Now that Season 1 of The Last of Us has ended, it’s time to look back at some of the survival lessons the hit television series produced by HBO got right. The TV show, based on the popular video game of the same name, is set in a world where a fungal pandemic has decimated most of humanity, and those who remain are struggling to survive in a harsh and dangerous world. The post-apocalyptic drama series is filled with thrilling life-and-death situations that everyone can learn from and we’re here to dissect some of the most important takeaways.
The Last of Us follows the story of Joel Miller and Ellie Williams, played respectively by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey of Game of Thrones fame. Joel is a smuggler tasked with delivering Ellie, a teenage girl who is immune to the fungus, to a militia group who believe that her immunity could hold the key to creating a cure for the infection. As they journey through the dangerous and unforgiving world, Joel and Ellie must navigate through various factions of survivors, including hostile human enemies and infected creatures. Along the way, they form a close bond and face numerous challenges that test their courage and strength.
As entertaining and exciting as the fictional TV show is, there are also many important survival lessons that can be learned from Joel and Ellie’s journey. But I must remind you, there are spoilers ahead so read at your own risk! Better yet, catch the show now and get a better understanding of the survival tips listed here. Here are 10 valuable The Last of Us survival lessons you need to learn before Cordyceps take over the world:
1. Know the area
In Episode 1, Joel, his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker), and his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna) were trying to flee their town but the road they initially thought of taking was blocked by other vehicles. The other road they took was being used by military vehicles. They had no choice but to find an alternative route.
They figured if they can “go through town, golf course, by the river, (and) straight across” they could “pick up the highway on the other side of the blockade” and head to Mexico or as far as their gas can take them. It’s a good thing that both men knew the area well so they had options.
Things didn’t go according to plan, however, thanks to the widespread panic caused by the infected, a passenger plane crashing in the middle of the town, and a soldier who had to obey orders. The point here is that they knew the area by heart so it was easier to make quick decisions while they tried to evacuate.
When preparing your evacuation plan, you need to know the layout of your area, including possible escape routes in case of emergencies. Scout the area and get familiar with alternative routes in case primary ones are inaccessible.
Aside from first-hand knowledge of the terrain, you should also have a GPS device, maps, compass, and other navigation tools. Having access to these resources can make a difference between life and death.
2. Stay informed
At the start of the outbreak, the National Public Warning System or the Primary Entry Point (PEP) issued an emergency notification, which Sarah saw on TV. The alert advised residents to stay indoors and to wait for further instructions from law enforcement and emergency services in the area. Of course, Sarah refused to stay indoors as she checked on the neighbors and that got her into a heap of trouble.
In real life, you need to stay tuned to the news to stay up-to-date about a coming disaster. You can watch newscasts on TV or online or listen to the emergency radio and wait for alerts and announcements from the government.
Keep a battery-powered radio, extra batteries, phone charger, and other communication devices handy in case of power outages. A hand crank radio is a great option because it can be powered up manually.
3. Communication is vital
Aside from ignoring the emergency alert, Sarah didn’t think of calling her father on the phone to find out where he is. This is assuming she had a phone she can use, though. On the other hand, Joel should’ve called her from his phone, too.
We later learn that cell phones and radios were down so it’s possible Joel was trying to contact Sarah. If he was able to get in touch with her, Joel could’ve told her to lock herself inside the house and wait for them. In this instance, we see the importance of having a way to communicate even with the power and internet grid down.
Twenty years later, people depended on battery-powered CB radios as the main means of communication. Civilians without their own radios had to line up and pay Abe, a radio operator, to communicate with people outside their quarantine zone (QZ).
It’s necessary to always have a fully charged cellphone wherever you go. And make sure you have emergency contact numbers on speed dial. But when communication lines are down like what happened at the start of the fungal outbreak, you need other options such as a walkie-talkie, two-way radio, or CB radio.
4. All hands on deck
When the chips are down, you may need everyone to help out and pull their weight even the young ones. Ellie asks for a gun a few times but was always shut down. Fortunately for Joel, Ellie found a gun, which she later used to save him when they were ambushed by a group of people.
