3 Things The Last of Us Episode 1 Changed from the Video Game

The Last of Us Episode 1 finally premiered on HBO Max, bringing the adventures of Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie Williams (Bella Ramsey) into live-action. Show creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann made full use of the source material — Druckmann is also the game writer, after all — and Naughty Dog’s video game fans will hardly complain about HBO Max’s faithful adaptation. Still, the producers changed a few details to the appreciated survival story. Here are three significant changes from the video game in The Last of Us series premiere.

How Do People Get Infected in The Last of Us?

Unlike in the video game, The Last of Us Episode 1 showed the cordyceps fungus doesn’t infect people through its airborne spores but rather through its tendrils. “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” introduced the audience to an alternate future where a global pandemic decimated humanity. The main difference is fans won’t see Joel and Ellie use gas masks in the series. Unlike the video game, where the story starts in 2013, The Last of Us series opens with a talk show featuring scientists discussing the threat of a brain-munching fungal plague. Jump to 2003, the deadly infection starts spreading worldwide. By 2023, the world is pretty much a wasteland where people not only have to find a cure but also cope with the violent infected people, divided into Runners, Stalkers, and Clickers, based on the stage of their infection.

What Happened to Joel’s Daughter?

The series kept Joel’s heartbreaking backstory, where his daughter, Sarah, is killed in the early days of the pandemic. Yet, the show expanded the characters’ backgrounds and changed some things that led to Sarah’s death. In the game, Sarah buys his father a watch for his birthday. They spend the evening watching television before Sarah passes out on the couch. Players then see what’s happening next through Sarah’s point of view as she, Joel, and Joel’s brother Tommy try to get out of Austin, Texas, with their pickup before they end up involved in a car incident. The crash left Sarah unable to walk, so Joel picks her up and rushes to escape from the Runners.


In the series, on the day of Joel’s birthday, Sarah (Nico Parker) goes out to repair his father’s watch as a gift for his birthday. They spend the evening watching Curtis and Viper 2 (a fictional movie that is also an elegant nod to The Last of Us 2) before Sarah falls asleep. Joel then receives a call from Tommy (Gabriel Luna), who asks him to bail him out of jail. When Sarah wakes up, the world is already in havoc. During their escape, a plane crashes, and a flying piece of debris causes the car to crash.

The sad ending is the same. A military man shoots Sarah as she and Joel attempt to get out of town. A few seconds later, Tommy kills the soldier in his turn. Joel tries to stop the bleeding with his bare hands, but he can do nothing but watch his daughter die. In both the game and the series, Joel keeps the watch to honor his daughter’s memory.

Is Ellie Joel’s Daughter? How Do They Meet?

No, Ellie is not Joel’s daughter, who didn’t survive the pandemic outbreak as seen in The Last of Us Episode 1. 20 years after his daughter’s death, Joel meets Ellie, an encounter that will change their respective lives. In the series, Joel and Tess (Anna Torv) find Ellie in the Fireflies’ hideout, where Ellie fails to attack Joel with her switchblade. Joel then agrees to smuggle Ellie out to the Massachusetts State House to receive the help he needs from the Fireflies to safely reach his brother in Wyoming.

Meanwhile, in the game, Joel and Tess take on the game’s first major antagonist, Robert, before meeting Ellie. Robert was an arms dealer who double-crossed Joel and Tess to sell their weapons to the Fireflies and ultimately met an ugly end at the hands of Tess.


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