All 12 Deаtһs In Tһe Lаst Of Us Seаson 1, Rаnked By Impасt

Characters who don’t meet a grim end in The Last of Us are few and far between. Some season 1 deaths, like Sarah, were sadder than others, like David.



  • The deaths in The Last of Us season 1 varied in emotional impact, with some being heartbreaking and others being shocking or satisfying.
  • The deaths of Kathleen and David were welcomed twists due to their unlikable nature, while other deaths like Tess and Frank were truly devastating.
  • Joel’s violent actions and the deaths of characters like Lee and Marlene highlight the dark side of love and the irreparable impact it can have on individuals.

This article contains references to suicide.

In the dystopian post-apocalyptic hellscape of The Last of Us, characters who don’t meet a grim end at the hands of the infected (or other survivors) are few and far between, but some season 1 deaths, like Joel’s innocent daughter Sarah, are much more emotionally impactful than others, like the despicable villain David. The Last of Us carries the same message as a lot of other zombie stories: the infected flesh-eaters aren’t the real monsters; other human beings are the real monsters. Just as many Last of Us characters are killed by fellow survivors as infected.

The character deaths in the first season of HBO’s adaptation of The Last of Us had different kinds of emotional impact for different reasons. Some deaths are heartbreaking, like the loss of Ellie’s best friend and love interest Riley, while others are shocking, like Perry’s death at the hands of a super-strong bloater. Some characters weren’t very likable in the first place, so their death wasn’t all that upsetting, like militia leader Kathleen, while other characters were infinitely lovable, like Bill and Frank, so their deaths were truly devastating.

12 Kathleen

Ambushed By A Clicker In Episode 5

Kathleen holding a gun in The Last of Us

When Kathleen and her militia track down Joel, Ellie, Sam, and Henry in episode 5, “Endure and Survive,” they seem to be backed into a corner. But, luckily, the collapse of a nearby dilapidated house invites a swarm of infected to come up onto the surface and thin out the crowd of attackers. Since Kathleen was already an unlikable character – ruthlessly pursuing Sam and Henry, two of the show’s most likable characters – and she was about to shoot the heroes dead when a clicker got her, her death arrived as a welcome twist.

11 Perry

Ripped Apart By A Bloater In Episode 5

A bloater attacks Perry in The Last of Us

Kathleen’s right-hand man, Perry, is killed alongside her in episode 5’s infected attack. Much like Kathleen, Perry was already an unlikable character, so his death didn’t stir up much emotion. But since his death was far more gruesome than Kathleen’s, it had a more visceral impact on the viewer. Like many Last of Us players who were unfortunate enough to get too close to a bloater, Perry is ripped apart. This is easily the most brutal death in the entire season.

10 Lee

Beaten To Death By Joel In Episode 1

Lee holds Joel at gunpoint in The Last of Us

In the acclaimed first episode of The Last of Us season 1, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness,” Joel and Tess are seen negotiating with a crooked FEDRA officer named Lee. When Lee catches Joel and Tess leaving the Boston Q.Z. with their precious cargo, Ellie, Lee threatens them at gunpoint. This gives Joel flashes to when his daughter Sarah was killed by a soldier. Sarah died because Joel froze up, and he won’t let it happen again, so he beats Lee to death. This is an early sign of just how far Joel is willing to go to avoid losing another 14-year-old daughter.

9 David

Hacked To Death By Ellie In Episode 8

David is one of the most hateable characters in The Last of Us – he rules his community with an iron fist and he threatens Ellie with unspeakable acts – so audiences gladly accepted his demise in episode 8, “When We Are in Need.” But David’s death is a tragic scene; not because it’s sad to see him go, but because it has an irreparable impact on Ellie’s psyche. As Ellie hacks David to death with a meat cleaver in a burning steakhouse, Bella Ramsey plays the resulting trauma with heartbreaking authenticity.

8 Tess

Killed By Infected In Episode 2

Tess looking scared in The Last of Us

The majority of The Last of Us season 1 follows Joel and Ellie on a cross-country journey, but they start that journey with a third member in their party. Joel’s partner Tess is the one who convinces Joel to accept responsibility for Ellie, but she only lasts until episode 2, “Infected.” After Tess is bitten by an infected, she sacrifices herself to give Joel and Ellie a fighting chance. The selflessness with which Tess accepts her fate and stays behind to detonate a grenade in the middle of a horde of infected makes her death truly devastating.

