The Last Of Us: why Depeche Mode means trouble for Joel, Ellie and Tess

Pedro Pascal in The Last Of Us
(Image credit: HBO)

Last night, HBO's highly anticipated TV adaptation of classic Naughty Dog horror survival game The Last Of Us debuted to rave reviews, and there was one ingenious use of a Depeche Mode classic near the end of the first episode that has people talking.

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR THE FIRST EPISODE OF THE LAST OF US AHEAD

After Pedro Pascal's Joel shockingly dispatches of the corrupt security guard with whom he'd previously established an uneasy alliance, he, smuggler partner Tess (Anna Torv) and mysterious new addition Ellie (Bella Ramsey) are left to gingerly step into a 'contamination zone', as the sounds of Depeche Mode's 1987 single Never Let Me Down Again peel out from the radio in Joel's now-abandoned apartment. Why is this important? Read on to find out...


What is the song played at the end of The Last Of Us episode 1?

As mentioned, the track is none other than Depeche Mode classic Never Let Me Down Again, first released as the second single from the band's sixth full-length album, 1987's excellent Music For The Masses. Featuring the lyrics: 'I'm taking a ride with my best friend / I hope he never lets me down again / He knows where he's taking me / Taking me where I want to be', the song is a canny bit of soundtracking for the uneasy alliance formed between Joel and Tess and defiant 'cargo' Ellie. The track also has an official video, which you can watch below.

What does the song at the end of The Last Of Us episode 1 mean?

Earlier in the episode, Ellie successfully posits that Joel has established a system with his allies Bill and Frank based on songs broadcast to the radio in his apartment. Put short: if an 80s song gets played, it's bad news, and Joel's pals are in a sticky predicament. This means that, while Joel, Ellie and Tess aren't there to hear it, when Never Let Me Down gets played at the end of the episode, Bill and Frank (played by Nick Offermen and Murray Bartlett - we'll meet them later) are letting them know that some shit is going down, and a dangerous road may lie ahead. So, our heroes look a bit screwed, basically.

What is Depeche Mode's Never Let Me Down Again about?

Drugs, basically! By all accounts, Depeche Mode's 1987 single is a dangerous-sounding but magnetic journey through the thrilling highs and precarious lows of drug use ('I'm taking a ride with my best friend / I hope he never lets me down again'.) In that sense, it doesn't directly fit the themes of the opening episode of The Last Of Us, but given the perilous journey Joel, Ellie and Tess are about to embark on, and the intensely paranoid dynamic between them, there are certainly some obvious parallels at play. 

When is the next episode of The Last Of Us on?

Impatient, are we? We don't blame you. Luckily, you don't have to wait too long for the next episode of The Last Of Us - it broadcasts every Sunday on HBO in the United States, and on Sky Atlantic in the UK. It is also available to stream through NOW TV (opens in new tab) in the UK.

Merlin Alderslade
Executive Editor, Louder

Merlin moved into his role as Executive Editor of Louder in early 2022, following over ten years working at Metal Hammer. While there, he served as Online Editor and Deputy Editor, before being promoted to Editor in 2016. Before joining Metal Hammer, Merlin worked as Associate Editor at Terrorizer Magazine and has previously written for the likes of Classic Rock, Rock Sound, eFestivals and others. Across his career he has interviewed legends including Ozzy Osbourne, Lemmy, Metallica, Iron Maiden (including getting a trip on Ed Force One courtesy of Bruce Dickinson), Guns N' Roses, KISS, Slipknot, System Of A Down and Meat Loaf. He is also probably responsible for 90% of all nu metal-related content making it onto the site.