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‘The Last of Us’ Season 1 culminated in Salt Lake City: Here’s what to do if the zombie apocalypse really happened here

HBO Max’s first season of “The Last of Us” ended in Salt Lake City — here’s how to survive a zombie apocalypse in Salt Lake

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Gabriel Luna and Pedro Pascal in “The Last of Us.”

Liane Hentscher, HBO

I have long maintained that if I had to choose between surviving the zombie apocalypse and death, I would gladly choose death. Upon watching humanity fight for survival on TV, I think to myself: “Wow, that’s way too much work!”

And for what? So you can spend your life living in fear? Without electricity?

As a woman who is not a fan of running and who loves air conditioning, I know that living a single day during the zombie apocalypse would exhaust me. I would simply bid farewell to my loved ones, wish them luck, lie down and wait for the embrace of death.

Perhaps that is why I find myself incredibly stressed whenever I watch a zombie apocalypse play out on TV. HBO Max’s “The Last of Us” is no exception.

What is ‘The Last of Us’ about?

Starring Pedro Pascal, the internet’s boyfriend, “The Last of Us” is based on a 2013 video game of the same name. Both the game and the show follow Joel Miller (Pascal), a haunted man burdened with the task of getting a teen named Ellie (Bella Ramsey) to a group of rebels in a zombie-infested world.

At this year’s Emmys — which have been postponed to January 2024, per NPR — “The Last of Us” was nominated for 24 Emmy awards. This includes outstanding lead actor in a drama series for Pedro Pascal and an outstanding lead actress in a drama series nomination for Bella Ramsey, per the Emmys’ official website.

In “The Last of Us” universe, zombies are infected with Cordecyps, a fungal brain infection. Essentially, this fungus infects its hosts and takes over their brain, which “grows sponge-y masses inside bodies and tendrils out of mouths, and eventually bursts from eyes and foreheads,” according to Vulture.

“The Last of Us” video game is divided into Part I and Part II, the first of which being the source material for HBO Max’s “The Last of Us” Season 1. According to Entertainment Weekly, the show was renewed for Season 2 in January. So it’s likely that Season 2 will closely follow Part II of the video game.

Fans of the show and the video game were perhaps unsurprised to find Season 1 culminating in Salt Lake City (spoilers ahead!). After meeting up with the Fireflies in Salt Lake City, Joel learns that in order to make the Cordyceps cure, doctors would have to remove Ellie’s brain and kill her.

The season finale ends with Joel killing all the Fireflies in St. Mary’s Hospital to save Ellie. Afterwards, they both contemplate their future together as they head back to Jackson.

Naturally, this connection between “The Last of Us” and Salt Lake City got me thinking: What would a zombie apocalypse in Salt Lake City look like? And how would one survive?

Contemplating these questions might lead to inevitable self-realization. You might like what you learn about yourself. You might not. If you’re willing to take this journey together, let’s get into it.

Is Salt Lake City in ‘The Last of Us’?

(Major spoilers ahead!)

According to “The Last of Us” Wiki, Joel and Ellie travel to Utah to meet up with the Fireflies. In the video game, each Firefly group across the country — including the group we first meet at the beginning of the show — all converge in Salt Lake City, according to ScreenRant. They also revisit Utah in “The Last of Us” Part II.

Why? They all meet up at the fictional St. Mary’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, most likely to create a vaccine against the Cordyceps infection using Ellie’s blood. “The Last of Us” Part I ends in Salt Lake City, so it’s pretty likely that the show will end in Utah, too.

In the video game, Salt Lake City is overgrown with foliage and running rampant with zombies — called “infected” in the game and the show — and giraffes, apparently. While it’s never specified, I’m assuming the giraffes are from Hogle Zoo, which seems to be lacking proper management during the zombie apocalypse. Understandable!

Here’s a screenshot of Salt Lake City in the Last of Us” Part I, for context. You can clearly see the Salt Lake Temple in the background, plus the aforementioned giraffes. But besides the temple and the mountains in the back, it only bears a vague resemblance to Salt Lake City.

How to survive the zombie apocalypse in Salt Lake City

Let’s say that the events in “The Last of Us” actually happen: thousands of people are infected with the Cordecyps fungus. Civilization, as we know it, has collapsed. And you’re holed up in your cozy Salt Lake City home.

