The Last of Us co-showrunner reveal why they chose *that* closing song for episode 1

Pedro Pascal as Joel in The Last of Us
(Image credit: HBO)

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us episode 1. If you've yet to tune in and don't want to know anything before watching, then turn back now.

The Last of Us episode 1 concludes with Ellie and her new, semi-reluctant escorts Tess and Joel breaking out of their Boston-based quarantine zone and heading west. Just as they step through the broken fence, Depeche Mode's 'Never Let Me Down Again' starts playing on Joel's radio back home – a song that signals bad times ahead for the trio

Now, the HBO show's co-showrunner Craig Mazin has explained why he and game creator Neil Druckmann chose that particular track, which was released in 1987, to close out the adaptation's opener.

"There is a grand tradition of 80s music in The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II, and '80s means trouble'," he noted on the first installment of HBO's official The Last of Us podcast (opens in new tab). "I love that line, because one of the things that Neil has done so beautifully at Naughty Dog is hurt you for the things you love and taking things that are bright and beautiful and cheery and optimistic, and giving them this dark undertone. 

"A lot of 80s music is chipper and fun but with this, I was looking an up-tempo 80s song that had a darkness to it lyrically, Mazin continued. What 'Never Let Me Down Again' is about is 'I'm taking a ride with my best friend' - he was singing about drugs, it was a song about addiction. Well, Ellie's about to take a ride with her best friend and Joel is a dangerous man. Joel's about to take a ride with his best friend, he doesn't know she's his best friend yet. She's a dangerous little girl," he said. "Now, the point is, you're 'never gonna let me down'? They are gonna let each other down, and then they're not, and then they are, and then they're not. That thought was a really interesting way in."

During the chat, Mazin also revealed that the song will pop up again in season one, but it'll be heard "in a very different way and different context." 

The Last of Us also stars Pedro Pascal as Joel, Bella Ramsey as Ellie, Anna Torv as Tess, Merle Dandridge as Marlene, Melanie Lynskey as new character Kathleen, Nick Offerman as Bill, and more. It continues on Sunday, January 22 on HBO in the US. 

Episode 2 will air on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV the following day in the UK. Ensure you never miss an episode by checking out our The Last of Us release schedule and our breakdown of how many episodes are in The Last of Us. For more from the series, check out our guide to the major Last of Us episode 1 changes from the games and a terrifying look at the Cordyceps fungus.

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.