|"When You're Lost in the Darkness"|
|The Last of Us episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1|
|Directed by||Craig Mazin|
|Cinematography by||Ksenia Sereda|
|Editing by||Timothy A. Good|
|Original air date||January 15, 2023|
|Running time||81 minutes|
"When You're Lost in the Darkness" is the series premiere of the American post-apocalyptic drama television series The Last of Us . Written by series creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann and directed by Mazin, the episode aired on HBO on January 15, 2023. It introduced the character Joel (Pedro Pascal), whose daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) is killed during the chaos of a global pandemic outbreak caused by a mutated form of the Cordyceps fungus that turns its victims into bloodthirsty attackers. Twenty years later, Joel and his partner Tess (Anna Torv) set out to find Joel's brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) and are tasked with smuggling the young Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in exchange for supplies.
The episode's original director, Johan Renck, dropped out due to scheduling conflicts of the COVID-19 pandemic. His successor, Kantemir Balagov, left the project due to creative differences and was replaced by Mazin. "When You're Lost in the Darkness" was originally written as two episodes, which were combined as HBO executives felt the original first episode would not compel viewers to return the following week. Mazin and Druckmann wrote additional scenes to expand the world and allow viewers to empathize with its characters. Filming for the series began in Calgary, Alberta, in July 2021. The episode received critical acclaim, with praise for writing, direction, and performances of Pascal, Ramsey, Parker, and Torv. It was watched by 4.7 million viewers on the first day, and 22 million within twelve days.
On a television talk show in 1968, epidemiologists Dr. Neuman (John Hannah) and Dr. Schoenheiss (Christopher Heyerdahl) discuss how a potential mass global pandemic could occur in the future. Neuman suggests fungi, such as Cordyceps , are a much graver threat than any bacteria or virus given the lack of any preventative treatment or cure for a fungal infection. Schoenheiss points out the impossibility of fungal infection in humans due to fungi's inability to survive high body heat. Neuman agrees but notes fungi could evolve to overcome this weakness as the world gets warmer, at which point humanity would not survive.
In 2003, Joel (Pedro Pascal) lives with his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) and his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) in Austin, Texas, working in construction. Sarah pays to repair Joel's watch for his birthday. She falls asleep while watching a movie and Joel leaves to bail Tommy out of jail. Sarah awakens some hours later and discovers her neighbors dead, one of them a cannibalistic creature. Joel returns home with Tommy and kills the creature. As Joel, Tommy, and Sarah flee through crowds of terrified people, debris from a crashed airplane strikes and overturns Tommy's truck. Joel tries to run for the river with Sarah but is cornered by an armed soldier, who shoots at them. Tommy kills the soldier, but Sarah is fatally wounded and dies in Joel's arms.
Twenty years later, in 2023, after the global pandemic of the Cordyceps fungi has destroyed human civilization, Joel lives in a military quarantine zone in the ruins of Boston, Massachusetts, managed by the Federal Disaster Response Agency (FEDRA). He and his partner Tess (Anna Torv) support themselves by smuggling and selling contraband to civilians and soldiers. Joel plans to leave the zone for Wyoming in search of Tommy, with whom he lost contact several weeks ago. Joel and Tess purchase a car battery from Robert (Brendan Fletcher), a local trader, but get double-crossed when the battery is instead sold to the Fireflies, a resistance group fighting against FEDRA.
Attempting to retrieve it, they find the deal has gone awry, leaving Robert and most of the Fireflies dead. The Fireflies' wounded leader Marlene (Merle Dandridge) begs Joel and Tess to take young Ellie (Bella Ramsey) to the Massachusetts State House and hand her off to a waiting group of Fireflies in exchange for supplies to find Tommy. Joel and Tess accept the job. The trio wait until nightfall to leave the quarantine zone. They are caught by a soldier and forced to comply with an infection check. While Joel and Tess try to bargain with the soldier, Ellie stabs him in the leg. The soldier threatens to shoot Ellie, reminding Joel of Sarah's death; he loses his temper and beats the soldier to death. Ellie's scan is positive, but she swears she is not infected since she was bitten three weeks earlier. Joel, Tess, and Ellie enter a biological contamination area in Boston's commercial district to flee the pursuing FEDRA soldiers.
