Editor’s Note: Contains spoilers for the season finale of “The Last of Us,” which premiered on March 12.
() — What if saving the world came down to sacrificing an innocent teenager? That was the brutal choice posed by the season finale of “The Last of Us,” and the fate, with the benefit of hindsight, to which each step along this path led.
If the series “Heroes” popularized the phrase “Save the cheerleader, save the world”, “The Last of Us” turned it on its head, in a heartbreaking way, by demanding the death of a teenager, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), to achieve the same expected effect.
Joel (Pedro Pascal), who lost his daughter in the outbreak of the apocalypse, was hardened and bitter when he was tasked with escorting Ellie across the country, for her immunity to the virus could give humanity hope.
However, the two grew closer throughout their (very eventful) travels, and when he called her “girl” when they met again at the end of the eighth episode, there was a tenderness that indicated how far their relationship had come.
The episode began with a flashback to Ellie’s birth and the cruel fate of her mother, a sort of origin story similar to that of Marvel’s Blade (his mother was bitten by a vampire while giving birth to him) in the comics. It was also established that Marlene (Merle Dandridge), now of the Fireflies, had known Ellie since those events, furthering her history with the character.
It all led to the seemingly inevitable payoff, when Joel and Ellie arrived at the facility they had worked so hard to find, only for him to learn that the potential panacea she carried was buried deep within his brain. The doctors could remove it and produce a cure, but the girl would have to die as a result.
Although Ellie seemed prepared for such a possibility—”There are no half measures with this,” she told Joel before they arrived—the prospect was simply too much for him, despite Marlene’s not unreasonable argument that sparing his life would only prolong his life. the inevitable at the expense of everyone else.
“You can’t keep her safe forever,” Marlene said, noting that if he refused the procedure, Ellie would continue to live “in a broken world that you could have saved.”
However, for Joel, letting her die was not an option. Undeterred by Marlene’s logic, he escaped her captors, freed Ellie, and killed, well, just about everyone who got in her way. He then lied to the girl that scientists had “stopped looking for a cure” and summed up his personal evolution by saying, in terms of finding a reason to live: “If you keep going, you find something new to fight for.”
Viewers can (and should) debate the morality of this statement and the debate it raises between the “needs of the many” and those of a single person. Dramatically, though, it’s hard to argue with the impact of those final moments and the grim portent of a future that Joel seems to have robbed of his only ray of hope.
Whatever the ending means for “The Last of Us” going forward – in a second season and likely beyond – it has added one last emotional punch to a season peppered with them. Along the way, Joel clearly found something to strive for, and he chose that renewed purpose over the promise of a better world.
The decision wasn’t a rational one, but like so much the series has produced by adapting the game to the screen, it was executed with a lot of heart.
— Like , HBO is a unit of Warner Bros. Discovery.