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the last of us
Photo via HBO

References and Easter eggs you may have missed in the first episode of ‘The Last of Us’

Some of these are pretty subtle.

Warning: The following article contains spoilers to The Last of Us video game and series, episode 1.

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The first episode of the video game adaptation The Last of Us (TLOU) premiered yesterday, and both the reviews and audience scores have been pretty good. People seem to be really taking to the story of Joel and Ellie, and there are a number of Easter eggs in the show that hearken back to the game. Let’s take a look at some of the most noticeable.

For the uninitiated, The Last of Us is the story of a man who is tasked with transporting a young girl across country who may have a cure for the zombie apocalypse. The military set up quarantine zones to house the uninfected and America is basically a police state now. Also, over the course of the journey the two develop a very close familial relationship.

One glaring Easter egg is Sarah’s shirt at the beginning of the episode. Sarah is Joel’s daughter, and she’s not around for very long. Sarah’s shirt in the show is almost identical to her concert shirt in the game. Others say the cities on the shirt may point to where Joel’s journey may take him. Take a look:

Another key reference is the DVD collection that we see Sarah looking through. There are classic movies like The Emperor’s New Groove and Ocean’s Eleven, but this part of the show is based in 2003 and some of the movies, like The Boxtrolls, didn’t come out until 2014.

Probably an oversight but interesting nonetheless. Third is how the show describes the Cordyceps infection, which is basically a fungus that takes over the brain and turns people into monsters. The phenomenon is based on a real-life fungus that attacks insects and overtakes them.

In real life, it’s called the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis. Take a look:

Moving on from that big yikes we have the fact that both Pedro Pascal (Joel) and Bella Ramsey (Ellie) appeared on Game of Thrones together. Not really an Easter egg but worth pointing out. They also both died on that show.

Here’s another parallel to a different Pascal show: The Mandalorian. In that show, Pascal also has to protect a younger being from outside forces and make sure they’re escorted to safety. Pretty much the same thing he’s doing in TLOU.

Next, when Joel and Sarah are eating breakfast, we hear about something happening in Jakarta. In the context of the show, the country is probably being overrun by zombies. Weirdly, Jakarta once did a public service campaign that had a number of actors play “zombies” and chase people into the train system.

Here’s a music-related Easter egg: When Sarah is roaming the house before everything goes to hell, we see a guitar in the living room. It’s the same type of guitar that Joel uses to serenade Ellie in TLOU2 and eventually gives to her.

A difference between the game and the show is in the first time Joel and Sarah come into contact with a zombie. In the game, a neighbor breaks through the sliding glass door and is shot. In the show, a neighbor is on her front porch and charges Joel and Sarah and he strikes him down with a wrench.

Another difference is why Joel agrees to transport Ellie. In the game, it’s in exchange for guns. In the show it’s to find his missing brother.

When Marlene from the Fireflies is trying to convince Ellie to go with Joel, she brings up Riley. Riley is Ellie’s best friend and would-be girlfriend if she hadn’t been bitten, a story that’s told in the game’s DLC. The mention of the name immediately has an emotional effect on Ellie. We already know that Riley (Storm Reid) will make an appearance at some point in the show, but this is a bit foreshadowing.

Another fun reference was when we see Anna Torv, the actress who played Tess, whose voice we recognize from a well-known Playstation character. Torv voiced Nariko in both the game and the movie adaptation of Heavenly Sword.

With so many Easter eggs from just one episode, there are probably going to be a lot more where that came from in subsequent ones.

The Last of Us airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO Max.


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Jon Silman
Jon Silman is a stand-up comic and hard-nosed newspaper reporter (wait, that was the old me). Now he mostly writes about Brie Larson and how the MCU is nose diving faster than that 'Black Adam' movie did. He has a Zelda tattoo (well, Link) and an insatiable love of the show 'Below Deck.'