It’s been a long and emotional journey on The Last of Us. Despite the cordyceps apocalypse, love has managed to endure in moving ways. But there has also been plenty of heartbreak and tragedy in this desolate world. In the season finale, Joel and Ellie finally meet back up with the Fireflies and the ending will have you feeling conflicted.
The beginning of the episode focuses on a pregnant woman named Anna (played by the original voice of Ellie, Ashley Johnson) who is fleeing in terror from an infected. The attack is so stressful that she delivers her baby while she fends off her assailant. We learn afterwards the Anna is Ellie’s mother. It’s a tense opening especially considering Anna’s physical state and the one-on-one encounter. There is also added context providing the sentimental value to Ella’s knife as well as a possible explanation to her immunity.
The Last of Us returns to the present with the protagonists dealing with the aftermath and trauma from the run in with David and his flock. Joel can obviously sense Ellie is distant and distracted so he tries to take her mind off things. It’s sweet what he offers from a can of Chef Boyardee to a friendly game of boggle to even the possibility of playing guitar for her. All pretty dad things to do. They are all an appreciated gesture but you can tell Ellie’s mind is elsewhere.
A chance meeting with giraffes, a memorable part from the game, is able to lift her spirits. Like Joel, you can’t help but feel optimistic and warm seeing Ellie smile and laugh again. It’s such a surreal experience as they get close and hand feed the exotic creature. Giraffes might as well be as mythical as a unicorn in this landscape.
The relationship between the main characters has really grown and developed on this season of The Last of Us. All the time on the road not to mention the shared near-death experiences will solidify that bond. They are more comfortable and trusting towards one another as they open up about their past. Joel was really a tortured soul and went to a really dark place early in the pandemic. When he admits that it wasn’t time that healed his wounds, the pair are so close that there is an unspoken understanding between them.
Their conversations also reveal how invested she is with her protector even admitting she is willing to follow him anywhere. All she asks is they finish their mission because she understands her importance and obligation to the greater good. Despite her arduous journey, Ellie remains the idealist.
When they finally meet back up with Marlene and the Fireflies, the plans for the cordyceps cure are more invasive than originally thought. Joel’s more vicious side comes out once again but this time it has a much different feel. His victims aren’t raiders or someone attempting to eat or rape his surrogate daughter. The animosity and ruthlessness hit differently, and it seems more a selfish act than anything. It raises a nuanced moral dilemma because Joel has his reasons. Though Ellie would seem to be the type who is mature and optimistic enough to understand her circumstances and the sacrifice.
The Last of Us leaves you on an interesting cliffhanger because it sets the stage for a falling out. Here, that unspoken understanding has a negative effect. Bella Ramsey can’t hide her character’s disgust when reawakening on the road. The turning over speaks to Ella’s incredulity towards Joel’s account of things. Even Joel doubts himself apologizing under his breath.
She gives him one last opportunity to come clean becoming completely vulnerable as she shares the story of Riley, but Joel won’t budge. The ending shot of a quiet anger and disbelief speaks volumes to her current view of her companion. It seems as though she could have overlooked the violence, but his dishonesty is what hurts most.
Episode nine serves as a good way to cap the season. There are many callbacks to the premiere both in dialog and visuals that demonstrate how far both Ellie and Joel have come together. The final act will have you feeling conflicted because you’ve grown fond of both, but it is painful to watch Joel devolve despite his good intentions. The state of their relationship afterwards will have you eager to follow when The Last of Us eventually returns.
Watch the entire first season of The Last of Us on HBO.
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