The Last of Us was created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, based on the 2013 video game; Druckmann wrote and creative directed the video game. A television adaptation was announced in the planning stages at HBO in March 2020,and the series was greenlit in November. Johan Renck, Mazin's collaborator on Chernobyl , was announced as executive producer and director of the pilot episode in June 2020; he dropped out by November due to scheduling conflicts as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. He was replaced as director in January 2021 by Kantemir Balagov, who had been interested in adapting the game for years and was set to direct several the first few episodes. In October 2022, Balagov said he left the project a year prior due to creative differences and his work would not be featured in the show; after it aired, he said around 40 percent of the first 40 minutes was his work. The Directors Guild of Canada revealed Mazin was assigned to direct an episode in August 2021, later revealed to be the pilot. Mazin and Druckmann wrote the episode. Rotten Tomatoes revealed its title in December 2022.
"When You're Lost in the Darkness" was originally written as two episodes; the first would have ended shortly after the 20-year time jump. Executives at HBO felt the original first episode would not compel viewers to return the following week, particularly due to the limited usage of Ellie. : 22:27 Mazin pitched the episode's cold open to Druckmann twice. Their original idea was to create their own version of an educational clip from the documentary series Planet Earth , which had inspired the game, but they found it boring. The concept of the television talk show was inspired by The Dick Cavett Show ; Mazin wrote the script as if he had encountered a transcript from a 1969 episode. Druckmann was initially hesitant but became open to the idea as main production was nearing its end. He found it effective both as an educational introduction and a contextualization of future events, particularly to fans of the game to which the open is a deviation. : 8:43 Mazin considered it a reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating to viewers that similar viruses have occurred before and likely will again. : 10:54 He borrowed this approach from his work in writing Chernobyl, implying humanity knew of the potential risk for some time.
Druckmann was open to changing any aspects of the games but always wanted a strong reason, : 40:25ensuring he and Mazin considered the impacts on events later in the narrative. The game's outbreak takes place in 2013, while its post-apocalyptic narrative occurs in 2033; this was changed to 2003 and 2023, as the writers felt the story taking place simultaneously with the show's release was more interesting and real, and did not fundamentally change the story. Mazin and Druckmann wrote additional scenes with Sarah to allow viewers to empathize with her, imitating the game's opening gameplay sequence wherein players briefly assume control of Sarah. Brief scenes were written to imply her personality and make viewers question her future had she survived. Druckmann found the demonstration of an outbreak from a child's perspective unique. The writers experimented with different reasons for Joel to leave Sarah in their house; they found Tommy being in jail allowed them to build the world and characters simultaneously. Mazin blocked Sarah's death similar to the game to remind players of the scene; Luna similarly drew inspiration from the "physical geometry" of Jeffrey Pierce's in-game portrayal of Tommy. The episode's early scenes use the songs "Tomorrow" by Avril Lavigne and "White Flag" by Dido. Its final scene and credits feature the song "Never Let Me Down Again" by Depeche Mode; Mazin chose the song due to its blend of upbeat sounds and dark lyrics. He felt its title referred to the relationship between Joel and Ellie, and noted it would recur later in the season in a different manner.
Casting took place virtually through Zoom due to the COVID-19 pandemic. : 14:42 Pascal and Ramsey did not meet before filming began but found they had instant chemistry which developed over the course of production. Pascal was cast as Joel due to his ability to portray a tough, tortured, and vulnerable character who suppresses his emotions until necessary. A non-gamer, Pascal watched his nephew play the beginning of the first game because he lacked the skill to play it himself; he found Joel to be "so impressive" but was concerned about imitating the games too closely, instead choosing to "create a healthy distance" and allow the showrunners to decide the characterization. More than 100 actors had been considered for Ellie; the producer's sought a performer who could portray a resourceful, quirky, and potentially violent character. Ramsey was encouraged not to play the game after her audition to avoid replicating the original performance, instead watching some gameplay on YouTube to "get a sense of it". Ramsey, who is English, learned an American accent for the role.Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey were cast as Joel and Ellie, respectively, on February 10, 2021. The producers primarily sought actors who could embody Joel and Ellie individually as well as imitate their relationship.
