The Last of Us. A game I had heard about, but never wanted to investigate. It seemed slow-moving and too story-driven for me at the time, but seeing that this was being adapted into an HBO show intrigued me. I love a post-apocalyptic world and adding zombies takes the cake. I didn’t expect this show to take my heart and drag it in all directions. To feel love, sadness, and absolute joy. This story was all I thought about for several weeks and probably will still think about until Season 2 is released.
Learning more about the cast as the show moved along, I realized that the creators had a unique opportunity in front of them. Since we had Craig Mazin, who created from a cinematic point of view, and Neil Druckmann, who created from a video game point of view. They could select actors from film and television or motion capture actors who played original characters. I liked that they sprinkled video game actors into the series. In addition, they selected well-known actors such as Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey to play the main characters.
Speaking of Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. What a dynamic duo. Their chemistry is unstoppable on and off screen. First of all, what a joy to see two actors who were on Game of Thrones star together on a different show. And they are both powerhouses in their own right. Secondly, their relationship has fully blossomed into a father-daughter relationship, where you can tell that Pedro has taken on protectiveness towards Bella. And Bella calls Pedro her surrogate dad. And I love that their love for each other translates on screen. Their back and forth is effortless and their investment in one another is fully realized.
Ep. 1- “When You’re Lost in the Darkness”
This first episode throws a lot at us. There is an imminent pandemic near, controlled by cordyceps. Cue 2003, where we meet Joel and his family. We can see that Joel and his daughter, Sarah, have a more casual relationship with each other. Joel isn’t just a paternal figure to Sarah, he also acts like a friend. Sarah keeps Joel in check, like ensuring he gets his daily vitamin D. We got some foreshadowing when Sarah got Joel’s broken watch from his dresser. She finds his pocket knife, and who do we meet later that loves their pocket knife as well… Ellie. When we witness the pandemic flourish, all hell breaks loose. We see our first clicker at the Adler’s house. Here, we learn that these infected like to bite others and infect others through cordyceps transferred from their mouths. That was definitely something new in the zombie genre. Zombie bite and infect others with a bacterial virus. However, this time, we literally see this fungus coming out of the host and transposing into another. Eventually, Joel, Sarah, and Tommy attempt to drive to safety, but there is too much chaos all around. We get to the pinnacle scene in this first episode, where Joel and Sarah run into a military officer. We realize that the officer has been told to kill everyone, I’m guessing especially those who have been injured. Inevitably, Sarah gets shot and dies. This is when we know this is a turning point for Joel. He lost his daughter and now he’s supposed to continue in this apocalyptic mania. I was surprised that Tommy didn’t help. He stood there while Sarah died in Joel’s arms. Even if you know there is no hope for your loved one, you should still do everything in your power to help them.
Cue twenty years later. We have been transported to Boston, where Joel now lives. He has grown older, looks disheveled and his demeanor has changed drastically. He’s very intimidating, with his stone-cold stare and gruff personality. We see that he has his own agenda. He’s working with people to get information about his brother and is trying to get to Wyoming to find him. Apparently, during his time in Boston, he came across Tess and she has become part of his family. They seem to be in a relationship, but it’s rough around the edges. We also learn about the Fireflies, led by Marlene, and meet Ellie. And when she gets her backpack back, what does she immediately remove first? Her pocket knife. That pocket knife attempts to hurt Joel, but it fails. This is what excites me the most. We already see this power dynamic in action. Joel and Ellie are both strong-willed and that’s where they butt heads. Marlene dangles a reward for Joel and Tess, for taking Ellie to the State House. She tells them that if they complete their mission, they will get whatever supplies they need. Here lies our story. Out of the gate, Ellie is already messing with Joel by tricking him into giving information about the radio signals. And to end this episode, we learn a few more things. Joel is dealing with PTSD due to military officers wanting to cause harm. Suddenly, something snaps in Joel and he acts on his anger. Interestingly enough, Ellie enjoys watching the violence. And we find out that Ellie has already been bitten, but is immune. I like how we see the radio again, playing an 80’s tune, and realize we are in for trouble.
Ep. 2- “Infected”
We return to 2003, and as we heard previously on the radio, there was news coming out of Jakarta. A lab was studying cordyceps in humans, trying to find a vaccine to stop the pandemic. Having spoken with a researcher, she revealed that there isn’t a cure. That the only way to prevent the spread is to bomb. That makes me curious about the Fireflies theory of using Ellie as the cure. Even though she is immune, she still has cordyceps in her. If there was a vaccine, people would be immune, but the fungus wouldn’t be eliminated for good.
When we return to the present, Joel and Tess have their eyes on Ellie. They still doubt Ellie’s immunity. We see that Joel cracks sarcastic jokes about Ellie, which I love. Even though this story is filled with darkness, it’s balanced by sarcastic humor to bring out the light. What caught my attention was that Joel explains to Tess that she shouldn’t act like Ellie has a life in front of her. Funny, because he has no idea how attached he will become to Ellie later on. And that Ellie is actually pretty proficient at taking care of herself. Ellie finally lets the cat out of the bag and shares that she’s in such high demand because the Fireflies think they can create a cure. That was definitely a red flag for Joel since he had heard this before. A running joke that starts in this episode is Ellie’s fascination with guns. She wants to defend herself, but as we’ve seen before, she also has a fascination with violence. It intrigues her. Learning a bit more about Ellie’s story, we learn about her trespassing into the mall and being bitten by one of the clickers. She tells Tess that she was alone, but we all know that’s a lie when we get to that episode. While the trio walks along the road, we hear noises in the background. I liked that we got just a nugget into what’s to come. Even though they may seem alone, there are infected always near.
