Warning! This article contains spoilers for both HBO’s The Last of Us episode 1 and the original game.The Last of Us episode 1 features the first major death of the story adapted from the original game, which was much more tragic than the game counterpart. With many wondering how HBO’s The Last of Us would compare to its source material in terms of fidelity, The Last of Us episode 1 should ease any worries that the show will majorly change the game. While there are some minor changes, and plenty of additions to the world and the characters of the game, The Last of Us episode 1 proves how closely the original story is being adapted.
This fidelity is evident throughout the entire first sequence, which ends with the same tragic death from the original game. The Last of Us episode 1’s first half takes place in 2003, following the outbreak of the Cordyceps brain infection through the eyes of Joel (Pedro Pascal), his brother Tommy (Diego Luna), and Joel’s daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) in Texas. The end of this sequence sees the first major character death of both the series and the game, and presents it in a truly heartbreaking fashion.
Sarah is tragically killed at the end of the 2003 sequence of The Last of Us episode 1, mirroring the games. After following Sarah’s day in a seemingly normal September 2003, Sarah falls asleep in her home. After waking to the sound of explosions outside, Sarah tries to find Joel, who is mysteriously missing. While the audience learns Joel is bailing Tommy out of jail, Sarah is left in the dark and searches for her dad. Eventually, she is found by Joel who saves her from being attacked by her neighbor in a volatile, inhuman state, one of The Last of Us game’s more important scenes.
Joel, Sarah, and Tommy then attempt to escape Austin, encountering hordes of infected humans from the Cordyceps brain infection. After being separated from Tommy, Joel and Sarah are rescued from infected by a lone soldier who holds the duo at gunpoint. The soldier, after receiving orders from his radio, shoots at Joel, who tries to protect Sarah. After Tommy appears and shoots the soldier, Joel realizes that Sarah has been shot in the stomach, and she dies in his arms. This scene is almost identical to the game, with only some minor changes, such as the crashing airplane during the initial outbreak.
Arguably the main reason as to why Sarah’s death is much more tragic in HBO’s The Last of Us comes from the expansion of her story. In the game, the story starts with Sarah waking to Joel returning from work before he puts her to bed, waking to the distant explosions. However, The Last of Us episode 1 changes this slightly so that the audience follows Sarah’s entire day. From eating breakfast with Joel and Tommy, her day at school, and her fixing Joel’s watch as a birthday present to bonding with her elderly neighbors, Sarah is made even more sympathetic than she already was in the original game.
This, combined with the heartbreaking performances of Pedro Pascal as Joel and Nico Parker as Sarah, makes the latter’s death that much worse in the show. While the characters’ reactions in The Last of Us game scene are already deeply saddening, the more tangible element of live-action performances makes it much more tragic. From the extension of Sarah’s character to the cast’s fantastic performances, The Last of Us episode 1 nails the most emotional scene in the opening portion of the game’s story.
This bodes well for the future episodes of The Last of Us, with this opening scene and Sarah’s death tragically foreshadowing Joel’s eventual bond with Ellie. The most emotionally compelling aspect of the original game was Joel learning to love Ellie as his own daughter after his initial, completely understandable cold treatment of her due to his trauma over Sarah’s death. This aspect would not work as well without making Sarah’s death incredibly heartbreaking, which The Last of Us episode 1 does perfectly.
With Joel meeting Ellie in The Last of Us episode 1 and treating her with the aforementioned stand-offish nature, The Last of Us is already setting up their future relationship. This relationship will go on to be the motivation for the huge decisions Joel makes at the end of the story. These decisions, and Joel and Ellie’s relationship, would undoubtedly fall flat without making Sarah’s death much more upsetting than it already was, something that HBO’s The Last of Us does to perfection.
New episodes of The Last of Us release every Sunday on HBO.
More: The Last Of Us Episode 1 Ending Explained (In Detail)