While a firearm is not safe in the hands of a kid or someone inexperienced, there may be times when you need everyone to arm up and fight threats or hunt animals. In such survival situations, it’s necessary to invest in training everyone, even the kids. You never know when their shooting skills might come in handy.
After being saved by Ellie, Joel thought her how to properly hold a gun. He made her hold the Beretta Model 70 to see her grip. He then showed her the correct way with the thumb of her dominant hand placed over her non-dominant hand, which is placed on the front of the grip with the fingers wrapped around it. He told Ellie to apply pressure by squeezing down to create a solid, stable grip. And since Ellie didn’t have a holster, Joel told her to put the gun in her bag and not in her pocket.
5. Cover all bases
As smugglers, Joel and Tess had to go outside the Boston QZ to do their business. They can spend days or weeks outside so they have to make sure to plan for all possible scenarios. The two studied the ins and outs of the collapsed city looking for different routes so they have options when the usual path is blocked or unsafe.
They also prepared for the unexpected by leaving life-saving gear and supplies in strategic places. In the third episode, Joel takes Ellie to an abandoned store where he stashed some items a couple of years before. He also left his assault rifle there for future use. Since he and Tess take different routes depending on the situation, they probably have more gear and supplies hidden in other areas. That’s one clever way to cover one’s bases.
6. Always have an exit strategy
In the store scene, Ellie found a trap door on the floor and go down to investigate. After climbing down, she immediately propped up a garbage can that she can use to climb back up. You can see here that Ellie was smart enough to know she needed a fast way to get back up in case she encounters any trouble.
You need to have an escape plan every time you enter an unfamiliar place. When you enter a building, for example, look around for emergency exits. Figure out the fastest way to evacuate the building in case of an emergency. Consider possible obstacles that might prevent you from getting out and strategize how to get around them.
7. It pays to be “paranoid” sometimes
Many people think “crazy” and “paranoid” when they hear doomsday preppers. The truth is not all preppers and survivalists suffer from paranoia or anxiety. While there are people who truly suffer from paranoid delusions and believe that someone is spying on them or thinking of hurting them, there are also people who take extra safety measures and prepare for the worst scenarios.
In The Last of Us, one of the characters that survived the fungal outbreak is a conspiracy theory-believing survivalist who seems to suffer from a bit of paranoia. That or he just really dislikes other human beings.
Bill, brilliantly played by Parks and Recreation‘s Nick Offerman, didn’t trust the government or the New World Order jackboot f*cks, as he called them. That’s why he stayed hidden inside his underground shelter while soldiers were evacuating his town of Lincoln. That’s also why he lived long enough to have a fruitful life amidst the chaos, find true love in Frank (Murray Bartlett), and eventually die of his own accord.
If Bill wasn’t so paranoid, he would’ve evacuated with everybody else. And if he did, he’d end up dead in a ditch outside of town just like everybody else. Sadly, these people who thought they were going to the QZ were sacrificed to contain the outbreak since “dead people can’t be infected.”
8. Be careful who you put your faith in
In the same breath as the survival lesson above, you should avoid trusting strangers so easily. It’s a sad thought but you can never really know a person’s true intentions, even if they appear friendly and kind. When push comes to shove, people will do whatever it takes to stay alive even if that includes betraying those who trust them.
That’s the likely scenario in an apocalyptic world similar to the setting of The Last of Us. In the first episode, Joel, Sarah, and Tommy encountered a FEDRA soldier while trying to escape Austin. Anyone would think the soldier would help them since it’s their duty to protect the country. Instead, he was ordered to dispose of them.
In the last episode of Season 1, Marlene (Merle Dandridge), the Firefly leader who hired Joel to take Ellie from Boston to Colorado, told Ellie that she was spared because she told her companions not to hurt her. Marlene also revealed that she knew her mother Anna and that she was the one who took her to the Boston QZ as an infant after her mom died. She also enrolled Ellie in a FEDRA military school. Heck, Marlene even told Ellie that that’s her real name!