Starting to trek into abandoned buildings, we learn that Ellie doesn’t know much about the world. She’s learned some things from school, but she’s like a child all over again, learning about the world, little by little. In an abandoned hotel, Ellie is scared of a skeleton. When Joel helps her out of the water, we see their first physical touch. It was an awkward interaction and we can see that they tread lightly around each other. While more sarcastic jokes are thrown around, Ellie attempts to get to know Joel. It’s a hard pass from him. However, coming back to death and violence, Ellie asks Joel if it was difficult to kill that FEDRA officer since he obviously knew him. Sadly, we don’t get an answer, but we see the wheels cranking in Ellie’s head. It seems like she wanted a comparison to her life experience of killing Riley. Moving on to the museum, we get a deeper look at how cordyceps interact and what clickers can look like once they evolve. The atmosphere, even though morbid, is beautiful. As you see, big fungus mushrooms flourish so that all surfaces are covered with them, giving the infected a similar appearance. They grow mushrooms out of their heads. Other attributes are that they can only hear people and develop this awful squawking sound. We get our first taste of horror when the trio takes down multiple clickers. In the end, we see that Ellie has been bitten again. Finally, arriving at the State House. It’s not all sunshine and roses. They find that the Fireflies are dead and to make matters worse, Tess has been infected. Tess tells Joel to take Ellie to Bill and Frank, which we will learn about next. When a swarm of clickers is headed her way, Tess goes out in an unexpected fashion. A clicker kisses Tess and transfers the cordyceps that way, but she stops the infection by blowing up the building. To sum up what Joel is thinking. Here he is again, failing to save his loved ones. Now all he has is Ellie, who is a stranger and whom he has doubts about.
Ep. 3- “Long, Long Time”
Moving along with the mission, Joel and Ellie are still processing what happened back at the State House. Joel reels from many pains. From killing that FEDRA officer and losing Tess. We can see that Joel is softening a little towards Ellie and offers her some of his food. There are ground rules that come to fruition in this episode. First off, Joel doesn’t want Ellie to show sympathy for what happened to Tess. In return, Ellie doesn’t want Joel to blame her for the outcome. We get a few more foreshadowing moments when Ellie asks Joel how he got the scar on the side of his head. Instead of telling the truth, Joel claims that he was attacked by another person. Ellie is interested in if Joel killed his attacker and seeks out a gun again. When they arrive at Cumberland Farms, Ellie finds a Mortal Kombat arcade game. We will see this game again later in the season. Ellie mentions having a friend, but we don’t know who yet. The sarcastic comedy pumps up a bit more when we see Ellie mess with Joel for not knowing things. In this case, not remembering where he hid his stash. Also, Joel mentions jokingly that the only bad thing in the building is Ellie. Ellie finds a clicker in the basement who is alive and her curiosity thrives in these moments. Instead of running away, she inches closer to the clicker. It’s like she wants to study them, but also wants to kill them. Like clockwork, when Ellie joins Joel again, she notices he’s stashing his gun and wonders if she could use it. Just like a comedy act, we already know the answer’s no. I’m sure Ellie feels like she can wear down Joel eventually. Continuing their journey, Ellie sees a plane for the first time and asks Joel about how the infection started. Needless to say, we don’t know until this moment. Joel explains that the mutated cordyceps probably got into the food supply, and infected people that way. What was interesting was that while he listed possible tainted foods, he mentioned pancake mix. Which we know Sarah was going to make Joel and Tommy when the pandemic started. We see Joel take on a caretaker role when he tries to prevent Ellie from seeing a bunch of dead bodies. He doesn’t want her traumatized more.