Parker's casting as Sarah was announced on June 30, 2021. : 2:02 Pascal felt an instant bond with Parker, with whom he filmed scenes first. Luna's casting as Tommy was announced on April 15, 2021. He was enthusiastic for the role, having lived in Austin, Texas around the same time as the show's setting. : 2:20 Luna approached the role similar to a biopic, reasoning Tommy had a ten-year history for fans of the game, and elected to translate elements of Pierce's original performance he considered important to himself and fans. Dandridge was confirmed to reprise her role of Marlene from the video games on May 27. Torv's casting as Tess was announced on July 22.Parker watched videos of the game years before getting the role. She wanted to "stay away from the game version" and provide her own interpretation of the character; she felt intimidated at the prospect of portraying Sarah's death due to its impact in the game. Parker and Pascal did little rehearsal of Sarah's death as they wanted to "savor" the feeling.
Ksenia Sereda was the episode's cinematographer.Members of the cast and crew arrived in Calgary in June 2021; Balagov posted an image of himself and Pascal in Calgary on June 29, and Luna posted the first photo from set alongside Balagov, Pascal, Parker, and Sereda on July 2. Filming began in Calgary, Alberta, on July 12, 2021, a week later than originally scheduled. Filming took place in High River in the evenings of July 13–19, including some driving scenes requiring traffic detours. The town was used for Joel and Sarah's cul-de-sac, the buildings through which they flee the infected, and the burning house they drive past. Production designer John Paino found several Canadian towns had similarities to American architecture, particularly Texas.
Technical rehearsals in the town of Fort Macleod took place in the evenings of May 20 and June 18, 2021, requiring the closure of Main Street. p.m. to 11:30 p.m., and film until around 4:30 a.m. Mazin and Druckmann continued adding minor elements to set dressing until minutes before filming. The plane crash was achieved by flashing powerful lights at the camera to mimic the effect of an explosion. The actors and crew were instructed not to look directly at the lights to avoid damaging their eyes. Parker found filming the chase scene immersive and frightening due to the use of practical effects, allowing her to react in real-time. : 1:22Preparations in the town took place from July 5–12, including polling businesses and residents; storefronts were changed to fit the show. Production moved to Fort Macleod from July 19–24; The driving sequences were filmed at night over four weeks in Fort Macleod, using hundreds of extras; several background actors crafted their own brief stories and moments. Filming required a mount in which a stunt driver controls movement from a dune buggy atop the vehicle, allowing Sereda full movement in the back. The sequence was written in the script as a long take. Mazin considered the sequence difficult to film, partly due to the limited hours of darkness in Fort Macleod; the cast and crew would rehearse from 9
Production returned to High River in the evening of July 29 to the following morning, with the filming of a traffic jam requiring the closure of a highway interchange and rerouting of traffic.Filming moved to Calgary in August. Paino was unable to locate empty and abandoned locations for production in Canada despite his expectations, requiring his team to build the Boston quarantine zone; three blocks near Stampede Park were transformed over several months. The crew looked at slums and council housing in England, France, and India for visual inspiration. Balagov's work on the show had completed production by August 30; he later left the project entirely due to creative differences. By September, Torv was filming in Canada. The crew were granted a budget to reshoot scenes in the episode; additions included Tommy at breakfast and calling Joel from jail at night, which the writers felt allowed a better understanding of the character. Reshoots for Texas scenes took place in Olds in late May and early June, with several local businesses contracted to assist with construction and design; a mural painted for the production, originally scheduled to be removed, was later approved to remain in the town.
