The Last of Us Episode 1 Easter Eggs and References from the Game

The Last of Us Episode 1 Easter Eggs and References from the Game

For years, video game enthusiasts have waited for a movie or TV show that did justice to the game it’s based on. 

Enter: “The Last of Us”, HBO’’s take on the beloved Naughty Dog video game of the same name. Chernobyl writer Craig Mazin teams with the game creator Neil Druckmann to deliver a TV adaption close to the source material. Though still taking steps in its direction when necessary. 

The story of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), fighting to survive a society-shattering plague, requires very little invention, due to the original game’s cinematic nature. 

Therefore, there are scenes straightaway lifted right out of the game and into the show. There are lots of minor details that will only stand to folks who have invested 20-plus hours into the “Last of Us” universe. 

Let’s jump into these easter eggs.

“The Last of Us” Episode 1: All the Easter Eggs from the Game You May Have Missed.

Some of the Easter eggs in the first episode relate to Joel’s watch, the apocalypse, a dead neighbor, the killing of infected humans, loss in the darkness, the ending connection, and Riley.

1. Joel’s Watch

One of the most important images from the original game is Joel’s broken watch. When we meet him and his daughter Sarah, she gives him a brand-new watch for his birthday, which also happens to coincide with Outbreak Day. 

During the course of the night, as Joel, Tommy, and Sarah navigate downtown Austin, which has fallen to chaos and panic, Joel breaks his watch. We see our anti-hero wearing that same watch some 20 years later, which Ellie points out is broken. 

In the show, Joel’s watch is front and center in Episode 1. It’s no longer a new gift and instead something that Joel has owned for a long time. He doesn’t wear it anymore because it’s broken. The watch has become an even bigger piece of the story than before.

There is a growing suspicion that something isn’t right when we watch Sarah (Nico Parker) head into the city after school to get the watch repaired. A pair of ambulances rush by the repair shop, hinting at the desolation that will boil over soon. 

When the shop owner’s wife kicks Sarah out, it only confirms that the end of modern civilization is on the horizon.

2. Apocalypse Now

Joel, Tommy, and Sarah’s journey through Austin, Texas plays out incredibly similar to the way it plays in the game. It roots the viewers in Sarah’s point of view.

We see the player control Sarah for the first sequence of the game, ending with her death in the first brutal twist. 

The show bears this out with great fidelity, from camera angles shot from the back of Tommy’s truck to see a neighbor’s home completely on fire, through the car crash in Austin proper.

Everything culminates at the same point: Sarah’s death in the arms of her father, a scene that’s almost exactly one-to-one between the game and the show.

3. “Do I Look Like Your Mother?”

One of the most quotable lines from the premiere comes from the lips of Fireflies Boston leader, Marlene. Notably, Marlene is played on the show by Merle Dandridge, who also voiced the character in the original Last of Us Game.

 What’s more, Marlene’s line here—and even more specifically, that she’s the reason Ellie grew up under tight FEDRA supervision. Hence there is the offhanded remark from Ellie within the first couple hours of the game, in which she says her mother and Marlene were old friends. 

How that backstory plays out on the show, if it plays out at all, is anyone’s guess.

The Last of Us Episode 1 Easter Eggs and References from the Game
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in “The Last of Us” | Source: The Last of Us (2023) (imdb.com)

4. A Dead Neighbor 

In the games, we see the players being introduced to the terror of the Cordyceps virus when Joel is forced to shoot and kill his and Sarah’s infected neighbor Jimmy. Jimmy was killed when he tried to attack them near the black porch.

Sarah goes in shock at Jimmy’s death. She is unable to comprehend how her father could kill the man she talked to just that morning. We see things play out a bit differently on the show, as the infected neighbor is Connie, an elderly woman looked after by Mrs. Adler.

It’s established through dialogue that Sarah visits Connie after school from time to time. The whole sequence is a subtle nod that lovers of the original game will recognize. The pandemic begins right near Joel and Sarah’s home, showcasing that the terror has made its way from downtown to the suburbs.