Delving into Bill and Frank’s storyline, we know that Bill is a survivalist and resists being sent to the QZ. He ends up alone in his neighborhood to fend for himself. I had one question after seeing this scene. Bill’s neighborhood is pristine after everyone leaves. It doesn’t look like any damage was done or an infection had occurred. I would have thought infected people would have been in that area also or even cordyceps inhabiting the area. But moving along with the story, Bill comes across Frank, who fell into one of his traps, and Bill takes pity on him. Letting Frank clean up and enjoy a meal, things start to progress quickly. Frank admires Bill’s knowledge of wine pairings and they share a love of the piano. And we can’t forget Linda Ronstadt. Bill plays a somber rendition of “Long, Long Time,” which explains the episode’s name, but we get a deeper sense of Bill’s life. We learn that Bill is gay and Frank and Bill kiss. There is a lot of uncertainty and desperation in this kiss. Even though their relationship moves fast, I guess it’s not knowing if you’ll be near another person again. I do feel that Frank took control of this relationship from the start by being so forward. He and Bill have sex and when Frank tells Bill that he’d like to stay a few more days, that raises a red flag for a second. Was Frank using Bill so he wouldn’t have to trek to Boston? Maybe at first, but their love prevailed. We get glimpses into their lives. Frank invites Joel and Tess over, which gives us an insight into their relationship early on. It’s funny how alike Bill and Joel are, not trusting each other, and how carefree Frank and Tess are. And then later on, we see a sweet moment between Bill and Frank, eating strawberries. This turns to violence later on, when raiders try to take over. Bill gets shot and it dawned on me how several characters get gun wounds to the abdomen. Sarah, Bill and Joel, David, and Marlene later on. Moving on to the last day of Bill and Frank’s life, we see that Frank has an illness, most likely cancer. And he wants Bill to fulfill his final wishes before dying. We get an endearing montage of the couple walking to the boutique, getting married, and having a delicious dinner. To cap the night off, like a Greek tragedy, Bill and Frank overdose on pills, while drinking wine and go off to bed to die together. Their relationship shows that life can be fully lived, even through a terrifying pandemic. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses, but they got to live their lives together and went out on their own terms. Not in the hands of the infected.
In the present day, Joel and Ellie arrive at Bill and Frank’s house. Ellie finds the note and reads it aloud to Joel. In the note, Bill explains to Joel that they were put on this Earth to save and protect people. He was meant to save and protect Frank, just like Joel was supposed to do for Tess. Bringing all of this crashing down around him, I think Joel realizes that fate has led him to protect this girl. But again more ground rules are set. Joel tells Ellie not to bring up their histories, to keep her bite marks hidden, and to do what he says. Gathering supplies for the road, we find out that Bill played music on the radio to signal danger. Finally, Ellie finds a gun and tucks it into her backpack. And she checks off another first. Riding in a car. We get a cute parental moment when Joel gets Ellie’s seatbelt for her. They drive off into the sunset, listening to Linda Ronstadt.
Ep. 4- “Please Hold to My Hand”
This episode is what I like to call, “bonding with Joel and Ellie.” We see their relationship blossom and really come into its own. And this is also one of my favorite episodes because of the humor. Starting off, we see how excited Ellie is about her newly found gun and she pretends to aim and shoot it. I think I’ve realized that the gun resembles power to her and that makes her feel like a badass. Maybe now she will be taken seriously. We see her studying. Taking the gun apart, inspecting the bullets, and even sniffing the barrel. Joining back up with Joel, we have fun back and forth between them. Ellie calls out Joel for not knowing how a siphon works and then we get introduced to the ever-present No Pun Intended book. What’s hilarious is that Ellie is trying so much to get Joel to show emotion, but he is not amused one bit. He refuses to cave. Back in the truck, we almost see a blip of happiness from Joel, when he’s about to sing a song by Hank Williams. However, Joel gets cut off by Ellie finding the porn magazine in the back. This was definitely a father-daughter moment. Joel is so uncomfortable, especially when Ellie asks why the pages are stuck together. The look of horror on his face is priceless.
Making camp for the night, Ellie gets introduced to Chef Boyardee. Joel tells Ellie to slow down her eating and they find one thing in common. They both enjoy Chef Boyardee’s ravioli. Another good pun was told by Ellie. I loved that she was tricky and asked Joel if she could ask him a serious question, which of course was the pun question. But who would have thought Joel would know the answer?! What I love about their relationship is that the way they speak to each other is so different from what we’ve seen on TV before. It’s endearing and normal that Ellie would call Joel a dick after knowing the answer to her pun. It’s just how they communicate. Swearing is their love language. In the morning, Ellie encounters another first. Smelling coffee for the first time. She tells Joel that it smells like burnt shit. In true Joel sarcastic fashion, he eggs it on, exaggerating his coffee slurp. Just showing Ellie that it is so good. We then saw something remarkable. Joel reveals some personal history to Ellie. After Ellie asks about Tommy, Joel seems more comfortable sharing information about his brother. And then we get that moment that stamps exactly how Joel feels in that moment. When he tells Ellie that he keeps going for family, Ellie asks if she’s family, and he responds, no. She’s just cargo. What a blow. I would have felt like garbage at that moment, but I think Ellie is happy to be in somebody’s company. Having a little normalcy and being herself.