While the series was originally indicated to begin airing in 2022,HBO and HBO Max chief content officer Casey Bloys denied this in February 2022 and clarified it would begin in 2023. Following leaks from Sky and HBO Max, on November 2, HBO announced the series would premiere in the United States on January 15, 2023. The first episode received its red carpet world premiere in Westwood, Los Angeles on January 9, followed by theater screenings in Budapest and Sydney on January 11, and New York City on January 12. The episode had 4.7 million viewers in the United States on its first night of availability, including linear viewers and streams on HBO Max, making it the second-largest debut for HBO since 2010 behind House of the Dragon . That figure increased to over 10 million viewers after two days, 18 million after a week, and 22 million within twelve days. On linear television, it had 588,000 viewers on its first night, with a 0.17 ratings share. In Latin America, the series premiere was the biggest HBO Max debut ever. In the United Kingdom, the video games increased their sales following the premiere: The Last of Us Remastered by 322 percent over the previous week and The Last of Us Part I by 238 percent, with both reentering the charts as a result.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, "When You're Lost in the Darkness" has an approval rating of 100 percent based on 31 reviews, with an average rating of 9/10. The website's critical consensus called the episode "a haunting premiere that benefits immeasurably from Nico Parker's endearing contribution". 's Mark Delaney said Pascal's performance in the episode made him cry twice and lauded his ability to portray different sides of Joel. Push Square 's Aaron Bayne found Pascal's performance reflected Joel's torment without speaking, and Den of Geek 's Bernard Boo felt Torv matched the nuance of Pascal's performance. Kotaku Australia 's David Smith called Ramsey "perhaps the pilot's greatest triumph", especially in her scenes with Pascal. Rolling Stone 's Alan Sepinwall lauded Parker's performance for "holding the screen" and establishing Sarah as likeable, and wrote that Hannah's performance "sells the innate fear" of the infection. Den of Geek's Boo felt each actor "brought their own take on the material".Critics praised the performances of the cast, particularly Pascal, Ramsey, Torv, and Parker. GameSpot
MovieWeb 's Julian Roman praised Mazin and Druckmann's writing in the episode's opening act, particularly due to the intensity granted through Sarah's perspective. Den of Geek's Boo found the cold open contextualized the narrative in a meaningful manner; IndieWire 's Steve Greene called it "a deft bit of TV framing" to make the viewer both confident and anxious, though thought some of the rushed worldbuilding was awkward. IGN 's Simon Cardy similarly considered some introductions rushed but otherwise enjoyed the episode's pacing. Total Film 's Bradley Russell wrote the second half "feels like a safer pilot" in comparison to its relentless first half. Variety 's Daniel D'Addario compared the episode to Mazin's Chernobyl and wrote it demonstrated his gift "for demonstrating the breakdown of processes". Push Square's Bayne found the episode immersive and emotional despite his familiarity with the story. Inverse 's Dais Johnston felt expanding the game's prologue allowed viewers to more closely empathize with Sarah.
Several critics praised Mazin's direction and Sereda's cinematography; 's Russell found the camera work from Sarah's perspective emphasized the narrative's "suffocating tone". Several journalists compared the camerawork to the video game; IGN's Cardy applauded its usage to frame Sarah's viewpoint. Conversely, /Film 's Valerie Ettenhofer felt the shaky handheld footage lessened the impact of the world's introduction and considered the episode the season's weakest. IndieWire's Greene noted Mazin's technique of telling stories in the background effectively added tension. The Hollywood Reporter 's Daniel Fienberg called the episode "proficiently made" but found it "too familiar for [its] running time to sustain", noting it failed to reflect the video game's importance to new audiences. Rolling Stone's Sepinwall, who did not play the game, echoed this sentiment, but said the episode improved when Mazin stopped attempting to imitate the game's visual language. Den of Geek's Boo praised the production design for its authenticity to the game. Total Film's Russell wrote the score was used to "intensify, but never overpower, the ... emotional beats".Total Film
Craig Mazin is an American screenwriter and film director. He is best known for creating the five-part HBO miniseries Chernobyl, based on the nuclear disaster of the same name in 1986. His work earned him two Primetime Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special and Outstanding Limited Series. Mazin is also known for his extensive work on the comedy genre, namely Scary Movie 3, Scary Movie 4, Superhero Movie, Identity Thief, and the two sequels to The Hangover Trilogy. He is also the co-creator and co-writer of the HBO series The Last Of Us, based on the video game of the same name, alongside the game's creator, Neil Druckmann.
