If you’ve been rooting for Joel and Ellie so far, The Last Of Us finale may make you question that decision. In ‘Look For The Light’, Joel’s choices just don’t sit right. Let’s run down the key moments from an action-packed episode…
The origins of Ellie’s immunity are revealed
The episode opens with a flashback: Ellie’s pregnant mother Anna – played by the original Ellie from the games, Ashley Johnson – is introduced for the first time. She’s been bitten by the infected, and gives birth in a cabin in the countryside. After swiftly severing her own umbilical cord, Anna hands Ellie off to her friend Marlene to look after when she’s gone.
Later, when Ellie is inspected by doctors at the Fireflies’ HQ, her immunity is explained as having grown inside her since birth – where it has acted as a “chemical messenger” which “makes normal Cordyceps think that she’s Cordyceps”. It might be a small detail for some, but it’s never been directly confirmed in the franchise before. It’s a big deal.
Anna, Ellie’s mother, played by Ashley Johnson in ‘The Last Of Us’. CREDIT: HBO/Sky
We’re told why Joel is partially deaf
While Joel previously brushed off his partial deafness as the byproduct of a gunshot, we discover the trigger was actually pulled by him. During a moving scene, Joel confesses to Ellie that he tried to kill himself in the aftermath of his daughter Sarah’s death but “flinched”, resulting in the damage to his ear.
We see how deeply Joel cares for Ellie at this moment, communicated in a tearful stare as he admits she helped him heal his emotional wounds.
Joel kills Fireflies boss Marlene
Eventually, Marlene reveals to Joel that the plan all along has been to extract the cure running through Ellie’s body and use it to manufacture a vaccine of sorts. This, unfortunately, means killing Ellie too. Faced with the choice between saving his surrogate daughter or the rest of humanity, Joel opts for the former. Marlene disagrees and, quite rightly, argues Ellie probably would too. To remove any chance of the Fireflies coming after Ellie, Joel guns down Marlene in cold blood. It’s another example of Joel desperately clinging to those he loves – regardless of the cost to everyone else.
Joel makes some hard decisions in ‘The Last Of Us’ finale. CREDIT: HBO/Sky
Joel lies to Ellie about the Fireflies
If Joel’s murderous rampage through the rebels’ HQ wasn’t enough, he adds a massive fib to his list of crimes as well. When Ellie wakes up in the back of a car after their escape, Joel fabricates a distorted version of events – one where the Fireflies had found and tested others who are immune, and found no hopes for a cure.
Clearly sensing something awry, Ellie asks Joel to promise he’s telling the truth. “I swear,” Joel replies, in a disturbing commitment to the bit.
How does the finale differ to the games?
Like the rest of the season, the finale was remarkably faithful to the game – taking time for the iconic giraffe encounter (where dialogue is borrowed wholesale) and even the preceding ladder drop by Ellie.
The main difference in the episode is the explicit answer given for Ellie’s immunity. In the game, the links to Anna are only suggested via a blood-stained note in Ellie’s backpack, which you can miss entirely. “You’re not even a day old, and holding you is the most incredible thing I’ve done in my life – a life that is about to get cut a little short,” the note reads. “Marlene will look after you. There’s no one in this world I trust more than her.”
Otherwise, Ellie’s immunity is only referred to on a surgeon’s recorder where, in a long-winded voice note, it deems the cause as simply “uncertain”.
Ellie’s immunity is explained in the new episode. CREDIT: HBO/Sky
What happens next? (Spoiler warning)
The Last Of Us season one concludes at the same point as the original game – teeing up expectations a second season will follow events of sequel The Last Of Us Part II.
Show co-creator Craig Mazin practically confirmed he’s planning to follow the source material during an interview with Gizmodo. “I think that the amount of story that remains that we have not covered would be more than a season of television,” Mazin said. “So assuming we can keep going forward, the idea would be to do more than just one more season.”
As his comments imply, the biggest question is how much the second season will cover. The sequel takes place four years later when Joel and Ellie have settled in Jackson, Wyoming, albeit with a somewhat strained relationship. The time skip means there’s room to fill in some blanks, but any deviations might function better after the introduction of Abby Anderson, whose dramatic actions are the driving catalyst for the second part of the story.
After an opening season which religiously followed the source material (arguably to a fault), the increased scope of part two is a canvas ripe for digging beneath the weeds.
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