The Last of Us HBO Episode 9 – Look for the Light

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hello world!
Iain McParland
| March 16, 2023
hello world!

So, it all comes down to this in the season finale of The Last of Us HBO. We’ve gone through a lot these past few months, but now is the time we get a happy ending, right? Right?

RIGHT?

It can’t get much worse than last week when Ellie murdered a sicko’s face off for attempting to do unspeakable things to her. We left our heroes(?) walking away from the inferno at Silver Lake and into the woods beyond, understandably shaken by what had transpired.

Ok, let’s get to it!

Before

A woman runs through a wooded area, scared and frantic as the sounds of infected echo around her. She is played by Ashley Johnson, the voice of Ellie in the video game. It’s awesome to see her get to play a part in the series! The woman is heavily pregnant, likely to drop at any moment. I cannot believe how mobile she is!

The infected’s screeching follows her as she runs towards a large, but run-down, house. She enters and locks the door, calling out for help. Nobody is home, so she runs upstairs and barricades the door.

It is still chasing her. But how? She’s been in the house for a while now, breaking line of sight! How does it know where she is? And it knows exactly where she is! A crash comes from downstairs as it gains entry, and then, almost instantly, it bangs on the door.

The woman, now in labor (eesh!), can only watch as the infected barges down the door and beelines for her. After a brief wrestling match, she stabs it in the head, killing it.

But she’s been bitten. And the baby has arrived, a screaming baby girl.

Anna, pregnant, looks worried standing in an outcrop of trees
Ellie, meet Ellie!

Ellie.

The woman cuts the umbilical cord, but the contents don’t look quite right. There we have it, folks! Ellie has the same origin story as Blade! On the day of her birth, her mother was bitten, and cordyceps were absorbed from mama to baby. The Daywalker has arrived!

A short time later, Marlene (Merle Dandridge) and her Firefly cohorts arrive at the house to find the woman cradling her baby. Anna (the woman’s name) is an old friend of Marlene’s, and she convinces her to take Ellie to Boston to be cared for. Anna stresses that she was bitten after the umbilical was severed. Lies.

She tells Marlene that her friend must kill her before the infection takes her completely. Marlene refuses before taking Ellie out of the room. Then, with resignation, she turns back into the room and shoots her. It was difficult for Marlene, but she did what she had to do.

Salt Lake City

In the present, Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) make it to the outskirts of Salt Lake City. Ellie is quieter than usual, a mix of PTSD and knowing that the journey is near its end. Joel tries to talk to her, but she’s in her own world, distracted. Even the promise of guitar lessons doesn’t wake her from her stupor.

Unsure where St. Mary’s Hospital is, Joel comes up with a plan, a plan that is perfectly recited by Ellie before he even says it. Find a building, climb up high, and see what’s what. The Assassin’s Creed approach.

Inside, they try to make their way up the building but are blocked. All is not lost. Joel finds a ladder that can be lowered if he can give Ellie a boost. Ellie? ELLIE? Man, she’s so distracted. I guess she’s been through a lot recently.

Ellie, lost in her thoughts, sits on a truck flatbed
I think I deserve a rest

Finally, Ellie is boosted up, and… DROPS THE LADDER! Come on, Ellie! Focus! But she seems excited and speeds off. Joel, worried, quickly scales the ladder and hurries after her. Now he sees why she was so excited.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a giraffe! This scene is iconic in the game. Ellie and Joel feed the giraffe as Ellie giggles like a schoolgirl. She’s obviously never seen a giraffe in person before. Ellie then spots something else and runs up a set of stairs.

On a balcony, they see a tower of giraffes (yes! That is the correct collective noun for a giraffe!). It’s a wondrous sight, full of hope.

Joel asks if it is everything that Ellie hoped for. Sheepishly, he offers her a choice. Why don’t they just turn around, head to Tommy’s, and start a new life? She doesn’t have to go to the hospital. Ellie’s reply is simple. After everything that they’ve done to get to this point, it can’t be for diddly squat. There’s no halfway; they finish what they started.

Afterward, she will follow Joel wherever he wants to go.

Giraffe imagery has appeared throughout the series. To find out about more easter eggs, listen to the Watching Now: The Last of Us podcast, The Rest of Us. Lily, Erika, and Nick will be with you weekly to give you breakdowns, insights, and great theories wherever you get your podcasts on Tuesdays and on Youtube on Wednesdays.

Ellie and Joel meet a giraffe
What’s this long-necked creature?

As they traverse an abandoned military triage area towards the hospital, Joel opens up about the first days of the outbreak. After he lost Sarah, he tried to kill himself but flinched at the last moment. Without saying the words, he tells Ellie that she’s helped him heal after Sarah’s death. It’s a touching moment.

Enough of that! Pun time!

But we barely get two puns before a flash grenade explodes at their feet, and Ellie and Joel are knocked out. You didn’t see that coming!

St. Mary’s Hospital

Joel awakens to a Firefly symbol. They made it! Unconventionally, but they still made it! Marlene is waiting to debrief Joel. She commends him for a job well done while ignoring his query about Ellie’s location. He asks to see her again, but Marlene won’t allow it.