Heading into Kansas City, things take a turn for the worst. There’s a shootout and the truck ends up getting slashed tires. Joel gets into a fight with the attackers and Ellie gets to have her shining moment. To save Joel’s life, she shoots the man hovering over him. She doesn’t kill him, but instead of being grateful, Joel’s face said it all. He wasn’t happy. And you can tell that Ellie is shaken up. Getting a better glimpse into the Kansas City area, we find out that a bunch of rebels has been running the city. The leader, Kathleen, is interrogating people, trying to find a man named Henry. And we find out that her brother had been beaten to death. Kathleen is called to see the newly dead bodies and encourages the troops to find who was responsible and to kill all collaborators. Back to Joel and Ellie, Joel’s caretaker side kicks in. They both confide in each other to make sure they’re doing ok, but Joel attempts to console Ellie. Even though he is having a hard time being vulnerable at that moment, he wants to let her know that she shouldn’t have to be dealing with all this at such a young age. Giving a little foreshadowing, Ellie tells Joel that this wasn’t the first time she had shot someone. I feel like there’s this juxtaposition because we see Ellie pump herself up all the time, by being into having a gun and wanting to kill things and being interested in violence, but at the same time, when she does have that power to kill, she looks so afraid and shaken up. To up Ellie’s spirits, Joel finally caves and shows Ellie how to hold a gun. She’s filled with so much pride. She does veer from Joel’s wishes though, and puts the gun in her jacket pocket, instead of putting it in her backpack. Still, on the scent, Kathleen’s right-hand man, shows her where Henry and Sam were hiding. But also, they find a sinkhole ready to erupt with infected. That’ll blow up in their faces later. Finding a place to sleep, Ellie draws out a little more information about Joel. She finds out that he has been on both sides of an ambush. But it makes her realize that he might have killed innocent people in the past. She point-blank asks him if he has, but he brushes off the question. Therein lies the answer. I think that gave Ellie an insight into Joel’s life before meeting her. But does she accept it? Climbing several flights of stairs, Joel finally gives out. Using their special love language, Ellie calls Joel a lazy ass and helps him up. We then learn that Joel is 56 years old. Before drifting off to sleep, Joel has his turn of getting information out of Ellie. He tries to find out who else Ellie had killed, but was unsuccessful. Of course, we know it was Riley, but being a traumatizing experience for Ellie, she decides to keep it to herself. She in turn brings up an interesting observation that she noticed about Joel. That he has trouble hearing on his right side. It puts things into perspective because every time we’ve seen Joel go to sleep around Ellie, it’s been on his right side so that he can hear better. I thought at the time, he was on that side to face away from her, but it makes sense because he needs to be able to hear for danger. To throw in another feel-good moment, Ellie tells Joel another pun. This time, Joel couldn’t help himself. He starts laughing and we see these two let their guards down and are happy for a minute. It just made me happy to see Joel let some emotion in and realized that maybe Ellie could do some good in his life. Finally, bring him some joy. That is, till later that night, Henry and Sam sneak up on them. Joel failed to hear them come in and if you notice, Joel was sleeping on his left side.
Ep. 5- “Endure and Survive”
Before Joel and Ellie came into the picture, we got a glimpse into how Henry and Sam survived, while they were being hunted down. Kathleen wasn’t merciless when interrogating other collaborators, but we see that the doctor from episode 4, was in co-hoots with them. Giving them a place to hide and food to eat. We know how the story ends. Kathleen interrogates the doctor and shoots him. Back to the day that Joel and Ellie get confronted by the ambush, what was occurring behind the scenes, was that Henry and Sam were trying to escape. This leads us back to how we left off in episode 4. With Henry and Sam pointing guns at Joel and Ellie. Funnily enough, Henry confesses that he’s not violent and wants to lower his gun. Joel doesn’t make things easier, because as Ellie says, he has an “asshole voice.” Henry is hesitant but eventually trusts Joel. This is when the camaraderie starts to build. Ellie takes the lead, since she’s the more outgoing of the two, and introduces herself. Trying to break Joel out of his shell, she smacks him so that he introduces himself as well. This becomes a common theme between them moving on. Trying to get Joel to act like a normal person.
The next morning, the plan takes shape. We learn that Henry was a collaborator. This worries Joel, but Henry convinces him that if he shows them the way out, Joel will just need to clear the way. In spite of the fact that infected people used to live down there, the plan is to go through the tunnel system. Arriving at the tunnels, Joel and Ellie are prepared for the unexpected. Flashing back to what Joel told Ellie originally about keeping her gun in her backpack, we see her take it out of her jacket pocket, and Joel is disappointed. Even though his ground rule was for Ellie to do as he says, she’s stubborn and does as she pleases. Inching further into the tunnel, Henry learns Joel is pessimistic. He tells Ellie that by calling Joel her dad. Like clockwork, Joel and Ellie say they’re not father and daughter. I mean, not yet anyways…They come across an underground settlement, which happened to be a kids’ area and the gang decides to rest for a while. It was nice that Ellie and Sam got to be kids for a while and bonded over their love of comic books. That’s when we find out that this particular comic book’s slogan is, “endure and survive.” Which is very meta for what is happening at this moment. While the kids bond with each other, Joel’s walls come down a little. He apologizes to Henry and realizes he didn’t know his situation. This leads to Henry confessing that he’s wanted because he turned in Kathleen’s brother to get meds for Sam’s leukemia. He thinks Joel understands his predicament because he had a sense that Joel was a father too. That really makes you think that in dire situations, like a pandemic, you’ll do whatever you can to save the ones you love. Like Joel said. You keep going for your family.
