HBO’s The Last of Us has finally come to an end with the season finale, Episode nine titled “Look for the Light”. As faithful as it was to the game’s morally ambiguous ending, it still set itself apart from the source material by including a flashback. The cold-open prologue was not something the show was committed to in the long term, but it made a return in the finale. The flashback gave us a fresh perspective on two essential characters, Marlene, and Anna. Neil Druckmann, the co-creator of The Last of Us, recently tweeted an image of a fictional comic book referenced in Uncharted 4, emphasizing the importance of Anna, Ellie’s mother, to the writers of the game (and now the show). To kick off the season finale, let’s start with the beginning of the end.
A New Perspective on Two Key Characters
The finale starts with a flashback not present in the game. Anna is seen barricading a door with a chair in a house while an infected is destroying it. She pulls out a switchblade and kills the infected, but not before she is bitten by it. Ellie is born, and Anna cuts the umbilical cord moments before. There must have been something about the timing of all this that resulted in Ellie’s immunity. They share a few moments together before Marlene and two men find them. Marlene sees the bite on Anna’s leg, and Anna admits to Marlene that she cut Ellie’s umbilical cord before she was bitten. Reminding Marlene they’ve been friends for their whole lives, Anna tells Marlene to kill her and take care of Ellie. The switchblade is now Ellie’s. Marlene protests, but she musters the strength to do what must be done. As a thematic device, it bookends this final episode with lies. Ellie’s life begins with a lie, and later it’s changed by one, both by people who are invested in keeping her alive.
From the Beginning of the End to the End of the Game
Now, the show leaps into its approximation of the game’s final chapter. Joel is uncharacteristically chatty, and his bonding with Ellie is no longer in doubt after their journey together. Ellie is preoccupied, perhaps worried about what their arrival in Salt Lake City could mean. Joel shows her a can of Chef Boyardee, which he found while they cut through a building on their way to the hospital. While Joel talks about what a beautiful day it is, Ellie’s mind is elsewhere. The sight of a giraffe awestrucks Ellie, and Joel encourages her to grab leaves and feed it. The show faithfully recreated one of the game’s most famous scenes. What Joel finds most heartwarming is the sight of Ellie enjoying the moment. Joel and Ellie watch the giraffe family walk off into the distance. Joel asks Ellie a question he asked her earlier in the game, “So, is it everything you hoped for?” Ellie replies with an answer she gave him earlier, “You can’t deny that view.” Station Eleven, another HBO post-apocalyptic series, is also deeply focused on what makes our lives meaningful, and in most cases, it involves connecting with others.
Understanding What Matters in our Apocalypse-driven Lives
In the show, everyone is troubled by the pandemic, and as such, they find solace in small moments that bring them together. Joel is pleased to be alive, share in and witness the giraffe moment with Ellie. As the giraffe disappears from the view, so does the connection between Joel and Ellie. Joel realizes that Ellie is preoccupied and must remind her of what’s at stake.
Joel Must Remind Ellie of What’s at Stake
Here’s where the game and the show slightly differ. In the game, Joel kills Marlene and takes Ellie away from the hospital. Admittedly, it’s morally ambiguous, but it shows Joel’s love for Ellie. In the show, however, there’s a little more going on; Ellie wakes up in the hospital to find that she had almost died from drowning. Joel tells her that he killed all of the Fireflies who intended to use her immunity to create a cure, including Marlene. Ellie is furious and doesn’t speak to Joel, but there’s the underlying connection that can’t be broken.
The definitive end to The Last of Us has come to an end with the show ever differentiating from its source material. Despite the new perspective on key characters, the show ends on a familiar note – connection. In times of desperation, connection and the moments shared with people we love tend to stick with us. This is the essence of the show that continues to grip audiences, showcasing the human spirit’s resilience at its purest form.