Bella Ramsey as Ellie stares intently at Joel (offscreen) in a moment from The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

Effectively, mates. We’ve come to the top of the street, a minimum of for now. Episode 9 of HBO’s The Final of Us is the season finale, bringing us to the top of the story informed within the first sport. Even the episode’s title, “Search for the Gentle,” neatly closes the loop opened by that of the primary episode, “When You’re Misplaced Within the Darkness.” Deeply devoted to the sport’s provocative, morally ambiguous ending and different well-known story beats in its last chapter, the episode nonetheless departs from the supply materials in a couple of key methods, beginning with its opening. Let’s begin with the start of the top.

Ashley Johnson as Ellie’s mom Anna

Notably, that is the primary entry since episode two that begins with a cold-open prologue moderately than the title sequence. After the primary two episodes, I really thought this was one thing the present is perhaps dedicated to in the long run, with every episode kicking off with a special, related glimpse of life earlier than the pandemic or another thread that might inform our understanding of what was to come back. However no, the machine fell away early on, solely to make one final return for the season finale, with a flashback that doesn’t exist within the sport and that provides us a brand new perspective on two key characters: Marlene, and Anna, Ellie’s mom.

Just a few days in the past, Neil Druckmann, co-creator of the sport The Final of Us and one of many showrunners of HBO’s prediction, tweeted this:

The picture right here will not be a reference to an actual factor that exists in our world. Fairly, it’s a fictional comedian e book referenced in Uncharted 4, the ultimate sport in Naughty Canine’s different massive franchise of the previous 15+ years. However it speaks to the concept Anna, Ellie’s mom, is a personality who the writers of the sport (and now the present) have thought loads about, even when, till now, she’s by no means really been seen. Gamers of the sport will know that she and Marlene have been mates, that Marlene promised Anna she’d take care of Ellie, and that Anna was alongside Marlene within the combat for a greater world, however that is her very first look in official The Final of Us media, and the actor taking part in her is none aside from Ashley Johnson, who performs Ellie within the video games.

We see Anna operating by way of a forest, pursued by shrieking contaminated. As if that weren’t powerful sufficient, she’s pregnant and going into labor. She emerges into an enormous clearing dominated by a farmhouse, the Firefly insignia emblazoned on the close by grain silo.

Racing to the highest of the home, Anna barricades the door with a chair and attracts a familiar-looking switchblade. Tragically, the decided contaminated busts by way of, and although Anna plunges the switchblade into its neck, it’s not earlier than she’s bitten, sealing her destiny. Ellie is born, and Anna cuts the umbilical twine. It should be one thing in regards to the timing of all this that resulted in Ellie’s immunity.

Anna takes a second to bond together with her daughter, as we watch, realizing she has a couple of hours at finest to spend with the kid. And the credit roll.

One lie comes earlier than one other

Night time falls, and three lights minimize by way of the darkness, a attainable visible nod to the Firefly slogan. Marlene and two males discover Anna nonetheless in that room, quietly singing to child Ellie. The music she’s singing is “The Solar All the time Shines On T.V.” by A-ha. It’s a music we all know Ellie hears later in life, as she has a cassette tape of A-ha’s biggest hits in episode seven, which makes use of the band’s “Take On Me” at one level. (Curiously, although “Take On Me” was an even bigger hit within the U.S., “The Solar All the time Shines On T.V.” outperformed it within the UK.)

Ashley Johnson as Anna in HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

Marlene instantly sees the chew on Anna’s leg, and right here’s the place one thing extraordinary occurs: Anna says she minimize Ellie’s umbilical twine earlier than she was bitten. In fact it’s completely comprehensible. She did minimize it solely moments after, and no matter survival intuition she could have as soon as had for herself has seemingly now transferred onto her daughter. She needs to offer her daughter an opportunity. However as a thematic machine, it’s important as a result of it bookends this last episode with lies. Ellie’s life begins with a lie, and later, it’s modified by one, each from individuals who, in their very own methods and for their very own causes, are very invested in preserving her alive.

Anna, reminding Marlene that they’ve been mates for his or her complete lives, tells Marlene to kill her and to maintain Ellie, and to offer her the switchblade. Marlene protests that she will be able to’t, she will be able to’t do any of these issues, she particularly can’t kill her good friend, however then she musters the power to take action. She isn’t any stranger to gritting her tooth and doing what should be carried out within the battle for a greater world. You may inform it eats her up inside, however the world of The Final of Us presents little various for one who is actually, deeply dedicated to creating a distinction.