Getting some more insight into Kathleen. She talks to Perry and tells him about growing up with her brother, Michael. How he was more forgiving than her. When Henry turned him in, he told Kathleen to forgive him. However, she’s not able to do that, as we’ve seen. She wants revenge and will kill as many people as she needs to get to him. Finally out of the tunnel, Ellie makes a grand gesture and asks Henry and Sam if they want to tag along with her and Joel to Wyoming. Of course, Joel isn’t keen on this, but Ellie insists she can turn Joel around. She does her finest Joel impression, by imitating his grumpiness, and she couldn’t have been more spot on. The lightness quickly turns dark when the gang gets shot at. There is a shooter coming from a house and Joel is quick to end that nonsense. Unfortunately, he hears Kathleen’s voice over a radio and realizes she’s coming their way. Joel yells for the group to run, but it’s too late. Joel switches into full sharpshooter mode. Henry in the meantime, is about to surrender, but the ground caves in. The disruption of a truck exploding and setting fire triggers infected to swarm out of the ground. This was by far my favorite clicker scene. We didn’t get to experience them much, but this drove the experience home. This is what you think of when zombies invade the world. Joel does everything in his power to protect Ellie, and it was such a cool scene. For someone who didn’t care about her well-being, Joel did a 180. To add fuel to the fire, we saw our first bloater. If we thought clickers were scary, bloaters take it to a whole more terrifying level. The infection has spread throughout his whole body and he has transformed into a mushroom monster. Focusing back on Ellie, she sees Henry and Sam in trouble and saves their lives. I was so proud of her because she took action immediately. Even though she didn’t use her gun, she was confidently killing the clickers with her knife. It shows that even though Ellie is gung-ho about harming others with her gun, her shining moments happen with knives. It’s an extension of her arm. To end the scene, we see Kathleen die by a child clicker.
The gang goes to a motel and stays the night. As Ellie said, Joel’s walls break down even more. He decides that Henry and Sam can follow him and Ellie to Wyoming if they please. Meanwhile, Sam and Ellie discuss their fears. This was a very touching moment between them because looking at Ellie, she always seems eager and ready to face anything, but when Sam asks her if she’s scared, Ellie breaks down her facade and reveals that she’s scared all the time. Maybe not about what’s happening around her, but about losing the people close to her. She’s scared of being alone, which makes absolute sense based on what she’s been through. But Joel now serves as her guiding light. He helps her get up in the morning and take on another day and gives her a sense of protection from the world. Sam reveals that he’s scared because he got bit. Not wanting to lose another friend, Ellie tells Sam that her blood is medicine and tries to cure him. At first, I thought her idea might work, but in the morning, Sam turned. He attacks Ellie and to Joel and Henry’s surprise, all Henry can do, is kill his own brother. That spirals into shock and disbelief about what he did, and Henry kills himself. Like I said before, staying alive is all about surviving for family. In this case, after Henry’s family was dead, he had nowhere to go. Joel and Ellie respectfully bury the brothers and Ellie writes on Sam’s notepad that she’s sorry. She failed Sam. Her blood didn’t work and this time, it numbed her. On the other hand, Joel seemed more affected by Henry and Sam’s deaths. He is probably thinking that could have been him and Ellie.
Ep. 6- “Kin”
Furthering the story two months later, Joel and Ellie are now in Wyoming and ambushed an older couple’s cabin. This couple gave comic relief in a serious situation. Even though strangers came into their cabin, the wife wanted to show hospitality by giving them soup. But when the husband came back from hunting, Joel and Ellie made quick work of coming off as menacing. Ellie once again didn’t listen to Joel and rushed down the stairs to interrogate the man. Finding Ellie non-threatening, the man called her a little psycho. This made me laugh because this couple wasn’t bothered if they were ambushed. I guess they saw it all. Joel asked the man where they were and if they had heard of Tommy, while Ellie asked if they had heard of the Fireflies. The couple had never heard of either and the woman thought Ellie was talking about insect fireflies. She was surprised that there were people with the same name. The two warn Joel and Ellie that Tommy was probably dead. West of the river, there is apparently only death.
Leaving the cabin, we see something out of the ordinary about Joel. He starts experiencing a panic attack. Ellie realizes something’s wrong and is scared he’s going to die. This hints at Ellie’s fears towards the end of the episode. Looking for a spot to camp, Ellie asks Joel to teach her to hunt. Just like asking for a gun, Joel denies her. While they sit by the fire, Ellie asks Joel what they’ll do once a cure is made. We see that Joel still thinks of Ellie as cargo because, in his mind, the two of them won’t stay together. He says he’ll have a sheep farm. He’ll have sheep because they’re quiet and do what they’re told. Digging at Ellie. Ellie reveals that she wants to go to the moon. She read about astronauts at school and fell in love with Sally Ride. I wouldn’t blame Ellie. Traveling to the moon would be a logical option to escape the pandemic. And since she has been confined behind a wall her whole life, why wouldn’t she dream about traveling as far away as possible? On a serious note, Ellie tells Joel that she tried to cure Sam. She thought her blood would prevent him from changing. That gave us an insight into how this cure will work. It won’t be as easy as we thought.