How do you survive? Well, as someone who has absolutely no desire to make it through a zombie apocalypse, I have ideas.

1. Panic and question if you are willing to fight for survival

I am going to assume that you, like me, are the average citizen with no tactical or survival skills. Maybe you go camping a few times a year, but have limited experience actually making it in the wild. Maybe you’ve never shot a gun. Maybe you just cannot survive without running water.

If the above applies to you, take a quick breather from the inevitable panic and do some serious thinking. Are you really willing to do whatever it takes to survive? Like, really really?

If this were me, this would be where my story ends. I’ve had a good life! But if, after a few minutes of soul-searching, you find the fire to survive, you will journey on. “I can do this,” you’ll probably think to yourself, with a touch of optimistic naïveté.

Congratulations, my friend. You are officially ready to face the hordes of infected that are presumably breathing down your door.

2. Organize, but be smart

I have already established that my survival instincts are subpar at best, but in the light of a zombie infestation, my first inclination would be to go to the City Creek Harmon’s location to gather supplies.

Do! Not! Do! This! Sure, Harmon’s is huge and full of supplies. But do you know what it’s also full of? You guessed it: zombies. No amount of supplies or delicious artisan treats are worth dying for.

So get yourself organized, but, please, use common sense. Gather provisions from whatever you have in your home. If you must venture outside prematurely, make sure to arm yourself with a weapon-esque object that could be used to lob off the head of an infected.

Once you have provisions, and hopefully a semi-decent plan, band together with your friends and/or neighbors to cut through the mobs of infected.

3. Begin your journey

Ironically, the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse in Salt Lake City is to leave Salt Lake City. Since I am operating on the assumption that this is the beginning of the zombie infections, any city will be teeming with infected.

So where’s the best place to go in Utah for the zombie apocalypse? This is where I turned to my co-workers for advice. Someone suggested Heber City, because there are “lots of hiding places” (a direct quote). Another suggested Manti, because “people know what they’re doing there” (another direct quote!).

While I am not one to question the wisdom of my co-workers, one concern did occur to me: what if you don’t have access to a car? Surely gas will be difficult to obtain in the chaos of the beginning of the apocalypse. And what if your preferred mode of transportation was a bike?

These are instances where I see the wisdom in my dad’s advice to have half a tank of gas in my car at all times. So if you’re well-prepared, you can ride that half tank of gas as far as you can go. Since Heber City’s closest to Salt Lake, that might be the wisest choice. But if you’re feeling dangerous, you can take the risky ride to Manti.

4. ... or not

But what if you don’t have a car, you may ask? Your options will be limited, but certainly not nonexistent.

Let’s say that, due to some strange twist of fate, I decide to attempt to survive the hordes of infected. Will I be leaving Salt Lake City? Probably not! Because, despite my dad’s sage advice, I very rarely have half a tank of gas in my car.

So where would I go? Here are a few Salt Lake City spots I’d consider sheltering in:

  • Vivint Arena.
  • City Creek Mall.
  • The Grand America Hotel.
  • Gourmandise.
  • Walker Center.
  • My apartment bathroom.
  • Allen Park.
  • Salt Lake City Public Library.

If you question my judgement, remember this: My motivation to survive will be extremely low. But if you find yourself with a stronger will to survive, you can hoof it to Heber City or Manti along with my co-workers.

5. Hunker down and get ready for a wild ride

OK, let’s say you and your band of merry misfits have managed to hack your way through the thousands of infected infesting Salt Lake City. Maybe you guys even found a nice, cozy spot at the Grand America Hotel to squat in.

That was probably exhausting. But at least all is well now, right?

Wrong! This is only the beginning of what is certain to be an incredibly wild and exhausting ride. Every single day will be a fight for survival. You will be tired. You will be ragged. You will be dirty. Any step you take outside your shelter will be dangerous. Both zombies and humans alike will do their best to wipe you out.

I sincerely hope that all the effort will be worth it. Hopefully, in twenty years or so, Salt Lake City will be practically empty, with only the giraffes to keep you company. As humanity dwindles and vegetation takes over the city, you can take a peaceful stroll in a now-dilapidated City Creek mall and fondly remember what once was.