Outdoors Salt Lake Metropolis

Now the present leaps into its approximation of the sport’s last chapter. In each, Joel is uncharacteristically chatty, his bond with Ellie not doubtful in any case they’ve been by way of collectively and particularly after the harrowing occasions of episode eight. Ellie, in contrast, is preoccupied, distant, distracted maybe by the magnitude of what their arrival in Salt Lake Metropolis might imply. Whereas the Joel of the sport talks about what a phenomenal day it’s, TV Joel excitedly reveals Ellie that he discovered a can of Chef Boyardee, calling again to their campfire meal in episode 4 when the nice chef’s awesomeness was one of many few issues they might agree on. Each Joels discuss at some point educating Ellie guitar, and although she says she’d like that, it’s clear that proper now, she has different issues on her thoughts.

Joel and Ellie walk down a highway outside Salt Lake City while Joel comments on the breeze in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

One attention-grabbing element from the sport that’s omitted from the present is a dream that Ellie tells Joel about, through which she’s on a aircraft and it’s taking place, so she busts into the cabin solely to search out that there’s no captain. So she takes the controls however she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and simply because the aircraft is about to crash, she wakes up. It’s a reasonably typical nervousness dream—I even have nightmares about aircraft crashes on occasion myself—and it is smart that Ellie would really feel that her life is uncontrolled, however she remarks on the strangeness of getting a dream set on a flying aircraft when she’s by no means flown on a aircraft in actual life. She by no means obtained to expertise the pre-cordyceps world, and but the ghost of it’s in all places round her.

The well-known giraffe scene

Joel and Ellie minimize by way of a constructing on their option to the hospital, and within the present, for what I’m fairly certain is the primary and solely time, Joel does one thing he does repeatedly within the sport: he boosts Ellie up, right here so she will be able to decrease a ladder for him. Nevertheless, the often attentive Ellie is caught off guard by one thing and as a substitute finally ends up simply dropping the ladder and operating off to take a look at one thing. Joel pursues her, maybe apprehensive at first that she’s at risk, and what follows is without doubt one of the sport’s most well-known moments, faithfully recreated within the present.

Joel looks on happily as Ellie feeds a giraffe in a moment from HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

What he finds is Ellie, standing awestruck by the sight of a giraffe, peacefully munching on some leaves rising on the constructing. Within the sport, Joel encourages Ellie to pet the giraffe. Within the present, he encourages her to seize some leaves and feed it slightly bit, and the sight of its lengthy tongue reaching out for that inexperienced goodness is fairly nice. For Joel, although, the very best sight right here is the sight of Ellie having fun with this second. You may inform, significantly within the present because of Pedro Pascal’s performing, that Joel is blissful to be alive to witness and share on this second together with her. So usually, it’s not the factor itself that issues, a lot as it’s the sharing of it with somebody.

Learn Extra: The Final Of Us Present Tries To Change What The Recreation Tells Us About Joel

Maybe a part of why we’re drawn to apocalypse tales is the way in which they might help us concentrate on what actually issues. There’s a line in final 12 months’s HBO post-apocalypse status drama Station Eleven (based mostly on the novel by Emily St. Mandel) from central character Jeevan who says, “Having only one particular person, it’s an enormous deal. Only one different particular person.” I’m reminded of that on this scene. Like Station Eleven, The Final of Us is deeply involved with what makes our lives imply one thing, and in my expertise, that’s all the time tied up in reference to others, in a technique or one other.

Joel and Ellie stand looking out on an overgrown balcony in the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

Joel and Ellie stand looking out on a balcony in a moment from HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

Shifting to a different spot which lets them watch the entire giraffe household stroll off into the gap, Joel asks Ellie a query he requested her a lot earlier within the sport, or, within the case of the present, method again in episode two, as they stood wanting towards the capitol constructing in Boston. “So, is it every thing you hoped for?” Ellie remembers that second too and says it’s had its ups and downs earlier than repeating one thing she mentioned again then as nicely: “You may’t deny that view.” It’s a second that makes us really feel the journey they’ve been on, all the bottom they’ve coated, the time that’s handed, and all of the methods through which issues between them have modified from that second a lot earlier, when all Ellie was to Joel was some human cargo he resented having to cope with. Coming to this second within the sport once more as I replayed it for this recap, realizing what was coming, I virtually wished to linger there ceaselessly, to allow them to linger there ceaselessly, and spare us all of the ache forward.