In the morning, Ellie informs Joel that he fell asleep, so she took the second watch. Feeling that he failed his responsibility, Joel tells Ellie that she should have woken him up. Confidently, Ellie tells Joel that “she’s a natural.” She did everything he showed her to do. What a proud moment for Ellie. Showing Joel that she is more than capable of caring for herself. Leaving camp, Ellie tries to wear Joel down, by asking him again if he can teach her how to hunt. Joel reveals that he’s not sure she’ll enjoy the dressing part, but Ellie is still interested. I think Joel still doesn’t realize Ellie isn’t an ordinary girl. She wants to get dirty and be on Joel’s level. She wants him to teach her survival skills and how to live on the land. Out of nowhere, a swarm of people on horseback circle Joel and Ellie and question them. They ask if they’re infected and Joel denies it. We see him panic again when the group has a dog sniff them out to see if they’re not infected. Joel stands frozen in terror as the dog sniffs him and then moves on to Ellie. There was so much build-up to this moment. The dog growls at Ellie. It is peculiar that even though she has been bitten, and the scanners state that she is infected, the dog couldn’t sense that. In the end, the dog starts licking Ellie’s face.
Arriving at the encampment, Joel and Tommy finally reunite. We haven’t seen Joel get this emotional in quite some time and especially showing happiness. He is finally reunited with his family. Joel and Ellie are given food to eat and the two have such a father-daughter moment. Ellie says that she’s never had a proper meal in her life and swears in front of Tommy and Maria. In true fatherly fashion, Joel tells Ellie to mind her manners. Ellie also swears at a girl, who is snooping on them. This scene has made fans convinced that this was Dina, whom Ellie develops a romance with later on in the series. Joel states that he wants some family time with Tommy, but Tommy reveals that Maria is family now. Ellie says her congratulations but has to remind Joel of his manners, and he says the same. Giving Joel and Ellie a tour, Tommy mentions that people hunt and Ellie is quick to ask if he can teach her. She is so desperate and for the third time, Joel shuts her down. After explaining how the camp runs, Joel realizes that the community is controlled by communism. Tommy is quick to deny that remark, but Maria chimes in that yes. They are a commune, so by definition, this group is controlled by communism. After finishing their tour, Maria offers to bring Ellie to the house she and Joel will be staying at, and Ellie suddenly becomes nervous. Joel is never out of her sight and he is her protection. At that moment, she doesn’t want Joel to leave her. They know from experience, that you can never be too careful. And again, we know that Ellie’s fear is being alone. Per Joel’s request, she follows Maria to the house. Getting Tommy alone, the brothers catch up. Tommy asks how Tess is and Joel immediately hesitates. That must have been a hard question to hear. Of course, he lies that she’s alright. He also lies about why he’s with Ellie. Getting his own insight, Joel asks Tommy about going to Colorado to find the Fireflies. Thinking that everything is back to what it used to be, Joel asks Tommy to go with him. Tommy reveals a bombshell when he tells Joel that Maria is pregnant. He has other responsibilities now and at that moment, Joel can’t comprehend that his brother has moved on. I think he’s been saying his mantra, about staying alive for family, for so long, that now that Tommy has put Joel by the wayside, he can’t believe it. It was like a dagger to the heart. Joel spent so many years trying to find Tommy and to rescue him when all along, he didn’t need rescuing. What put everything into perspective, was when Tommy told Joel, “just because life stopped for you, doesn’t mean it has to stop for me.” Storming out, Joel starts having a panic attack again. This is just another failure in his life. And out of nowhere, Joel thinks he sees Sarah in the crowd. He’s trying to hold on to one thing that won’t go awry. At the house, the scene that took me by surprise was seeing Ellie examine the period cup that Maria gave her. Those scenes are always so taboo for some reason in cinema and we don’t see them play out very often. It was just a small moment of normalcy. Arriving at Maria’s house, Ellie spots the memorial over the fireplace. It’s for Maria’s son Kevin, and Joel’s daughter, Sarah. While trimming Ellie’s hair, Ellie gives her condolences to Maria, but Maria reveals that she only had one kid. That Sarah was Joel’s. That put a lot of things into perspective for Ellie. I think at that moment, she saw Joel in a new light. Conversing about Joel and Tommy’s past, Maria warns Ellie about Joel. She says to be careful of whom you put your faith in, and Ellie isn’t fazed by her remark. She will go to the ends of the Earth with Joel. He is her constant. Back to Joel and Tommy, we see that Joel is falling apart. Because he is with his family, he feels comfortable revealing his secrets and pouring his heart out. He opens up and tells Tommy that Ellie is immune. He relays their entire journey and reveals many truths. That Ellie saved his life when he got attacked in Kansas City, but he is becoming weak. He watched Henry kill his own brother, just to save Ellie. And he did nothing when he thought Ellie was going to get ripped to shreds by the dog. Joel Miller was afraid. His responsibility of taking care of Ellie and keeping her safe was becoming a failure. We see this shift in Joel. His love for Ellie was starting to take a hold of him and was compromising his mission. It was even plaguing his dreams. He tells Tommy that he dreams that he lost something. And because of everything that has happened, he wants Tommy to take Ellie the rest of the way. Walking into Ellie’s room, we enter a pinnacle moment. First of all, we get foreshadowing, by seeing a giraffe poster on the wall. But to start this conversation, Ellie can’t believe that people worried about such mundane things back in the day. She tells Joel that she overheard him talking to Tommy and asks about him ditching her. She knows that he’s afraid, but she tells him that she’s not Sarah. Hitting a sore spot, Joel immediately gets defensive. He tells Ellie that she doesn’t know what loss is, but little does he know that Ellie has lost everyone around her. Everyone but Joel. She comes clean and tells Joel that if she was with someone else, she would just be more scared. It’s a big reveal because she comes out and tells Joel that she can’t live without him. That they are in this together. We realize that both these characters have suffered so much loss, and they have more in common than they realize. Trying to push Ellie away, Joel states that she’s not his daughter and he isn’t her father. And that they should go their separate ways. What a gut-wrenching thing to say.
