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HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ Gives Us Extra Time With an Important Character That Feels Precious

Nico (Sarah Miller) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) share an intense moment in 'The Last of Us'

The premiere of HBO’s series adaptation of The Last of Us managed to do what the 2013 game of the same name did: emotionally wreck audiences within moments. That emotional destruction all started with the game’s prologue, and for the most part, the HBO adaptation from Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann did the same. But where the show thrived was in the time we got to spend with protagonist Joel Miller’s daughter, Sarah Miller (Nico Parker).

Part of the reason why The Last of Us became a hit, as a game, was because of the cinematic nature of the story it was telling, primarily in the prologue of the game, so when it came to the adaptation, that was going to be both an advantage and disadvantage. How do you make a TV adaptation of a video game known for its cinematic nature appealing for those who are already fans of the game while still staying true to it?

But with the beginning of The Last of Us on HBO, one thing became abundantly clear: This cast was going to make it all worth it, especially seeing how Nico Parker brought Sarah to life.

**Spoilers for the premiere episode of The Last of Us lie ahead.**

Pedro Pascal as Joel miller and Nico Parker as Sarah
(HBO)

The prologue in the game sets things up right before Outbreak Day of the Cordyceps infection that effectively zombifies the populace, and the aftermath thereof. The show does give us a bit more information about what society knew about Cordyceps with a flashback to a talk show decades before, but then we get into the Millers and their life. In the game, the prologue serves to be a source of information for players, giving a short glimpse of Joel’s backstory so players will understand his emotional state during the game.

With the show, it flows more like a full setup than just the brief prologue but works so incredibly well because of how it takes the audience through Sarah’s day. Outbreak Day happens in the early morning the day after Joel’s birthday, and from the moment Sarah wakes up the day before until the end, she’s thinking about her father and making sure he has a great day.

Spending time with Sarah

The time before the Cordyceps infection took over is important to Joel’s story, and the show uses Nico Parker to its advantage. Sarah doesn’t feel like a pawn just to help the audience understand who Joel is, but is instead a fully formed character with heart and fear of what’s to come that makes her easy to connect with, all because she’s just a kid. In fact, I think she is the same age I would have been throughout this. The story begins in 2003, and Sarah is roughly 12 years old. Joel, at the time, has just turned 36.

She’s just a kid, and yet she’s so smart throughout this section of the show, and we get to see how she applies it to her life with her father. She’s there to protect him and take care of herself, but she still needs her dad. As we’re going through Sarah’s day, from her morning routine with Joel and her uncle Tommy (Gabriel Luna) to her day at school and then heading to the neighbors’ house, we can see how she’s picking up on what is going on in the world, but she’s still just a 12-year-old kid.

She’s trusting all the adults around her to tell her if something is wrong, and it is why her end is so tragic.

Sarah was Joel’s heart

Sarah Miller (Nico Parker) touching water in the Last of Us
(HBO)

In the game, you know that Joel loved his daughter, but it doesn’t let you see their dynamic as much as the show does. Sarah takes care of him, making sure he’s eating breakfast and wanting him to be happy, and so it, in turn, makes her death that much more tragic. We spend our introduction to this story, for the most part, with her.

We’re with her when the outbreak starts, and we fear for her through it all. But her death has always been something that has stuck with fans. In the show, they really do use it to absolutely destroy us. She’s fine, just injured, and if Joel and Tommy hadn’t tried to run right out of the gate, Sarah might still be alive. But fear consumes them all, and it leaves Sarah (and almost Joel) the victim of the government. Sarah’s death and Joel’s upset in the show work because of how desperately Pascal’s Joel wanted to protect his daughter and how much Sarah fought to survive. And it’s emotionally devastating to watch.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t with Sarah in the game, but the show just gives so much of her to us in those brief moments we have, and it makes us love her all the more.

(featured image: HBO)

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