The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s video game adaptation, is HBO’s new big bang. Lately the broadcaster is not getting one wrong and after House of the Dragon, the spin-off of Game of Thrones which proved more than worthy of the original series, gave us another great product. Neil Druckmann with the help of Craig Mazin managed to break the curse of video game adaptations, which always turned out to be terrible flops. In the first episode we met the grumpy Joel and Ellie, who are played by Peter Pascal e Bella Ramsey. In the next episode, which will arrive on Monday evening in a subtitled version on Sky Atlantic, but it will start to get serious.
Meanwhile, since Monday we have been asking ourselves a question: what meaning is hidden behind the song that closed the first episode of The Last of Us?
As Joel, Tess and Ellie are about to leave for Boston and begin their adventure, the notes of a song broadcast on the radio are heard accompanying the end credits. It’s about Never Let Me Down Again by Depeche Mode which came out in 1987. The music in Naughty Dog’s video game had one very important meaning: the composer santaolalla recorded the music of The Last of Us in unusual places and using minimalist instruments and out of tune guitars, why the symphonies were able to convey all the sadness and anguish of the protagonists. But whoever edited the soundtrack of the video game also took care to insert some cheerful pieces, which exalted the freedom of road trips, thus creating a striking contrast with the apocalyptic world in which Joel and Ellie lived. Craig Mazin wanted the music to convey an equally powerful message in the series as well and for this he asked his wife to recommend a song that would be perfect for the ending of the first episode. As Mazin explained to The Hollywood Reporterit was she who thought of Never Let Me Down Again by Depeche Mode:
“My wife has encyclopedic knowledge of 80s music, and I told her ‘OK, Melissa, this is what I need.’ I need it to be a song that I know but haven’t listened to in a long time. One that hasn’t been abused to death. And I needed it to have context. I needed it to have meaning. I needed it to portend something, but at the same time not reveal everything. I needed it to start in a particular way so that I could show the radio turning on. And then she said: Never let me down again. I just answered her, ‘Oh, my God’.”
Ellie in one scene has already perfectly explained a detail that in the game was only implied: if you hear a song from the 80s, big trouble is on the way. Through the radio, Joel obtained information from the other smugglers without being detected. Depending on the decade to which the broadcast song belonged, the man received different information: the 60s meant that there was nothing new in stock, the 70s signaled the arrival of new stock, and the 80s served to warn him of dangers. The song by Depeche Mode, released in 1987, suggests that now that they are out of the quarantine zone they are about to face many dangers. And anyone who has played the Naughty Dog video game knows what it is.
But actually this song in The Last of Us it also has a deeper meaning.
As he explained perfectly on the official HBO podcast for The Last of Us, Craig Mazin he wanted to follow in the footsteps of videogames in which songs with an enthralling and cheerful rhythm are frequently loaded with dark and dark meanings. With this Depeche Mode song though he also wanted to introduce the relationship that is about to be born between Joel and Ellie. Here’s what he said:
“There’s a great tradition of ’80s music in The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II, and ’80 means trouble.’ I love that line, because one of the things Neil (Druckmann) has done so beautifully in Naughty Dog is hurt you with the things you love and take things that are bright and beautiful and cheerful and upbeat, and give them this dark undertone. A lot of 80s music is upbeat and fun, but with this one I was looking for an upbeat 80s song that had dark lyrics. What ‘Never Let Me Down Again’ is about is ‘I’m taking a ride with my best friend’ – it was a song about drugs, about addiction. Well, Ellie is going for a ride with her best friend and Joel is a dangerous man. Joel is about to take a ride with his best friend, he doesn’t know yet that she is his best friend. She is a dangerous little girl. Now, the point is, “you will never let me down”? They will let each other down, and then they won’t, and then they will, and then they won’t. That thought was a really interesting way to enter the story.”
Joel and Ellie are just beginning their journey and are still wary of each other. Little do they know that they will soon meet and discover that they have both lost people they loved. They are still unaware of the relationship that will arise between them which will push them to rely on each other. For now they can only fight for survival, hoping not wrong to confide in each other. Ellie will be able to break Joel’s hard shell and push him to welcome someone back into his heart. Joel will become a point of reference for the girl, he will win her trust and then he will betray her (to save her). But this will happen later and now only those who already know this story can understand the true meaning of Never Let Me Down Again.
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