Anna Torv is an Australian actress. She is known for her roles as Olivia Dunham on the Fox science fiction series Fringe (2008–2013), Wendy Carr in the Netflix crime thriller series Mindhunter (2017–2019), and Tess in the HBO post-apocalyptic drama series The Last of Us (2023). Her performance in Fringe earned her four Saturn Awards for Best Actress on Television and nominations for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series.
Jeffrey Pierce is an American actor, voice actor, director, producer, and novelist. He is best known for providing the voice and motion capture for Tommy in the video game series The Last of Us, for which he received a BAFTA Award for Performer in a Supporting Role nomination in 2020.
Game of Thrones is an American fantasy drama television series created by David Benioff and D. B. Weiss for HBO. It is an adaptation of A Song of Ice and Fire, a series of fantasy novels by George R. R. Martin, the first of which is A Game of Thrones. The show was shot in the United Kingdom, Canada, Croatia, Iceland, Malta, Morocco, and Spain. It premiered on HBO in the United States on April 17, 2011, and concluded on May 19, 2019, with 73 episodes broadcast over eight seasons.
The Last of Us is a 2013 action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. Players control Joel, a smuggler tasked with escorting a teenage girl, Ellie, across a post-apocalyptic United States. The Last of Us is played from a third-person perspective. Players use firearms and improvised weapons and can use stealth to defend against hostile humans and cannibalistic creatures infected by a mutated fungus. In the online multiplayer mode, up to eight players engage in cooperative and competitive gameplay.
Neil Druckmann is an Israeli-American writer, creative director, designer, and programmer who has been co-president of the video game developer Naughty Dog since 2020. He is best known for his work on the Naughty Dog game franchises Uncharted and The Last of Us, having created the latter.
José Pedro Balmaceda Pascal is a Chilean and American actor. After nearly two decades of taking small roles in film and television, Pascal rose to prominence for portraying Oberyn Martell during the fourth season of the HBO fantasy series Game of Thrones (2014) and Javier Peña in the Netflix crime series Narcos (2015–2017). Since 2019, he has starred as the title character in the Disney+ Star Wars series The Mandalorian and since 2023, he has played Joel in the HBO drama series The Last of Us. He also reprised his Mandalorian role in the spin-off series The Book of Boba Fett (2022).
Ellie is a character in the video game series The Last of Us by Naughty Dog. She is portrayed by Ashley Johnson through motion capture and voice acting; in the television adaptation, she is portrayed by Bella Ramsey. In the first game, The Last of Us (2013), Joel Miller is tasked with escorting a 14-year-old Ellie across a post-apocalyptic United States in an attempt to create a cure for an infection to which Ellie is immune. While players briefly assume control of Ellie for a portion of the game, the artificial intelligence primarily controls her actions, often assisting in combat by attacking or identifying enemies. Ellie reappeared as the playable character in the downloadable content prequel The Last of Us: Left Behind, in which she spends time with her friend Riley. In The Last of Us Part II (2020), players control a 19-year-old Ellie as she seeks revenge on Abby for Joel's death.
Isabella May Ramsey is an English actor. She is known for her breakthrough role as young noblewoman Lyanna Mormont in the HBO fantasy television series Game of Thrones (2016–2019), and subsequent television roles as Mildred Hubble in the 2017 CBBC series The Worst Witch, the voice of the title character in the Netflix animated series Hilda (2018–present), and Jane Grey in the 2022 Starz drama Becoming Elizabeth.