7 Marlene

Shot Dead By Joel In Episode 9

When Joel and Ellie finally make it to the Fireflies in episode 9, “Look for the Light,” Joel is dismayed to learn that the surgery they plan to perform on Ellie to create a cure will kill her. Joel refuses to go through the unimaginable anguish of losing a daughter for a second time, so he picks up a gun, slaughters all the Firefly soldiers on the way to the pediatric ward, shoots the surgeon dead, and takes Ellie to the parking lot to steal a car. When Marlene tries to stop him, he kills her, too. Joel’s shocking climactic massacre highlights the dark side of love.

6 Riley

Bitten By An Infected In Episode 7

A clicker bites Riley in The Last of Us

Episode 7, “Left Behind,” based on the DLC of the same name, fills in a crucial part of Ellie’s backstory: the day she found out she’s immune. Ellie’s best friend Riley snuck her out of the Q.Z. to show her the time of her life at a fully operational shopping mall. They rode the merry-go-round, played in an arcade, and danced around in Halloween masks. Ellie finally confessed her love to Riley and they shared a kiss. Heart-wrenchingly, the best day of Ellie’s life turned into the worst as they were attacked by an infected and both got bitten. The loss of Riley made Ellie an even more tragic figure.

5 Frank

Took His Own Life In Episode 3

Frank looking sad in The Last Of Us episode 3

The HBO adaptation’s biggest deviation from the game arrives in episode 3, “Long, Long Time,” which pivots away from Joel and Ellie to tell the beautiful love story of Joel’s survivalist friend Bill and his husband Frank. The episode charts years of Bill and Frank’s life together, culminating in the tragic ending of Frank contracting a terminal illness in a world without doctors. Frank eventually makes peace with it and asks Bill to give him one last great day before euthanizing him over dinner. Frank is a truly lovable character, so it’s painful to see him go, but there’s a bittersweet quality in Frank determining his own fate.

4 Bill

Joined Frank In Taking His Own Life In Episode 3

Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett as older Bill and Frank embracing in The Last of Us

After Bill euthanizes Frank with a lethal overdose, he takes a lethal overdose of his own so they can die together. Bill insists that this isn’t “the tragic suicide at the end of the play,” because he’s lived a full, satisfactory life with Frank, and he doesn’t want to continue it without him. He tells Frank, “You were my purpose.” Frank’s death was tragic, but it was inescapable; he had no other choice. Bill’s death is even more tragic, because he has the option to keep living and instead chooses the romantic gesture of joining his husband in death.

3 Sam

Killed By Henry In Episode 5

Sam looking at Ellie in The Last of Us

When Joel and Ellie meet Sam and Henry while trying to escape from Kansas City in episode 5, they see a reflection of themselves: an innocent child and their watchful older protector. After all four escape from Kathleen’s militia and the horde of infected they invite onto the surface, they seem to be in the clear – but Sam was bitten in the commotion. The next morning, an infected Sam attacks Ellie. Henry makes the snap decision to shoot Sam.

2 Henry

Took His Own Life In Episode 5

Henry pointing a gun in The Last of Us episode 5

As distressing as Sam’s death is, Henry’s subsequent death is arguably even more devastating. Following his split-second decision to shoot Sam and save Ellie, Henry can’t believe what he’s done. Even though Sam was infected and what remained of his little brother was long gone, Henry couldn’t live with his actions, so he turned the gun on himself. Within seconds, Last of Us viewers lost two of the show’s most lovable characters.

1 Sarah

Shot Dead By A Soldier In Episode 1

One of the most nail-biting sequences in The Last of Us season 1 is the outbreak. Joel and his brother Tommy are desperate to get out of town as infected attack people and planes crash into the street. Joel makes it to the outskirts of the city with his injured daughter Sarah, but they’re confronted by a soldier who shoots Sarah dead in Joel’s arms. Sarah’s death is even more harrowing in the TV show than it was in the video game, because the TV show spends the whole day with her before the outbreak, so the audience has a chance to get more emotionally attached to her.

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