How The Last Of Us Showrunner Craig Mazin Found The Perfect End Credits Song For Episode 1

Hollywood is getting better at handling video games. From the surprisingly fun "Sonic" movies over at Paramount Pictures to Netflix's critically acclaimed TV series "Arcane: League of Legends" (and, hey, why not throw Warner Bros. Pictures' "Detective Pikachu" into the copy, just for that sweet, sweet SEO?), there's a noticeable upward trend in quality or, at the very least, attention to detail. Now, it looks like "The Last of Us" could prove the champion of them all. Distributed by Warner Bros. Television Studios on HBO, and adapted from Naughty Dog's narrative-driven action-adventure game of the same name, "The Last of Us" follows Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) as he begrudgingly cares for Ellie Williams (Bella Ramsey) in a post-apocalyptic America savaged by fungal zombies. Any more information than that and we're veering into spoiler territory, and you really need to experience this one first-hand. 

And you can experience it! Well, the beginning of it, anyway. Episode one, entitled "When You're Lost in the Darkness," is almost an hour and a half of footage and dialogue that's practically ripped straight from the original game. There are some changes, though, like a system of coded messages expressed through music on an old radio. Again, without spoiling too much, music from the 1980s means that trouble is brewing for Joel and his ragged company. In this way, the first episode ended with an appropriately somber 1980s track that Craig Mazin, the adaptation's co-creator and co-author, praised for its subtle, fitting commentary.

See the stars, they're shining bright ...

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Craig Mazin shared that his wife, who possesses an "encyclopedic knowledge of 1980s music," picked out Depeche Mode's "Never Let Me Down Again" as the perfect fit to close out the first episode of "The Last of Us." Said Mazin:

"My wife has an encyclopedic knowledge of 1980s music. And I was like, 'OK, Melissa, this is what I need.' And I literally said [...] I need it to be a song that I kind of know but I haven't heard in a long time. One that hasn't been beaten to death. And I needed it to have context. I needed to be meaningful. I needed [it to] be foreboding and, ideally, without being super on the nose, give me a comment. I needed to start a particular way so we can show that radio turning on. And then she was like: 'Never Let Me Down Again.' And I'm like, 'Oh, my God.'"

Lyrically, "Never Let Me Down Again" is a story about someone who's putting their faith, albeit warily, into their best friend, a person who's let them down before. As the song unfolds, it becomes clear that the best friend is less than friendly. They demand obedience in exchange for their service. They offer empty promises. The message of hope becomes desperate and twisted by the ominous melody and dark instrumentation. On the whole, it doesn't paint a pretty picture. But, then again, neither does "The Last of Us."

You know what? There's just too many interesting parallels here for us to tiptoe around spoilers any longer. Read further at your own peril.

Taking a ride to the Fireflies

Joel is a father. Or, rather ... he was. The U.S. military killed Sarah (Nico Parker), his teenage daughter, on the same day that everything went to seed. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this particular interaction didn't leave Joel with a positive impression of the armed forces that would ultimately take over. In the 20 years between Sarah's death and his encounter with Ellie, Joel becomes a smuggler. He's knows how to get around and he's unafraid to break anyone arrogant enough to stand in his way. 

Ellie is a kid, almost the same age that Sarah was when she was murdered. She's an orphan that Marlene (Merle Dandridge), the leader of an anti-military militia, left in the care of the system until she discovered that Ellie is immune to the fungal zombie virus. Rushed, injured, and unequipped to smuggle Ellie out of the military quarantine zone, Marlene pays Joel to take care of the job. On our totally legit Orphan Scale, Ellie is less likely to burst into a rousing rendition of "Tomorrow" and more likely to join Batman's band of children assassins. She's tough, but she's still just a kid. A scared, untrusting kid.

In our Depeche Mode analogy, Joel is the "best friend" and Ellie is the POV character. Together, they're taking a ride to the Fireflies. It will be dangerous. It will be harrowing. Joel will not be a kindly protector, not for a long while. Despite all these things, Ellie is hoping for a better future. She's hoping for security. She's hoping for some peace. She knows it's a feeble thing, hope, but it's pretty much all she has, and "Never Let Me Down Again" captures that perfectly.

New episodes of "The Last of Us" air Sundays on HBO.