WARNING: Spoilers for The Last of Us Season One Finale
Season One is officially wrapped up with The Last of Us season finale, which has brought the final events of the first game to an end. After 9 episodes of unrelenting depression caused by the writers, actors, and everyone else who worked on this masterpiece, it was even more depressing to realize it was ending.
Ellie’s very pregnant mother (played by Ellie’s voice actor in the game, Ashley Johnson) fights off an aggressive infected, getting bit the moment Ellie is born. She quickly severs the umbilical cord in an attempt to save her newborn from the virus, symbolizing the emotional connection between Ellie and her mother being instantly severed just like Ellie has expressed to Joel every other relationship has ended.
Marlene finds Ellie’s mother still conscious, revealing she is one of her oldest friends. She tells Marlene that she cut the umbilical cord before she was infected, lying, and makes Marlene promise to protect Ellie. She gifts Ellie her knife and asks Marlene to give it to her one day as she begs her to end her life. It shows how deep a mother's love can go, but also exposes Marlene's connection to Ellie as much deeper than any previous scenes would've had you believe. The dark but passionate tone established in this opening scene carries throughout the majority of the episode.
As Joel and Ellie approach the home stretch of their long journey, they finally reach the hospital where the fireflies have been waiting. The characters move slowly in what seems like an attempt to extend what might be their last alone time for a very long while. Joel tries to be the attentive/distracting dad rather than the quiet/dismissive dad we’ve seen him play before, but Ellie has too much on her mind to be in the moment. Silence speaks louder than words and Ellie is noticeably quiet to Joel, even when he tries joking around with her.
Pedro Pascal was more than just a dad here; he embodied the instinctual good guy father and I could feel him wishing he could do more for Ellie through just his body language.
It’s hard to not feel the chemistry between these two actors with their massive abilities, but even when the chemistry is unbalanced and the tone is dark, they still shine. Looking back on the beginning of the journey when Ellie was full of words to say and Joel couldn’t utter more than three, compared to now when Joel is the one attempting to carry the conversation; it shows how far the two have come. But in a way, it also shows how the scales of hope have begun to shift between the two. As Ellie has less hope every day, Joel gets a little more now that he has a reason to live again. That is until Ellie finds her spirits again when they come across some wild giraffes. This scene emphasizes the uniqueness that Ellie shares with the animal, but more importantly it recreates another beautiful representation of the game's art.
Joel’s offer to abandon their mission and go start a life together ended some of the tension between the two, but Ellie is much too strong, and way more adamant to save mankind than Joel, so they ultimately decide to push on. Joel’s sole focus is Ellie, not humanity. He feels so open with Ellie at this point (as if she is Sarah) that he is willing to share the story of how he got his scar. He tells her that the man who shot and missed his temple was actually him. How he had completely lost his purpose in life.
But it wasn't time that healed the hole in his heart... it was Ellie.
It quickly becomes obvious that Ellie and Joel should’ve just gone home to Tommy when Joel is knocked out and they are both kidnapped. Joel wakes up to his captor, Marlene and her boys. He goes full dark mode on the fireflies after it is revealed that the only (theoretical) way to make a cure would be to remove the cordyceps from Ellie’s brain, ending her life. Disregarding of all the good it could do, Joel regains that purpose in life: vowing to protect Ellie now they plan to take her away from him (in a very disturbing way no less).
Joel violently murders most of them in a love-clouded rage and saves Ellie, but when Marlene attempts to stop him she reminds him that Ellie would have wanted to die for a cure. Knowing Ellie, that was not just psychological warfare she was spitting; it was also the truth. His judgment clouded by rage, Joel blows Marlene's brains out too. I can’t help but wonder if the few people he did let live will come back to haunt him, considering he can’t be truthful with Ellie about what went down. After Joel’s rampage, I didn’t think it could get any darker. But then Joel makes a promise to Ellie that his completely made-up version what happened is completely true. And she believes him. That can't possibly lead to good things.
I thought this was an amazing season finale that gripped me from start to finish. It was filled with some great symbolic scenes, and emotional moments. And it is absolutely packed with the dark action I’ve come to love from the creators. While the episode and the season itself could've used a longer run time, they still did a hell of a job telling most of the complex story from the game while removing a lot of the filler.
I was sad to see the season end so soon, especially knowing Season 2 is most likely to take place 20 years in the future where The Last of Us: Part Two game takes place, but it couldn’t have been done any better. Craig Mazin’s a'mazin (get it?) writing, paired with some of the greatest actors we have, created this beautiful piece of art that will be known as the gold standard for video game shows and films from now on.