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The Most Disturbing Moments From The Last Of Us Season 1

HBO's "The Last of Us" instantly captivated audiences and impressively shattered viewing records. The critically acclaimed series faithfully adapts the video game of the same name, with a talented cast that authentically brings the beloved characters to life. Starring Pedro Pascal as the rugged and formidable father figure Joel and Bella Ramsey as the smart-mouthed hope for humanity Ellie, "The Last of Us" is a truly distinctive series brimming with disturbing moments. 

After a parasitic cordyceps infection devastates humanity, Joel and Ellie travel across the country with a singular mission in mind. In her past, Ellie suffered an infectious bite only to discover that she is the rare, immune exception. She meets Joel as he's deeply grieving the loss of his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) and the two embark on a dangerous mission. Joel has to guide Ellie safely to the Firefly base to produce a cure and eventually prevent any more people from turning into the monstrous Infected.

"The Last of Us" seamlessly translates the original game's terrifying sequences involving advanced forms of the Infected known as Clickers and Bloaters. It even accurately depicts the human enemies, who sometimes pose a greater threat than the flesh-eaters. This results in a series full of harrowing and memorable scenes. We've compiled a list of the debut season's most gripping moments. Spoilers ahead.

Nana Adler turns into one of the Infected

The first victim of the parasitic infection we meet is Sarah's elderly neighbor Nana Adler (Wendy Gorling). When Sarah begrudgingly goes over to visit, she finds a gruesome and unexpected surprise. The opening episode introduces us to the origins of the infection through coy Easter eggs that are further explored later. At the beginning of the first episode, titled "When You're Lost in the Darkness," there are several clues relating to how the outbreak started. From pancake mix to leftover biscuits, Sarah and Joel narrowly miss contamination from the infected flour crops.

When Sarah goes over to her neighbor's house after school she has a close encounter. She bakes with Connie Adler (Marcia Bennett) and narrowly avoids flour when she turns down some oatmeal raisin cookies. Later, when she comes back to the darkened home, she discovers an unsettling trail of blood and the series shows its ferocious teeth (or tendrils). Nana Adler, who was previously shown to be a wheelchair user, it out of her chair and attacking her daughter and son-in-law. She then charges at Sarah, giving us a startling first look at the Infected.

This moment fully embraces the horror elements in "The Last of Us" by faithfully replicating the endless scares from the game. The shift from somber quiet to inescapable terror highlights the dangers lurking around every corner, especially from unlikely sources. The tendrils coming from the mouth of Nana Adler send shivers down your spine, and this is just a small glimpse of the body horror to come.

The FEDRA soldier kills Sarah in front of Joel

While gamers may have been prepared for this upsetting moment, it didn't make it any easier to stomach. When fleeing Austin with his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna), Joel suffers an unimaginable loss. In the very first episode, Joel's daughter Sarah is killed by a FEDRA (Federal Disaster Response Agency) soldier on orders from his superior, forever changing Joel.

Like in the game, this immediately sets the tone for an unforgiving world where no one is safe from the prevalent cordyceps or the ever-increasing human threat. This chilling moment establishes the apocalyptic desperation while characterizing Joel before we advance the story 20 years. It gives Joel a tragic origin which explains his future resentment when taking care of Ellie. His reluctance to get attached always comes down to this moment, as Ellie can easily be taken away as quickly as Sarah was.

Additionally, this tragedy will always be tied to Joel's birthday, which happens to fall on Outbreak Day, making it even more painful for him. At the beginning of the episode, Sarah gives him his newly repaired watch as a gift. In the shooting, it gets broken again, though he still wears it as a solemn symbol.

Tess gets 'kissed' by an Infected

In Episode 2, "Infected," we learn the most effective way to destroy the fungal monsters from expert mycologist Dr. Ratna Pertiwi (Christine Hakim). The cold open expands on the world of the video games and offers new insights about the infection. After observing the advanced form of cordyceps, Dr. Pertiwi advises the military to bomb as much as they can and to do it as soon as possible, a desperate last resort.

This is sadly paralleled by the untimely death of Tess (Anna Torv), which we witness in a sickening way. After our first horrifying encounter with the Clickers, Tess makes a heartfelt plea to Joel to get Ellie to safety without her. She then reveals an Infected bite mark that has already started spreading throughout her body, which contrasts with Ellie's stagnant mark. As more Infected rapidly close in on their location, Tess takes matters into her own hands, leading to a nauseating fungal kiss of sorts.

An Infected approaches her, gets right up to her face, and its tendrils enter her mouth. Before she completely succumbs to the Infected, she ignites an explosive reaction that wipes out the monsters in the process. It's a small victory, but viewers won't forget those tendrils going inside her mouth in a hurry. This disturbing moment surely gave audience members nightmares.

Ellie kills the pinned Infected

As Joel and Ellie seek shelter after their close call, we're reminded that there truly is danger lurking around every dark and damp corner. Ellie learns this for herself in Episode 3, "Long, Long Time," when she finds a helpless Infected pinned under some rubble. In this scene, we witness Ellie's darker side — she's fascinated by violence and brutality. She studies the sickening creature and even cuts its skin, exposing the interconnected tendrils underneath.