It’s easy to see why Ellie must’ve trusted Marlene and thought that she would never put her in harm’s way. But then again, Marlene believed in pursuing the greater good over the wishes of her dying friend. She was willing to sacrifice Ellie if that means they can find a cure and save humanity from extinction.
Sure, it was a noble cause and all but still, she betrayed Ellie’s trust unless the kid knew what she was signing up for. That seemed unlikely since she thought that the Fireflies would only draw her blood and make a cure. She also told Joel that she’ll follow him wherever he will go after they accomplish their mission of saving the world.
Back in the real world, the usual suspects of sexual violence are people known to the victim or someone they trust. This could be a friend, family member, or even a teacher. As Maria Miller (Rutina Wesley) put it, “the only people who can betray us, are the ones we trust.”
The point is that it’s important to not be quick to trust anyone and to practice caution when dealing with strangers and even people they know.
9. You’re not an action star
After FEDRA left with the townspeople, Bill came out of his underground shelter and out the front door equipped with a shotgun, sidearm, ammo, and a gas mask. While it’s commendable that he was prepared for a gunfight, he shouldn’t have rushed out. He’s no Chuck Norris.
What if there were stragglers in the area doing a final sweep or waiting for someone like Bill to come out when they think it’s safe? In this situation, the best course of action is to wait for a day or so before coming out of your emergency shelter. Bill was completely safe and he had plenty of supplies to last a long time. A few days of staying locked inside his bunker and waiting until he’s sure it’s safe wouldn’t hurt.
Avoid rushing into battle unless it’s absolutely necessary. If you’re in an active shooter situation, for example, your first and best option is to run away and find safety. If that’s not possible, you have to find a good place to hide. If both are not viable options then and only then should you fight back. Remember that this is survival, not a movie set.
10. Prepare for all kinds of emergencies
No one could’ve expected some fungus to rage war on humankind but it did. What many didn’t realize was that someone did theorize that this could happen. In the opening scene of the series, Dr. Neuman (John Hannah) talks about the possible danger that a fungus could pose to humanity. This interview took place in 1968.
Fast forward to 2003 and we see the start of the outbreak. With that vital piece of information from Dr. Neuman, you’d think people would take the possible outbreak seriously and prepare for it. But alas, they didn’t and when it did happen, everyone was left scrambling to survive.
Bill is the best example of someone who’s prepared for anything. Well, except for a lover and a couple of friends. Bill survived and thrived during the outbreak mainly because he’s a survivalist or a person who has devoted their life to being prepared for any emergency situation, whether it be natural or man-made.
As for you, make sure you’re ready for hurricanes, floods, fires, earthquakes, power outages, EMP attacks, and any other disaster that could come your way. Make sure to have an emergency kit with food, water, and other supplies to last you a few days in case of a natural disaster or if society begins to unravel.
Above all, remember that surviving is only half the battle. Thriving during post-apocalyptic times will require more than just surviving. That’s where preparation and a bit of luck come into play. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use these tips but it’s always better to be prepared for the worst-case scenario.
11. Stock up
Prior to the outbreak, Bill was already prepping for disasters by stocking up on food, ingredients, and other supplies essential for survival. He also built a bunker under his basement and equipped it with monitors where he can see what was happening outside through cameras he had set up.
Bill also has a good collection of hand and power tools, survival gear, and equipment he could use when SHTF. Bill had an all-purpose charger, a bolt cutter that he used for breaking into the natural gas plant, a chainsaw to cut down trees, an axe to chop firewood, and a generator to keep things running.
If you look closely at his underground bunker, you’ll find an impressive collection of firearms and ammunition, as well as sulfuric acid and what seemed like supplements. In his basement were bottles of wine and who knows what else he got stashed in his property.
The takeaway here is that people should always be prepared for emergencies, no matter how unlikely they may seem. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, so stocking up on emergency food, drinking water, medical supplies, weapons, and other necessary items is always a good idea. Being prepared for the unexpected could save your life one day.
