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This Depeche Mode Song Plays a Pivotal Role in HBO’s The Last of Us

Find out the significance of "Never Let Me Down Again" in the first episode

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Last of Us Depeche Mode Never Let Me Down Again season premiere episode 1 explainer
The Last of Us (HBO) and Depeche Mode (photo by Sven Darmer)

    [Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Last of Us, Season 1 Episode 1, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness.”]

    The premiere of HBO’s new TV series The Last of Us aired on Sunday, January 15th, capturing the attention of both fans of the video game and newcomers to the franchise. To help set the mood for the post-apocalypse show, the music supervisors selected a handful of songs, but none made as much of an impression as a Depeche Mode classic that played over the end credits.

    Created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann (the latter also wrote and directed the video game), The Last of Us centers around grizzled survivor Joel (Pedro Pascal), who is tasked with smuggling teenage girl Ellie (Bella Ramsey). The latter just might be humanity’s hope for a cure for a fungal plague that has ravaged the globe.

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    After Joel and his partner Tess (Anna Torv) meet Ellie toward the end of the first episode, they begin their journey beyond the quarantine zone and face certain danger ahead. Unfortunately, they miss a coded warning from a friend in the form of Depeche Mode’s 1987 hit “Never Let Me Down Again” from the band’s album Music for the Masses.

    There’s significance to the song being released in the 1980s: As Ellie notes, music played over the radio is used as a code while communicating with fellow survivors Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). “’60s song, they don’t have anything new,” she deciphers, “’70s, they got new stuff. What’s ’80s?” It’s likely not to mean anything good, but viewers will find out soon enough.

    In addition to “Never Let Me Down Again,” the episode also includes Avril Lavigne’s 2002 song “Tomorrow” and Dido’s “White Flag,” alongside Gustavo Santaolalla and David Fleming’s score.

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    The Last of Us airs Sundays on HBO and is also available to stream on HBO Max. Read our review here.

    Depeche Mode recently announced a new album called Memento Moi, along with plans for an extensive world tour in 2023.

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