Ellie taunts it with her switchblade while its yellow eyes follow in sync, clearly enjoying the moment of controlled danger. She then unleashes her pure rage (presumably for Tess' recent death but also for Riley's, as we learn in Episode 7) at the Infected by plunging her knife directly into its head. We see Ellie enjoy killing while simultaneously getting an up-close and unobstructed view at the stunning prosthetics on "The Last of Us." The violent outburst, along with the veiny details of the fungus, easily make this sequence one of the most disturbing of Season 1.

Bill's deadly fence traps

Among the unrelenting darkness of "The Last of Us," we must always look for the light, as the series' recurring motif says. Episode 3 is both a prime example of such and a beautiful standout, featuring Nick Offerman as Bill and Murray Bartlett as Frank. In the episode, we see Bill's survivalist tactics pay off when he outsmarts FEDRA troops and secures an entire suburb for himself equipped with a deadly defense system.

Though Bill is extremely cautious and suspicious, he takes Frank in, protecting him and eventually loving him. When they're visited by intruders one rainy night, the antagonizers get a grisly shock from Bill's electrified fence. Through the chaos of the rain and gunshots, the booby traps unleash hell, including dazzling flamethrowers. Bill and his traps slice through the raiders with ease as their bodies sizzle and bounce off the steel wire. Though it's exciting to see Bill's righteous fury on full display, it's distressing to hear the cries of his enemies, which highlights the series' commitment to authentic violence.

Joel kills Bryan as he pleads for his life

Joel executes a young man in Episode 4, "Please Hold to My Hand," a moment that demonstrates his ruthlessness. In a scene replicated from the game, we encounter another human threat through a group of bandits who have overthrown their local FEDRA force. They try to trick Joel and Ellie by pretending to be injured and in need, but Joel sees through the illusion.

This leads to an all-out brawl between Joel, Ellie, and their attackers that ends with a high body count. Joel uses his rifle to take out two of the thugs but is then thrown off guard by a youngster named Bryan (Juan Magana). He disarms Joel and starts strangling him until Ellie violently intervenes. She shoots Bryan in the back with her handgun (that she kept secret from Joel), which paralyzes him.

Ellie is horrified at the consequences of her actions — Joel sends her away so he can finish the job. He stabs Bryan off-screen (with the knife he surrendered to him) as the young man pleads for his life and cries out for his mother. It's a gut-wrenching death that further acquaints us with this bleak world while also showing us Joel's capabilities. Some viewers took to Reddit to praise Magana for his performance in this scene. "He killed it in this heartbreaking small role," one user said.

The swam of Infected are released

Episode 5, "Endure and Survive," contains a moment that's nothing short of nightmare fuel. The Bloater was repeatedly teased throughout the trailers and its arrival doesn't disappoint. After the ominous tremors in Episode 4, the horrors lying just beneath the surface are revealed in terrifying fashion.

This whole sequence is unnerving from start to finish, with Clickers and Infected scrambling out of a hole in the ground ravenously. They outnumber and devour the frantic soldiers as panic ensues. The mood suddenly shifts after a low rumbling growl that reduces everyone to silence until the Bloater breaks free while groaning loudly. It's a massive, hulking beast that showcases the long-term effects of being one of the Infected. It charges through the rapidly firing guards until it meets Perry (Jeffrey Pierce) and gives him a savage death. 

The Bloater rips Perry's head off in a similar fashion to the video game — Joel meets the same fate if the player isn't quick enough. This is one of the many references to the source material in the show, and it adds to the bloody brutality of the scene. The savagery and animalistic qualities of the Infected elevates the action-packed, disturbing sequence.

The child Clicker kills Kathleen

Episode 5 has another ghastly surprise in store for both gamers and newbies alike. While fleeing from the chaos during the Bloater scene, Ellie hides in a car, climbing in through a small gap in the back window. She's followed by a dreadful sight in the form of a child Clicker with stomach-turning contortion abilities. It quickly pursues her, twisting and sliding over the seats. Ellie thankfully makes it to freedom, but that isn't the last we see of the small terror, as it reappears soon after.

When the antagonistic leader Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) corners Henry (Lamar Johnson), Sam (Keivonn Woodard), and Ellie, the undead child appears in the background. The small Clicker pounces and pounds on her forcefully while she screams in pain. It's a well-deserved death for the villainous character (she was trying to stop Henry, Sam, and Ellie from escaping at the time, holding them at gunpoint) though the scene is still hard to stomach, as the Clicker rips Kathleen to pieces before feasting on her flesh.

Henry is forced to kill his little brother

Of all the horrific encounters in Episode 5, none is more heartbreaking than the final reveal. After Sam shows Ellie his infected bite mark, she desperately tries to heal him with her immune blood. They go to bed hoping it'll work, but when the morning comes, the Sam we've come to know is gone. He instinctively attacks Ellie, who is unable to kill her young and innocent friend.