12. Learn different skills
Self-sufficiency is a major factor in survival. It’s not enough to come out unscathed after a disaster, you also need to thrive in the aftermath. That’s why Bill was so successful in surviving the post-apocalyptic world. He had a wide array of skills that allowed him to adapt to the changing times.
Some of the skills he learned included raising chickens, slaughtering and butchering, growing vegetables, cooking meals, and collecting rainwater. A skilled mechanic, he knew how to operate, repair, and maintain vehicles and electrical equipment. He can even build something from scratch thanks to his ingenuity and resourcefulness. Oh, and he played the piano and could carry a tune.
Bill also had the knowledge and skills to fortify his property and keep it safe from Clickers, marauders, and other threats. He built an electric fence with an automatic gate, traps with motion sensors and spews fire, and a tripwire that blows the head off intruders. Then there’s the pitfall trap, which would play an instrumental role in Bill’s transformation from someone who was happy when everyone died to someone whose job was to save and protect one person.
Another example that Bill has a treasure cove of knowledge is the dismantled truck battery inside the fridge in his garage. Bill didn’t leave the battery connected to the truck since it will die eventually even if it’s not being used. But he knew that keeping the battery parts in the fridge will keep them from degrading long enough for Joel to find them. He also made sure Joel could charge the battery once he put it back together.
Scavenging is also an essential skill when SHTF as resources become scarce. You’ll need to get creative and resourceful to survive with limited resources. With everyone in town evacuated (and massacred), Bill had a heydey scavenging for resources. He ransacked the abandoned homes and establishments and got a boat, fuel, clothes, a box of Caymus Cabernet Sauvignon from the wine store, and lots of useful stuff from the Home Depot.
14. Find a reason to survive
Meeting Frank changed Bill’s view on survival. He was content with being the sole survivor of his town as he flourished in its solitude. But Frank gave him a whole new purpose and outlook on life. His reason to survive had shifted from self-preservation to protecting those he cared about.
After meeting Frank, Bill realized he was longing for human interaction after all. Having someone to talk to and care for did a lot of good for their mental well-being. And we should all know that one’s mental health is detrimental to surviving any emergency or apocalyptic scenario. So that’s another survival lesson you can learn from The Last of Us.
15. Make friends
Four years into the outbreak, Bill was thriving. He had food to eat, water to drink, fuel to get around, and guns to defend himself. Then he found love when Frank came into his life.
Solo survival may seem appealing to some but it does have some disadvantages. For one, you have to do everything yourself. It’s impressive how Bill managed to keep his huge home spic and span during the four years he was alone. And when you think about all the other tasks he had to do like repair and maintenance, gardening, and finding food and other supplies, it’s really exhausting.
Another disadvantage of being a lone survivor is that you don’t have anyone to watch your back. If Bill encountered some trouble, he had no one to help him fight it off. If he got hurt or sick, he had no choice but to treat himself.
Having friends can help. At the very least, you need to forge a good working relationship with others. They had that with Joel and Tess. The two pairs exchanged supplies such as a pack of strawberry seeds and high-tensile aluminum to reinforce his fence that was starting to corrode.
Support and companionship are also emotionally rewarding, which will do wonders for your morale in tough situations. So it’s important to find yourself a few friends when SHTF. Better yet, start or be part of a community like the one Tommy joined in Jackson, Wyoming.
HBO’s The Last of Us offers a wealth of survival lessons that readers can apply to their own lives. From the importance of staying aware of your surroundings and being prepared for anything, to the value of building strong relationships and never giving up in the face of adversity, these lessons are both practical and empowering. By watching the characters of The Last of Us navigate their dangerous world and overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges, we can learn valuable skills and mindsets that will help us to thrive in any situation. So, whether you’re a fan of the show or simply looking for some inspiration to help you tackle life’s challenges, The Last of Us has something to offer everyone. Watch out for the second part of this blog post over at Gentleman Pirate Club and uncover the next 15 Last of Us survival lessons.
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