You can see Connie struggling in the background as Sara peruses a shelf of DVDs.

She twitches her mouth agape, conjuring an eerie and silently terrifying moment that Sarah does not know of. Sarah upon returning late at night finds an infected Connie eating her caretakers alive.

5. Killing Infected Humans

It’s no secret that FEDRA agents, in an attempt to control the spread of Cordyceps, kill any infected people they find. They can be both ruthless and unwavering in their executions. 

You can see four people being tested for infection in the game when Joel and Tess approach one of the quarantine zone gates. One of them registers a positive result and is immediately injected with a fatal dose of poison, while another tries to run and is shot and killed on sight.

In the show, after the events of Outbreak Day unfold, we are welcomed to the present day by a young boy wandering into the Boston quarantine zone. He is taken in by FEDRA and comforted by an agent who promises to get him his favorite meal and some toys to play with.

Another agent proceeds to test him for Cordyceps and guess what! The result is positive. In one swift action, the agent injects the boy with poison, and the camera cuts away. 

It’s an Easter egg that serves as a reminder that if you become infected, there’s no way around your imminent death.

6. When You’re Lost In the Darkness

One thing becomes clear early in the original “The Last of Us”—Joel hates the Fireflies. His bitterness towards the group began when his brother Tommy abandoned him in Boston to join the militant group. 

Joel now believes that their mission to save the world and find a cure is a hopeless cause that does more harm than good.

In the first episode when a stranger approaches Joel and says “If you’re feeling lost,” Joel quickly cuts him off. He knows that the man is merely trying to recruit new people for the Fireflies. “If you tell me to look for the light, I’ll break your jaw,” Joel tells him.

 The Fireflies have one slogan, which is, “When you’re lost in the darkness, look for the light.” The series includes shots of FEDRA agents fighting with Fireflies, as well as local workers painting over Firefly logos across the city. 

This interaction helps establish Joel’s character. The dialogue is a subtle Easter egg that calls back to his continued distrust in the battalion that claims they can save humanity if enough people join them in their mission.

The Last of Us Episode 1 Easter Eggs and References from the Game
The Last of Us (2023) | Source: The Last of Us (2023) (imdb.com)

7. Who is Riley?

“Was Riley a terrorist?” It’s another pointed piece of dialogue from the conversation between Ellie and Marlene. 

The viewers may not have an idea regarding whom Marlene’s talking about. But fans of the games know better-least, the ones who played The Last of Us: Left Behind bonus story know better. 

Left Behind is a downloadable content tale featuring Ellie’s experience before the events of the first game. The game prominently features a character named Riley. 

This doesn’t seem a simple nod to Ellie’s back story either. Actress Storm Reid has been cast as Riley for a future episode, so Left Behind fans can count on seeing the DLC play out at some point in the first season of “The Last of Us.

8. The First Ending

The first episode of “The Last of Us” ends on a major cliffhanger: Ellie tests positive for Cordyceps but insists she’s not infected. She shows a bite mark that’s weeks old, an aberration from everything known about Cordyceps infection. 

The show’s version of the twist plays out very similarly to how it goes down in the game. The game doesn’t have a backstory for the soldier Joel, Ellie, and Tess encounter in this scene, and indeed, two soldiers swoop in to scan the traveling trio. 

But everything else—the pouring rain, the bobbing and weaving through a mess of obstacles at nightcomes right from the video game. This is yet another one of the show’s examples of how HBO’s “The Last of Us” is going to feel a whole lot like the Naughty Dog original.

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9. About The Last Of Us

The Last of Us is an upcoming HBO TV series adaptation of the award-winning video game of the same name originally developed by Naughty Dog. It is set in the future of 2033, as a fungal infestation plagues humans turning them feral and blind before finally finishing them off. The series will follow Joel’s journey trying to escort an immune 14-year-old Ellie to doctors, who hope to study her in order to procure a vaccine.

The cast is made up of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, both famed for their roles in Games of Thrones, along with Gabriel Luna, Merle Dandridge and Nico Parker. Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann will be running the show partnering with Craig Mazin, c0-producer and writer.