Henry has a gun, but he can't bring himself to do what must be done, unable to shoot his younger brother. However, when Ellie's screams become too much, he pulls the trigger. In an unbearably tense moment, he turns the gun from Sam's corpse to Joel, and then ultimately on himself. Henry dies by suicide, adding further trauma to Ellie and Joel as the episode ends on an extremely depressing (but true to the game) note.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

Ellie and Riley get attacked

Episode 7, "Left Behind," takes viewers back to where it all began for Ellie, detailing her tragic origin story. In a nostalgic trip down memory lane, we witness Ellie's mall misadventure where she learned about her unique immunity, losing her best friend Riley (Storm Reid) in the process. We also learn more about the Fireflies and their extremist behavior.

The episode unfolds like a sweet date before quickly turning into a frightening nightmare. Photobooths, Halloween stores, and arcades are harmless fun until your dance party lures an Infected directly to you. What makes this moment so disturbing is how fast things turn from blissful fun to dangerous terror.

The attack is tragic in and of itself. However, it's even more upsetting when we realize that Riley will turn into one of those things while Ellie waits and learns about her immunity in the worst way imaginable. It's not as gruesome as some of the scenes on this list, but it's definitely disturbing.

Ellie stitches Joel's wound up

After spending nearly the entire season protecting Ellie, Joel is gravely injured and in need of help himself. When looking for the Fireflies at the University of Colorado, Joel is attacked in a similar way to the video game, when a gang of goons tries to steal their horse. They narrowly get away but Joel is stabbed and taken down for the count. In this moment of desperation, we realize just how young and scared Ellie is, despite her brave face and hardened exterior.

Ellie frantically searches the house — like players looking for supplies in the game — until she finds a needle and thread. She sews up Joel's wound, and the close-up shot will no doubt have had many people watching through their fingers. After she meets the haunting figure David (Scott Shepherd) in Episode 8 and barters for some antibiotics, she revisits Joel's injury and injects it with a large dose of penicillin. Even viewers without trypanophobia (the fear of needles) will feel their skin crawl here.

Joel finds the butchered bodies

The most stomach-turning horror of the season arrives in Episode 8, "When We Are in Need," which features a religious group with a sickening diet. Ellie faces this daunting challenge on her own, as Joel is resting up and healing. She stumbles across a deer while out hunting for food and, after some patience and perseverance, brings it down with her rifle. Before she can reap the rewards of her kill, she meets an innocent looking man named David, who helps her fight Joel's infection.

In a cool Easter egg, the actor who voices Joel in the games (Troy Baker) appears in this episode as David's friend James, who Ellie eventually (and deservedly) butchers with a machete. Before that happens, we learn how David is feeding his starving group with the remains of those unfortunate enough to cross them. This is heavily implied during their near-silent dinner and confirmed when Joel finds the butchered bodies hanging from meat hooks like cattle.

Not only have David and his people been eating human flesh, but he also intends on chopping Ellie up to do the same after her rebellious behavior. Thankfully, she avoids becoming a food source by outsmarting him and giving him an end he rightfully deserves.

Ellie kills David with a machete

After a series of unspeakable acts, David finally gets what he deserves. The sequence is one of the scariest and most challenging of the first game, which is faithfully depicted in the bloody encounter we see in the TV series. After refusing to join David and his inexcusable cause, Ellie is locked in a cage. David attempts to reason with her, putting his point of view across. She briefly fools him and reaches for his keys before he slams her face hard into the metal bars, breaking her nose.

When David pulls Ellie out of her prison to prepare her for meat, she desperately bites him, making him think she's infected. She expertly seizes on the second of confusion to kill James and run from David. In their unbearably intense showdown, David tries to sexually assault Ellie before she snags his fallen machete. She's spared from a horrid fate when she executes him, brutally (and justifiably) laying into him with the machete.

If you or anyone you know has been a victim of sexual assault, help is available. Visit the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network website or contact RAINN's National Helpline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673).

Joel massacres the Fireflies

In the first season finale, titled "Look for the Light," we see exactly how far Joel is willing to go for Ellie. After finally fulfilling his mission of getting her to the Fireflies, he learns that they will have to take her life in order to operate on her brain and produce a cure. This sends Joel into a blind rage and he massacres the entire fleet of Fireflies. Joel is reminded of his daughter's murder when another soldier threatens to take Ellie's life and he refuses to relive the past, doing everything in his power to save Ellie.

In this brutal scene, we witness Joel's awesome power and his unforgiving might. In the operating room, he meets and kills a seemingly unimportant individual whose death will have a big influence on "The Last of Us" Season 2. It sets up a revenge-driven tale that has terrible unforeseen consequences for the future. On top of that, Joel murders Marlene (Merle Dandridge) before lying to Ellie about what really happened. The brutality of the scene, as well as the combined impact of these decisions, makes it a disturbing ending to the debut season.