Now, he doesn’t wish to think about his life with out her once more, and so he tells her that she doesn’t should undergo with this. In each the sport and the present, her response is similar: “In spite of everything we’ve been by way of, every thing that I’ve carried out, it will possibly’t be for nothing.” She tells him that when that is carried out, they’ll go wherever he needs, however “there’s no midway with this.” Within the sport, Joel appears to be like up simply in time to see the final giraffe disappear into the gap. The second has handed. Their selection is made.

Joel confronts the previous

Subsequent, their journey to the hospital takes them by way of a triage camp the military arrange within the days instantly following the outbreak. In each the sport and the present, that is the location for a confrontation of types with Joel’s previous, although that takes very completely different kinds in every model.

Joel holds a photograph of himself with his daughter Sarah at a soccer game from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

Within the sport, Joel mentions having been in the same camp after the outbreak. When Ellie asks if it was after he misplaced Sarah, he says sure, and she or he tells him how sorry she is for his loss. Beforehand, Joel’s forbidden Ellie from mentioning any of his losses, from speaking about Tess or his daughter, however this time, he says “That’s okay, Ellie.” A short while later, Ellie offers Joel the identical {photograph} of himself with Sarah that he refused earlier when Tommy supplied it to him. Ellie says Maria confirmed it to her again on the dam and she or he stole it. Joel, clearly moved, says, “Effectively, irrespective of how laborious you strive, I suppose you possibly can’t escape your previous. Thanks.”

Within the present, nevertheless, we return to one thing first teased again in episode three. On the time, Joel mentioned that the scar on his brow was from somebody taking pictures at him and lacking. Now, he tells Ellie that the wound is what landed him in triage, and likewise that “I used to be the man that shot and missed.” After Sarah’s loss of life, he “couldn’t see the purpose anymore,” he says, however he flinched when he pulled the set off. “So time heals all wounds, I suppose?” Ellie asks. Joel says “It wasn’t time that did it” and provides her a significant look.

Ellie reads from her book of puns in a moment from episode 9 of HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

After this emotionally heavy second, Joel seeks to lighten issues up by really requesting some shitty puns. It’s an important little alternate, with Joel and Ellie disagreeing on the standard of a number of the jokes—one she declares “really good” and he calls “a zero out of ten”—however my favourite bit is when Ellie says “Individuals are making apocalypse jokes like there’s no tomorrow.” Joel at first appears to be like scandalized however when Ellie asks, “Too quickly?” Joel says, “No, it’s topical.” Joke time is quickly interrupted, although, when some sort of fuel grenade will get tossed their method, Ellie is dragged off, and Joel is conked on the pinnacle with a rifle.

One final dance with contaminated earlier than all is claimed and carried out

This episode and its variations from the sport’s corresponding sequence reveal some attention-grabbing variations in how the sport and the present strategy pacing and fight. Within the present, episode eight was the ultimate crucible, the peril and terror of that state of affairs solidifying Joel and Ellie’s bond, and it seemingly would have been anticlimactic for the 2 to have one other encounter with contaminated at this level. The dramatic goal of such encounters has already been fulfilled. There’s actually nowhere else for them to go. Within the sport, nevertheless, as a mainstream industrial product launched in 2013, it might have been unusual for there not to be one last encounter with contaminated. For a lot of gamers, such fight is in the beginning what they arrive to a sport like this for. So that you do have one last encounter with a complete mess of contaminated (together with a number of bloaters) within the partially flooded tunnels close to the hospital. As soon as they’re all completed off, Joel utters Ellie’s favourite catchphrase, “Endure and survive.”

Underwater, Joel sees Ellie framed by light in the distance in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Search for the sunshine.
Screenshot: Naughty Canine

They’re not out of the woods but, although. A bit later, Joel will get caught in a bus that’s quickly filling with water. Ellie (who can’t swim) makes an attempt to rescue him, however is herself swept away. The present carries Joel towards her and he sees her, framed by gentle, earlier than pulling her up out of the water and making an attempt to resuscitate her. That is the place the Fireflies discover them, and knock Joel unconscious.

Marlene and morality

Joel wakes up in a room with Marlene (Merle Dandridge in each the sport and the present), who marvels at the truth that the 2 of them got here all this fashion and survived, that Joel really managed to ship Ellie there, when the identical journey price the lives of so a lot of her individuals. “It was (all) her,” Joel says. “She fought like hell to get right here.”

Marlene speaks to Joel (not pictured) in a moment from HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

When Joel insists on seeing Ellie, Marlene tells him he can’t. “She’s being prepped for surgical procedure.” When Joel realizes that cordyceps grows within the mind and that the surgical procedure Marlene is describing means Ellie’s loss of life, nicely, he is aware of what he has to do.