The Last of Us Part II is a 2020 action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for the PlayStation 4. Set five years after The Last of Us (2013), the game focuses on two playable characters in a post-apocalyptic United States whose lives intertwine: Ellie, who sets out in revenge for a murder, and Abby, a soldier who becomes involved in a conflict between her militia and a religious cult. The game uses a third-person perspective; the player must fight human enemies and cannibalistic zombie-like creatures with firearms, improvised weapons, and stealth.
Evan Wells is an American video game designer and programmer, and co-president of Naughty Dog. Wells' first video game was at Sega, where he worked on ToeJam & Earl in Panic on Funkotron, before moving to Crystal Dynamics in 1995 to work on Gex and Gex: Enter the Gecko. He was employed at Naughty Dog in 1998, working on several Crash Bandicoot and Jak and Daxter titles before becoming co-president of the company alongside Stephen White in 2005; White was replaced the following year by Christophe Balestra, who retired in 2017. The two oversaw the release of the Uncharted series, and The Last of Us. Wells remained the sole president, overseeing the release of The Last of Us Part II, until Neil Druckmann's promotion to co-president in 2020.
Joel Miller is a fictional character in the video game series The Last of Us by Naughty Dog. In the games, he is portrayed by Troy Baker through motion capture and voice acting; in the television adaptation, he is portrayed by Pedro Pascal. In the first game, The Last of Us (2013), Joel serves as the main protagonist and is tasked with escorting the young Ellie across a post-apocalyptic United States in an attempt to create a potential cure for an infection to which Ellie is immune. He also appears briefly in the downloadable content campaign The Last of Us: Left Behind (2014). Joel is killed in The Last of Us Part II (2020) by a woman named Abby, whose father he had killed in the first game, prompting Ellie to seek revenge.
Halley Wegryn Gross is an American screenwriter and former actress. She is best known for writing two 2016 episodes of the HBO series Westworld and co-writing the 2020 video game The Last of Us Part II.
Kantemir Arturovich Balagov is a Russian film director of Circassian descent, screenwriter and cinematographer from the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, in the North Caucasian region of the Russian Federation. He has directed the films Closeness (2017) and Beanpole (2019).
The Last of Us is an American post-apocalyptic drama television series created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann for HBO. Based on the 2013 video game developed by Naughty Dog, the series is set twenty years after a mass fungal infection caused by a mutation in the genus Cordyceps, which sparked a global pandemic. The infection causes its victims to transform into hostile, cannibalistic creatures resembling zombies. The series follows Joel, a smuggler tasked with escorting the teenage Ellie across a post-apocalyptic United States. Guest stars include Nico Parker as Joel's daughter Sarah, Gabriel Luna as Joel's younger brother Tommy, Merle Dandridge as resistance leader Marlene, and Anna Torv as Joel's smuggler partner Tess.
Abigail "Abby" Anderson is a fictional character in the video game The Last of Us Part II (2020) by Naughty Dog. She is portrayed by Laura Bailey through motion capture and voice acting. A soldier of the Washington Liberation Front (WLF), Abby seeks to avenge her father's death by killing Joel Miller. Her alliances later become unsettled when she befriends two ex-members of the Seraphites, a religious cult with which the WLF is locked in a war. Abby is one of two main playable characters in the game, alongside Ellie.
The Last of Us is an action-adventure survival horror game franchise created by Naughty Dog and Sony Interactive Entertainment. The series is set in a post-apocalyptic United States ravaged by cannibalistic creatures infected by a mutated fungus in the genus Cordyceps. It follows several survivors, including Joel, a smuggler who lost his daughter during the outbreak; Ellie, a young girl who is immune to the infection; and Abby, a soldier in Seattle who becomes involved in a conflict between her militia and a religious cult. The games use a third-person perspective in which the player fights against hostile humans and cannibalistic creatures with firearms, improvised weapons, and stealth.
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