On that basis, the massive “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” works quite well. All of the episodes this season cover familiar ground in some way, but the premiere may cross the most familiar of that ground. According to Leo Tolstoy, all zombie apocalypses are alike, but each post-apocalypse is unhappy in its own way. Follow For More Updates at satiknews.com
The episode eventually gets to the specifics of this one, but more importantly, it establishes Joel (Pedro Pascal), Ellie (Bella Ramsey), and Tess (Anna Torv) as interesting characters before they embark on their perilous mission. But first, we must witness civilization crumble as it does in so many dystopian shows and films.
This is not to say that the material is bad; it is simply more generic than what is to come, particularly in later episodes. Even those sequences are well-executed, even if some of them, like Joel, Sarah, and Tommy’s perilous attempt to drive out of town before the mushroom people catch them, feel a little too much like a game level that you’re not supposed to play.
The most compelling parts of the episode, however, occur before and after the nightmare that descends on the world on a late September weekend in 2003. Though Joel will become our main character, he is only a minor character in the 2003 scenes, which are dominated by his daughter Sarah, played by Nico Parker. Sarah comes across as a typical adolescent in those scenes, at times lost in her own thoughts, at others outgoing, friendly, and generous to others, including her father and their neighbours. Parker (daughter of Westworld alum Thandiwe Newton) is excellent, holding the screen and establishing Sarah as a character we can root for over the course of the series.
Of course, this is not to be. Instead, creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann use those scenes to establish emotional stakes for Joel and to make us feel at least some of his pain when Sarah is shot by a panicked soldier on the night the world is destroyed. When the story jumps ahead to 2023, Joel has become almost entirely defined by that tragic moment. When his new charge Ellie is threatened by a soldier late in the episode, he has a PTSD flashback to Sarah’s death and becomes absolutely savage in the way he beats on this man.
Before we get to the bloody escape from Boston, we need to establish the state of America 20 years after the zombie apocalypse. It’s a bleak, frequently unpleasant reality: a collection of fascist city-states run by FEDRA, the armed enforcers of the government’s remnants. Those who have been fortunate enough to enter one of the FEDRA enclaves have homes, food, and safety, but not much else. There are mass hangings, and anyone infected with the fungus that destroyed civilization — say, the poor little boy who wanders into the Boston fortress right after the time-jump — is quickly killed, their body burned to prevent the disease from spreading further. It should come as no surprise that there is a resistance group, the Fireflies, fighting the unyielding FEDRA rule.