The first episode of ‘The Last of Us’, which premiered this Sunday on HBO Max, has a lot of details scattered. “Crumbs”, as defined Craig Mazin and Neil Druckman (creators of the series) who are already warning us of things to come and other issues of this post-apocalyptic drama. One of them is a radio… and what sounds on it.
In the last minutes of ‘When you get lost in the dark’ we not only discovered Ellie’s secret, but also Joel’s radio was also activated (too bad they weren’t home anymore) and a song started playing. Specifically “Never Let Me Down” by Depeche Mode.
A transmission that is not at all casual and that, although it is not the first time that we have seen this resource —for example in ‘A quiet place Part II’ it is a notice that there is a group of survivors—, in ‘The Last of Us’ has a hidden meaning.
The music code
To know exactly what it means, we must refer to a previous scene. Where Ellie discovers a cheat sheet referring to the code that Joel uses with Bill and Frank (whom, by the way, we will meet in episode 3). She’s determined to find out what it means: if the song playing on the radio is from the ’60s, there’s nothing new; if it is from the 70s, that there is new merchandise.
Nevertheless, for the 80s an X is marked. In a later scene, Ellie tricks Joel into telling her, telling him that Wham!’s “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” came on the radio. At Joel’s “Fuck,” she draws the logical conclusion: “80 Means Trouble”.
So when Depeche Mode’s 1987 song comes on, the viewer already knows there’s trouble. Which? we’ll see later. As explained by Craig Mazin himself in the official podcast of the series, in the world created by Neil Druckmann a wonderful contrast is made by giving a happy song a negative connotation.
My dangerous best friend
And be careful, despite the fact that they could have used other songs for that effect, the choice of “Never Let Me Down Again” It is not at all casual due to the meaning of the letter. This is how Mazin explains it:
“There’s a great tradition of ’80s music in The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II and ’80s means ‘trouble.’ I love that line because one of the things that Neil has done so beautifully in his work at Naughty Dog is he hurts you with the things that you love and takes things that are bright and beautiful upbeat and upbeat and gives them this dark undertone. A lot of 80’s music is upbeat and fun, but with Never Let Me Down Again, what I was looking for was an 80’s song that at first seemed like “oh it’s an upbeat 80’s song” but the lyrics have this darkness and what goes is “I’m taking a walk with my best friend.”
What he’s singing is about drugs, it’s a song about addiction. Ellie goes for a drive with her best friend and Joel is a dangerous man. And Joel is going for a walk with his best friend, he doesn’t know yet if she’s his best friend, she’s a dangerous little girl. The thing is, you’re never going to let me down. Now, they’re going to let each other down and then no and then yes and then no… I think that was a very interesting way that we’re going to listen to the song again. I am not going to tell you when or how, but it will be in a very different way and in a very different context.”
A great way to inaugurate a journey of two dangerous strangers that they will have to depend on each other to be the “best friends” they can be.