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Joel's Panic Attack On The Last Of Us Sent Fans Over The Emotional Edge

Video game adaptations rarely garner much in the way of critical praise. Games simply tend not to translate well to the screen, as evidenced by the failures of "Monster Hunter," "Resident Evil," and "Halo." However, every once in a while, there's a project that exceeds expectation. See "Sonic the Hedgehog," for instance. The most recent success is HBO's smash hit "The Last of Us," starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.

Following the same story as the games from Naughty Dog, the show is set in a post-apocalyptic world battling a zombie outbreak. When Ellie (Ramsey) doesn't turn after being bitten, a group of freedom fighters known as the Fireflies take notice. They believe she might be the key to stop the cordyceps virus from destroying humanity. In an attempt to get her to a medical facility on the other side of the country, they hire broken survivor Joel (Pascal) to see her through.

Having lost his own daughter at the beginning of the outbreak, Joel takes begins to develop a bond with Ellie, no matter how hard he tries to avoid it. The result is an emotional journey for both of them. While the series has its fair share of tear-jerking moments, one scene in particular has fans emotionally wrecked.

Fans weren't ready for this emotional moment

In "The Last of Us" Episode 6, Joel and Ellie finally make it to Jackson, where Joel's estranged brother Tommy (Diego Luna) has found a new life. While this is a welcome development for the pair, who have definitely been through it since leaving the quarantine zone in Boston, a new sensation washes over Joel. Pascal plays the moment like he may be having a heart attack; it quickly becomes apparent that Joel is having a panic attack. As it turns out, fans took to Twitter to discuss the heartbreaking reason for the scene's impact.

User @houseofdarklina laid out the tragic realization that our hero is afraid of the past, writing, "Joel having panic attacks and feeling his chest gonna explode because he's terrified of losing Ellie the way he lost Sarah." The pilot episode gave a near-perfect recreation of the absolutely devastating scene from the game when Joel loses his daughter, Sarah. Fan @anyasroyco thought they were going to have a heartbreak-free episode, only to be hit with that moment. "Stupidly thought I was free from heartbreak this ep, but then they add in Joel with his panic attacks. I hate it here!!"

"The Last of Us" is the kind of series that doesn't pull any punches. Each episode seems to have some kind of soul-obliterating moment, the kind that might just make you feel the need to pause and take a breather. Twitter user @nesleehan5 wrote what we were all thinking when Joel began having his panic attack. "Joel's PTSD, the nightmares, the panic attacks? For the love of god, give me a break." Of course, while moments like this might rip us apart, they also bring a vital aspect to the series.

The focus on character is the strength

One of the reasons that video game adaptations so often fail is that they sacrifice key elements of a game's appeal in the translation to a new medium. While other zombie adaptations like "Resident Evil" go heavy on the action, "The Last of Us" seems to pull back a little. There are intermittent scenes of pulse-pounding zombie action, like a hoard breaking out from under a road and a bloater turning a soldier into a rag doll, but the writers aren't just setting the stage for visceral thrills. They have a different goal.

What made "The Last of Us" a stand-out game franchise was that the point was not simply killing zombies or surviving a dystopian landscape. The character-driven moments between Joel and Ellie add a level that most games can't provide, pulling the player into a web of emotion that adds dimension to the terrifying zombie combat. HBO's "The Last of Us" has made the brilliant creative decision to follow the game's lead and make the primary focus of the series a developing relationship between the two main characters.

Of course, this kind of emotional scene is a risk, as it might feel like a lull in the action. But the trade-off is an emotional investment that keeps audiences coming back for more. Fans of the game missed out on some pivotal action scenes in Episode 3, like Joel facing off against a bloater in a high school gymnasium. But the trade-off was one of the most excellent episodes ever, focusing on Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). Episode 6's panic attack is just one more example of the power of a quiet moment.