She’s being prepped for surgery. The doctor thinks they can synthesize a cure if they extract the stem from Ellie. A CURE! That’s cool, right? Well, it’s a little cool. I’ve only seen infected in the present day twice in the show, and when I did, clickers and bloaters were more concerned with eviscerating humans than spreading the infection. No cure can solve a severed head!

One problem: the fungus attaches itself to the brain, so Ellie has to die for it to be a success. Joel’s head internalizes the Michael Scott Nooooooooooooo meme. Well, that settles it! We’re not killing Ellie for a cure for a seldom-seen infection! Joel argues with Marlene, but, just as she was at the start of the episode, she’s resolute. She’s conflicted because she’s known Ellie since birth, but it’s for the greater good.

Joel, determined looks down a hallway bathed in a red hue
I left the kettle on

Marlene recognizes that Joel is going to become a problem, so she orders her men to escort him out of the building.

Oh boy, we were not ready for what would happen next! As Joel is marched down a stairwell, he turns the tables on the Fireflies, shooting one in the head and one in the leg. He asks the injured man where Ellie is being prepped but doesn’t wait for an answer. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Terminator Joel, the one we’ve heard about all series, is let loose. Third kill. Fourth, fifth, sixth. Oh, one guy is surrendering! Blam! No prisoners; seventh. Another three or four in a corridor are mowed down, Joel swapping guns with the dead as he goes to replenish ammo. Gone is the half-deaf, decrepit old man of this season. Here is Joel Wick, a man that bullets can’t touch!

He arrives at Paediatric Surgery and barges in. The doctor won’t let Joel take her; it’s their only chance for a cure! Joel murders the doctor in cold blood, a decision that will not bite him in the ass in the future. The nurses unhook Ellie, who is still under the influence of an anesthetic.

Aftermath

Joel looks over a sedated Ellie in the operating theatre
They’re so cute when they’re sleeping

Joel carries Ellie out of surgery and into the elevator, taking it down to parking. Marlene is waiting for him there. She asks if this is what Ellie would have wanted. She speaks the truth. However, neither Marlene nor Joel gave Ellie a choice, so they’re both in the wrong!

Cutting forward, Joel drives out of Salt Lake City, Ellie sleeping in the backseat. Ellie wakes and asks what happened.

Despicably, Joel lies. He says that the doctors have given up looking for a cure after trying and failing to synthesize one from other immune people. Then, they raced away from the hospital when raiders attacked. Complete and utter bullshit that Ellie barely believes before falling back asleep.

Marlene is shot and injured by Joel. She begs for her life, but Joel can’t allow her to live. She’ll just come after them. She’ll come after Ellie. Joel executes Marlene.

Sometime later, Joel and Ellie arrive in Wyoming, a stone’s throw from Jackson. The last few miles are done on foot. Joel talks about Sarah, and then Ellie confides in Joel that she had to shoot her friend Riley.

As they crest a hill and see Jackson sprawling beneath them, Ellie struggles with the thoughts that have been on her mind since Salt Lake City. She asks Joel to swear that what he said was true. Swear that the Fireflies have given up on a cure, and there’s nothing they can do.

Joel swears it.

Ellie chooses to believe.

Joel executing Marlene
Tell me again that pineapple belongs on a pizza

Verdict

Wow, that was a rollercoaster! I’m sure that there’s going to be a heated debate about the ending. Our favorite TV father figure saved his baby girl. But at what cost? Humanity? Oofff, that’s heartless. But how much humanity has he got left after all the emotional damage he’s been put through? 

The ending was excellent, just as it was in the game. However, the game hit harder for one specific reason: in the show, I don’t believe that there is a need for a cure. The amount of infected Ellie and Joel encountered is minimal. Infected aren’t a constant threat to their lives, and they can even travel the country relatively unencumbered. We saw two infected in the last four episodes, both in flashbacks. It feels less of a profound decision to doom humanity to save his de-facto daughter when it doesn’t feel doomed.

Don’t misunderstand me; Joel is totally in the wrong. As is Marlene. They both took Ellie’s choice away. But as a consequence of the scenes in the show, Marlene’s choice seems equally shocking to sanction a child’s death for a nice-to-have rather than a necessity. Neither of them was doing the right thing.

Ellie and Joel look out at the Salt Lake City skyline
Look at that tower over there!

Overall, I enjoyed this episode. Spec Ops Joel was awesome, the cold-hearted killer we’ve been warned about but rarely seen. And his body count racks up fast! What is Marlene teaching these fools? The civilians of Kansas City are better trained than this! He mowed them all down with no remorse! As people have been teaching Joel from the first episode, you’ve got to find something to fight for. He found it in Ellie. 

In stark contrast, the giraffe scene was beautiful and a welcome rest from the emotional rollercoaster. That scene gets me in the feels.

For all the criticisms, this is the best video game adaptation I’ve ever seen. The scenes taken straight from the game are chosen because they are the best scenes for the show, and the additions are mostly enhancements to the story. I want more of it! It could have easily been two episodes longer, giving us more time on sections that felt a little rushed and more chance to see some infected.

Season 2 can’t come soon enough!

Soup Rank: 8.5/10 

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