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The Last of Us’ Biggest Easter Eggs and References

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HBO’s The Last of Us is filled with Easter eggs and references to the games and pop culture. Here are all the big ones viewers may have missed.


The following contains spoilers for The Last of Us Season 1, Episode 1, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness,” which premiered Sunday, Jan. 15 on HBO.

From costuming to clever early 2000s references, The Last of Us Season 1, Episode 1, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness,” was big on Easter eggs. The series doesn’t bombard viewers with reference after reference, but a few key moments here and there show how much effort the creatives put in to nod to the game or the culture of the United States in 2003.


Written and executive produced by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, The Last of Us follows an unlikely duo as they journey across the United States to search for a better future in the post-apocalyptic world. In particular, the lengthy premiere episode uncovers many key storylines in the game, such as the beginning of the outbreak where Joel’s daughter Sarah is killed, and the aftermath 20 years later when Joel meets Ellie. Getting to know Sarah and Ellie is only the beginning of The Last of Us‘ Easter egg hunt, as there are many other secrets to uncover in “When You’re Lost in the Darkness.”

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The Last of Us Pulls Many Details Straight From the Game

Sarah wears a Halicon Drops t-shirt in The Last of Us

Given that viewers don’t spend that much time with Sarah, The Last of Us takes it upon itself to dress her almost exactly as she is in the game to familiarize viewers with her. Sarah wears a Halican Drops T-shirt that she also wears at the beginning of the game. While Ellie doesn’t wear her exact iconic outfit from the game — apart from her red Converse — her backpack is an exact match down to the keychains.

The Last of Us also doesn’t shy away from taking key personality traits from the game’s characters. Early in the episode, Sarah forces Joel to drink orange juice, but he shows a craving for coffee instead. Coffee is known to be his “thing” in the game, so much so that he trades strangers for coffee beans in Jackson. Of course, the most notable detail duplicated from the game is Marlene’s actor, Merle Dandridge, who also voiced Marlene in the games.

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Curtis and Viper 2 Makes Its Last of Us Debut

The Last of Us Curtis and Viper 2 DVD

Probably the most heartbreaking Easter egg is the one nods to the video game’s sequel, The Last of Us Part II. In the show, Sarah and Joel watch Curtis and Viper 2 on his birthday until Sarah falls asleep. Players may recognize the movie as the one Ellie told Dina she was going to watch with Joel, which Dina took as a surprise since Ellie and Joel had gotten into a huge fight the previous night. But Ellie and Joel never got to watch the movie, as Joel dies that same day.

Players can also find a Curtis and Viper 4 poster in The Last of Us Part II, which Ellie proclaims is Joel’s favorite. While the 1980s franchise doesn’t exist in real life, it does hint at Joel’s love of goofy action movies. The nod will also break hearts even more if the game ever decides to follow the same path as The Last of Us Part II’s most controversial death.

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Early 2000s References Are All the Hit in The Last of Us

Joel and Sarah The Last of Us HBO

Being set in a world where civilization took a pause in 2003, The Last of Us wouldn’t be complete without a few hints at key events and pop culture phenomena in the early 2000s. When Joel and Sarah’s neighbors ask them if they’d like biscuits, Joel lies and says that he’s on Atkins. The low-carb diet was extremely popular in the early 2000s, and the founder of the diet Robert Atkins actually passed away in 2003. Sarah’s room is also pop culture heaven, with posters of BeyoncĂ©, Destiny’s Child and The Clash hanging on the walls.

The Last of Us also doesn’t hold back when it comes to the political references as the political climate was pretty hot in 2003. In the car ride trying to find a safe place to go, Sarah questions if the virus was brought on by terrorists, which she doesn’t question in the game. The series initially taking place in 2003 emphasizes the fear many Americans had of being attacked after 9/11, which only took place two years prior to this. Sarah and Joel’s radio also reports disturbances from the Indonesian city Jakarta, where a hotel bombing occurred only a month prior. Additionally, a framed picture of George W. Bush (the President in 2003) is on the wall in Sarah’s classroom and a Boston Quarantine Zone resident is wearing a Gore/Leiberman shirt, which would’ve been for the last election.

For more Easter eggs and references, watch new episodes of The Last of Us on Sundays at 9:00 p.m. on HBO and stream on HBO Max.

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