Notably, within the present, Marlene presents a extra detailed rationalization of Ellie’s immunity, and the way the physician intends to make use of that to create a remedy. I think that this, together with Joel’s line again in episode six suggesting that if Marlene says they’ll make a remedy, they’ll do it, are supposed to deflect the pretty widespread response to the present’s central ethical dilemma, a response I noticed as just lately as this previous weekend on Twitter, that claims “They in all probability wouldn’t have been capable of make a remedy anyway.”

My situation with this response is that I view it as a reluctance or refusal to have interaction with The Final of Us by itself phrases. I feel it’s a copout, a option to extra simply justify what Joel does by saying “the stakes weren’t that massive anyway” by disregarding the interior logic of the work itself. Positive, in case you view The Final of Us in “practical” phrases, you possibly can say that the percentages of a vaccine being made weren’t nice, however that’s not the ethical dilemma we’re being requested to have interaction with right here. The sport and the present each work to ascertain this as a state of affairs through which a vaccine is clearly attainable.

The sport does this partly by way of an audio diary you’ll find within the hospital through which the lead surgeon rattles off a bunch of regardless of the medical equal of technobabble is, phrases and phrases that are supposed to sound reputable throughout the fiction of the sport and set up that the surgeon is aware of what he’s speaking about. He then says, “We’re about to hit a milestone in human historical past equal to…the invention of penicillin. After years of wandering in circles, we’re about to come back house…All our sacrifices, and the a whole bunch of women and men who’ve bled for this trigger, or worse, is not going to be in useless.” We are supposed to view what Joel does as in opposition to that, as overriding all of that. That’s to not say that we will’t nonetheless conclude that Joel is correct to do what he does. However we must always a minimum of think about it throughout the ethical calculus that the sport and the present really set up.

Marlene speaks to Joel (not pictured) in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

Ten years in the past, I felt that so many gamers’ response to the sport’s climax was not simply one among agreeing with Joel however one among cheering “Fuck yeah!” whereas he did what he does, of reveling in his undoing of every thing the Fireflies have carried out, in his homicide of Marlene, and I ponder if a few of that isn’t simply because it’s very straightforward to really feel absolutely aligned with somebody whenever you’ve spent so lengthy strolling of their footwear. However I can think about a sport centered on Marlene, one which follows her for years and years, from establishing the Fireflies, working with after which tragically shedding Ellie’s mom Anna, watching over Ellie from afar whereas attempting to undermine FEDRA and searching for a remedy or some option to unfuck the world, all of the whereas seeing her fellow passionate believers combat and die alongside her, after which coming to the heartbreaking second the place her personal finest good friend’s daughter is the world’s final finest hope. I ponder if, given the prospect to expertise Marlene’s battle that method, to see issues from her perspective, some individuals who see the ending of The Final of Us in quite simple phrases would possibly discover their view of it sophisticated.

And this was Anna’s combat as nicely. You could find an audio log that’s successfully Marlene chatting with Anna, to the reminiscence of her good friend, and in it she says “Right here’s an opportunity to save lots of us…all of us. That is what we have been after…what you have been after.” I don’t assume any of that is in any respect straightforward for Marlene. I feel she’s simply discovered by now how one can do even the issues she finds very, very laborious, if she believes it helps the higher good.

None of that is easy. I’m conflicted about it myself, and I do typically put one life forward of many. (It’s only a sport, in fact, however you’d higher imagine that on the finish of Life Is Unusual, I made the selection to save lots of the one particular person I felt near and cared about deeply over a city stuffed with others.) And I’ve no downside with Joel doing what he does. As I’ve mentioned earlier than, I would like artwork and media that depicts human beings doing questionable or sophisticated or terrible issues typically. I simply need individuals to truly have interaction with that complexity, moderately than performing as if feeling in any respect conflicted about how all this performs out is foolish and that Joel does the one affordable factor he might have carried out.

Saving Ellie, dooming the world

Marlene, sensing that Joel is gonna be an issue, tries to have him escorted out of the constructing. Nevertheless, he kills his escort, and fights his method by way of the hospital to save lots of Ellie. Within the sport, I discover this sequence fairly difficult. The hospital offers your Firefly enemies with so many alternatives to flank you. The Joel within the TV present appears to have it significantly simpler. (And in case anybody is questioning, sure, within the sport you do get a brand new weapon, the assault rifle, right here, similar to Joel does within the present.) In any case, he kills a complete mess of dudes on his option to Ellie.