Starting the new day, Tommy takes Ellie to the stables. We see that Joel is still there, obviously wasting time, to see Ellie. He caves and tells Ellie she should have a choice. That’s all Ellie needs to hear because she immediately wants to leave with him. After leaving the camp, I feel like we missed an apology between Joel and Ellie. We next see them having fun again and Joel teaching Ellie how to shoot. After what was said the night before, I would think they would have to talk about what was said. But it was a sweet moment watching Joel finally teach Ellie how to shoot. As he describes how to fire the gun, she mocks him, but he hits it right on target. Again, Ellie calls him a dick and to further elevate the scene, we see that Ellie wrote asshole on the target before they leave. While traveling to Colorado, Joel gives Ellie some insight into what normal life was like and reveals that he used to be a contractor. To further show how comfortable they are with each other, we see Ellie resting her face against Joel’s back while they ride horseback. He explains to her the rules of football and when they arrive at the university, he explains what college was like. In a shocking change of heart, Joel tells Ellie that he has changed his mind about what he wants to do with the rest of his life. He wants to be a singer. When they reach their destination, things seem off. There are no Fireflies around. They enter one of the buildings and find that they left for Salt Lake City. Things get more difficult when they notice raiders outside. They try to sneak away, but Joel gets into an altercation. The next thing we see, Joel has been stabbed in the stomach. What killed me the most was that Joel took out the shiv he was stabbed with. From everything he’s learned, he should have known that when you get impaled by something, you leave it alone. Taking it out just speeds up the blood loss, and case in point, Joel ends up passing out. Ellie panics and says she can’t do anything without him. We see her cry over him. To close out the episode, we hear a very fitting song called, “Never Let Me Down Again,” which talks about riding with your best friend and hoping they never let you down again. A song fitting for Joel and Ellie’s relationship.
Ep. 7- “Left Behind”
After the life-shattering moment of Joel getting stabbed by a raider, we see that Ellie has found an abandoned house to stay in. She brought Joel to the basement and laid him on a mattress on the floor. Ellie is in full doctor mode, and trying to care for Joel. Thinking his life is limited, Joel grabs Ellie and tells her to return back to Tommy. He pushes her away and we can see the wheels turning in her head. There is no way she will abandon Joel and leave him to die. At this point, he means too much to her, but she leaves, only to hover by the door on the other side.
In this episode, we flashback to when Ellie was back at school. She’s getting into fights and gets sent to see Capt. Kwong. We learn that Ellie has been sent to the “hole” three times already. Making it known that Ellie gets into fights all the time, she is given a life choice. Will she follow the path of becoming a grunt and living a terrible life, or follow the right path, and choose to become an officer? Ellie chooses the latter. In Ellie’s room, we get a feel for her interests. Most of which Ellie has already shared. We see her reading a comic book in her bed. On her wall, we see posters for Mortal Kombat and a poster of the moon phases. While asleep, Riley appears. She confesses to Ellie that she joined the Fireflies. Ellie isn’t keen on the idea and remembers that she has drills in the morning, to learn how to kill Fireflies. This puts Ellie in a difficult situation. After catching up, Riley tells Ellie she wants to take her somewhere. They escape and their journey begins.
We get to see deeper into Riley and Ellie’s friendship and see that they both are stubborn. They both think they are right about everything and have opposing viewpoints. During small talk, we learn how Ellie got her eyebrow scar. Apparently, it was a 7-Eleven situation. Whatever that means. And while talking about Ellie’s issues with bullies, Riley gives Ellie some wise advice. She tells her “you can’t fight everything and everyone.” This is certainly true in Ellie’s current life. She pushes back at everyone. The Fireflies and Joel. She can’t handle authority and is used to people pushing her around. She’s always close to starting a fight. Entering an apartment building, the two spot a dead man in one of the hallways. Like with the clickers, Ellie wants to inspect the body. She really likes to get up close and examine their faces. Next to the body, they find a bottle of booze. They take it and drink it outside. This reveals why Ellie said that alcohol was still gross when she took a sip of Joel’s flask back when they were camping. Knowing Riley had a gun, Ellie asked if she can hold it. Here we go again with Ellie’s obsession with power. She wants a gun so badly and I’m sure she is jealous that Riley actually has one. Ellie reiterates that she dislikes the Fireflies. That is something else she has in common with Joel. She doesn’t believe they are making an impact on the world. Arriving at their destination, we see that Riley led Ellie to the mall.
