After a dramatic recap of all the previous episodes, this episode begins with a pregnant woman, Anna, running into a large house in a field. Her water breaks as she runs up the stairs and blocks the door behind her. Unfortunately, it is not enough because an Infected forces their way into the room. As she is killing the Infected, she accidentally births her baby. We learn quickly that the mother was bitten while the umbilical cord was still attached to the baby. She names her daughter Ellie. Marlene, the leader of the Fireflies in the present day and best friends to Anna, finds her in the house. She lies to Marlene, saying that she was bitten after her daughter was born, and begs her to take her to safety. Also by her request, Marlene kills Anna before she can become Infected. Anna was portrayed by Ashely Johnson. She voiced Ellie in the video games and looks so much like Bella Ramsey that I initially thought it was Ramsey with makeup on. It was brilliant casting!
Flashforward to the present day, Joel and Ellie are still making their way toward the Firefly Hospital. He is trying to lighten the mood by showing her Chef Boyardee and Boggle which he found in an abandoned camper, but she feels forever altered. She has never been so quiet, which is unsettling. As they enter the city, they decide to go into a skyscraper and search the city so they can find the hospital quickly. She finally gets excited when she and Joel climb up the stairs they reach a giraffe feeding from the greenery of the building. We come to find out that there is a group of giraffes in the destroyed baseball field next door. This is a bright moment before things take a turn for the dark.
Joel lets Ellie know that they do not have to finish the mission and the two of them can head back to Tommy’s and forget all about it, but for her, it is necessary. She has to complete the mission after all the pain and traumatic experiences she has gone through trying to get to the Firefly camp that could use her blood for a cure. They walk to an Army Emergency Medical set up where Ellie name-drops Sarah so casually to Joel. He had mentioned he was alone in one of the camps on day two of the outbreak. Joel admits to Ellie that he tried to commit suicide because he could not see a way forward without Sarah, but he flinched. When Ellie assumes that time has healed him, he confesses that she was the one who resolved his pain. As they walk away from the location joking about shitty puns, the pair are ambushed by Fireflies.
Joel wakes up to Marlene at his bedside. He asks for Ellie, but she tells him she is heading to surgery. A cure is not a simple blood draw. Marlene theorizes that the Cordyceps she received from her mother’s umbilical cord has grown with her since she was born and it produces a chemical that makes actual cordyceps think she is one, too. The doctor plans on performing brain surgery to remove the Cordyceps from her, multiply the cells, and then cure everyone. Marlene admits that she knew her mother and there is no other choice. Ellie doesn’t even know she is going to die for this. Marlene instructs her Fireflies to take Joel to the highway and leave him with a pack and Anna’s knife. Once he reaches the staircase, he attacks the Firefly guards by surprise and steals their guns. He searches for Ellie and kills anyone who gets in his way. A beautiful orchestral rendition of the opening theme plays as he searches for her.
Joel reaches the surgical room and commands that they unhook her. When the doctor refuses, Joel shoots him point-blank and commands again that they unhook her and patch her up. He swings her into his arms and takes her down the elevator and into the parking garage when Marlene finds him down there, gun pointing at him. She tells him there is no other way and that Ellie would have wanted this. They are unable to be together forever. In reality, he kills her right then and there. When Ellie starts to wake up in the car that Joel stole, he lies to her and says there have been other immune people and the Fireflies have given up hope for a cure. He claims raiders attacked the hospital, and they barely escaped. Joel talks about Sarah as they finish their trek back to Tommy in Wyoming. He thinks that Sarah would have liked Ellie’s humor, and despite their differences, they would have gotten along. This level of honesty gets at Ellie, too, and she confesses about the first time she had to kill someone, which was Riley at the mall when she became Infected and Ellie didn’t. She asks Joel to swear that he was telling her the truth about what happened with the Fireflies back at the hospital, and he does. After a moment, she accepts it, and then the show suddenly ends.
Would you trade your loved one to save all of humanity? That is the question the story is whittled down to in this final episode. Joel’s decision to save Ellie is selfish because he takes away her choice. He knows what she would have wanted. He feels like he finally has a daughter again, and now he won’t let anything get in the way of his happiness. The Last of Us is so grounded and character-focused that I almost can’t believe it was based on a video game. Grief, trust, and love are at the forefront of this story and the interesting world is just set dressing. It was never about saving humanity, which is the easier and more obvious route in post-apocalyptic storytelling, but about these two interesting and beautiful characters, Ellie and Joel. What Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin have done to adapt and improve this story is legendary.
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