A surgeon tries to fend Joel off with a scalpel in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

Arriving within the working room, Joel orders the physician to unhook her. He grabs a scalpel and stands in Joel’s method. Joel kills him, too. Sure, the physician was about to take her life. By doing this, although, Joel has taken the life of somebody who was deeply cherished by any person else. And the way most of the individuals he killed on his method up right here will even depart a void within the lives of individuals after at this time? God, what an ethical mess.

Joel has one final encounter earlier than he makes his escape, this time with Marlene. In each the present and the sport, Marlene asks Joel to think about what Ellie herself would need. The look that performs throughout his face in each circumstances reveals that he is aware of what he’s doing isn’t what she’d need.

After years and years of working tirelessly for a shot like this at a greater world, after sacrificing a lot, Marlene, too, is killed. “You’d simply come after her,” Joel says, earlier than pulling the set off.

Joel’s lie close to Jackson

Ellie wakes up at the back of a automobile, nonetheless in her hospital robe. Joel’s driving them to Jackson, and when she asks him what occurred, he feeds her a lie about there being dozens of people that share her immunity, and the medical doctors not with the ability to make any use of all of it, to the purpose that “they’ve stopped searching for a remedy.” Ellie is clearly crushed.

Considerably, within the sport’s quick last sequence, you play as Ellie as she and Joel stroll the final little bit of distance towards Jackson. Joel, prepared for his life with Ellie to start in earnest, begins speaking about how a lot he thinks Sarah would have favored him. Ellie is, in fact, preoccupied, and ultimately she stops Joel, and begins speaking about how she misplaced Riley.

Ellie looks pleadingly at Joel in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

The purpose of the story, I feel, is that Ellie felt left behind (sorry) by Riley’s loss of life, that she would have moderately died if it might have meant a remedy than being alive, and that she suspects Joel made a selection of his personal accord to save lots of her moderately than let that occur. Joel, maybe sensing the place that is going, tries to supply a few of his old school knowledge about how it may be powerful to come back to grips with surviving however you retain discovering issues to dwell for. However she calls for a straight reply, asking him to swear that every thing he mentioned in regards to the Fireflies is true. “I swear,” he says.

Joel looks at Ellie (not pictured) in the final moments of HBO's The Last of Us (season one).

Screenshot: HBO

There’s an extended pause. Is she doubting him? Deciding whether or not she will be able to belief him? Debating telling him that he’s stuffed with shit? The place would any of that depart her now, on this world the place every thing she thought she was dwelling and preventing for has now evaporated into nothing?

“Okay,” she says.

Ultimate ideas

Taking part in by way of the sport once more alongside watching the collection gave me loads to consider. Maybe most of all, I considered how, simply by advantage of being an interactive expertise that’s set in maybe essentially the most lovingly rendered imaginative and prescient of the post-apocalypse ever created, the sport The Final of Us is way more in regards to the haunted world than the present is. Naughty Canine clearly approached designing the places you move by way of very thoughtfully. They didn’t simply design some belongings after which toss them collectively. Fairly the alternative. For each home or condominium you enter, you possibly can inform that Naughty Canine requested themselves questions like: Who lived right here? What was their cultural background? What did they do for a dwelling? Did they’ve any pets? Most of us in all probability know the sense of vacancy an individual can depart behind after they die. Closets crammed with garments they’ll by no means put on once more. A toothbrush within the lavatory. This can be a world crammed with that vacancy.

However, I admire that the tv present discovered a couple of alternatives, right here and there, to remind us that even in its world, love is feasible, and by extension, lives of that means are attainable. The sport, with its framing of Invoice and Frank’s relationship, with the tragedy of Henry and Sam, leans so relentlessly into loss and tragedy, with little dramatic counterpoint to remind us what love on this world—any sort of love, the love between a person and his adopted daughter, for example—may even appear to be. In fact episode three—the Invoice and Frank episode—was essentially the most radical occasion of the present departing from the sport to supply a picture of affection, nevertheless it wasn’t the one one. Marlon and Florence in episode six obtained so little display screen time, however there, too, because of the 2 fantastic actors forged in these roles, we obtained a way of an actual, lived-in relationship, individuals being there for one another throughout a long time.

All of that is to say that I admire that the artistic staff behind the HBO present approached this enterprise as an adaptation, not merely a retelling or recreation. Now the wait begins for the present’s subsequent season, after I anticipate finding out how they proceed to not simply re-tell the very same story we’ve already skilled, however adapt it for a brand new medium.

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