title Card -
The Last Of Us: Season 1/ Episode 1 “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” – Recap/ Review (with Spoilers)
“The Last Of Us” benefits greatly from being a show that doesn’t need to find its voice or have actors who seem to need to get comfortable with their character. Everything just feels natural, like everyone had rehearsed to the point they just wanted the cameras to get rolling, and damn if HBO may not have a potential new show to be a feather in their cap.
If You Played The Game, It Touches On Your Nostalgia
Almost Wishing The Sarah Stuff Was Spread Out

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