Once inside, Riley tells Ellie that she has four wonders that she wants to show her. First, not exactly being a wonder, Ellie experiences an escalator for the first time. It is quite wholesome, yet sad that Ellie hasn’t experienced much in her life. She never knew how the world worked before the pandemic and something so simple as an escalator fascinates her so much. She’s like a child all over again. Figuring out her surroundings. Walking through the mall, Riley wants Ellie to close her eyes. She grabs her hand and leads her to another wonder. At this moment, we sense that there might be a deeper connection between these two. Something more. Riley leads Ellie to a carousel and Ellie is amazed. Talking more about their situations, Ellie really doesn’t want Riley to leave. Riley confesses that life in the QZ wasn’t going to be optimal for her. Since she was going to be seventeen, her post was going to be where people were shoveling shit. This all of a sudden starts making sense to Ellie. Heading to the next wonder, they go inside a photo booth. The girls take pictures together and on the last one, Ellie gets uncomfortable with Riley being so close to her. They start to get awkwardly nervous around each other. Wonder four, is an arcade. It was endearing that Ellie thought this was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. And I guess seeing all the neon lights and being that Ellie loved games, she would be in awe. Realizing that they didn’t have any coins to play the games, Riley reveals that she cracked open the coin machine earlier. Being that swearing is Ellie’s love language, she calls Riley an asshole. They of course head to the Mortal Kombat game and play a few rounds. Meanwhile, Riley and Ellie have no idea that a clicker is coming back to life. It’s just that little insight that shows that things aren’t going to end well. Finishing their game, Ellie suddenly has the urge to kiss Riley. You can see it written all over her face. Her best friend has planned this special outing just for her and it’s warming her heart. Wanting to all of sudden bail, Riley reels Ellie back in by telling her that she has a gift. This is when Ellie receives No Pun Intended Vol. 2. While reading the puns, Ellie spots bombs that Riley has made. Starting to feel disappointed, Ellie asks if Riley made them to kill soldiers. Then it dawns on her that Riley was posted at the mall. I think at this moment, Ellie realizes that she and Riley are on two different sides. Riley is against everything that FEDRA stands for and Ellie just agreed to go down the path to become an officer. Making matters worse, Riley reveals that she’s been posted at the Atlantic QZ. She asked already if Ellie could join, but Marlene said no. Now, knowing Marlene’s past with Ellie’s mom, we know she has a responsibility to protect Ellie. Keeping Ellie stagnant at the Boston QZ and under FEDRA’s watch, was what she thought was best. If Ellie joined the Fireflies, chances were that she would be killed. Becoming angry, Ellie decides to leave. This was just another moment that someone she loved, would leave her. Rethinking her decision, Ellie walks back into the mall, only to hear screaming. Cue the now fifth wonder. The Halloween shop. Trying to make Ellie understand more deeply, Riley explains that she used to have a family and she feels like the Fireflies could fill that void for her. They believe that she belongs. And they chose her. Understanding a little better, it seems that Ellie is starting to come around. Riley then has the idea to dance around with Ellie in scary masks. They let loose for a while and suddenly, Ellie asks Riley again, not to leave her. Surprisingly, Riley says ok, and to further change her mind, Ellie kisses Riley. It was so sweet to see that both mutually had a crush on one another. They didn’t make a big deal about it, but it made their adventure that much better. Sadly, that’s when the clicker attacks. After much tussling, Ellie ends up killing the clicker with her knife, but on the downside, Riley and Ellie find out that they both were bitten. This explains how Ellie got her first bite. Still showing their differences, Ellie takes out her anger by smashing things, while Riley silently sits on the floor. Reveling in their misfortune, Riley gives them two options. 1. They take the easy way out, or 2., they just keep going. They wait it out and become clickers together. Unfortunately, we never see the outcome. Obviously, we know that Ellie has killed someone before. And knowing that Ellie is immune, we can conclude that Ellie had to kill Riley. No wonder she didn’t want to talk about it with Joel. That must have been really hard for her. She lost a friend and a lover.
As we return to the present day, Ellie runs upstairs and finds anything to help Joel. It puts everything we’ve learned from Ellie’s past into perspective. She already had to run away from someone she loved. She wouldn’t do it again. This time, she would fight. Luckily, Ellie finds a needle and thread and runs back down to Joel. Stating that she wasn’t going anywhere, Ellie held Joel’s hand. Not even saying the words, Ellie showed Joel how much he meant to her. Ellie goes ahead and starts sewing Joel up and unlike before, Joel realizes that the only way he’s able to make it through, and the only way he can prevent Ellie from freaking out, is to look away and hold in his screams.
Ep. 8- “When We Are in Need”
This episode is a turning point in the series. It is also another favorite of mine. It’s ominous, but also powerful. This is when Joel and Ellie’s relationship reaches its peak and Ellie learns a lot about herself. Opening the episode, we see that a group of people settled in Colorado. The tone is already set by hearing David read a Bible passage. The group comes together in a restaurant, and what catches the eye, is a banner saying “When we are in need, he shall provide.” We get insight that not only does this mean that God will provide, but also David. He is the group’s leader. We find out that a girl’s father has been killed and that David won’t bury the body till spring. His response already made me uneasy. You’re going to let a body rot until you can bury it in the spring? Of course, we will find out the true answer to why he postponed the burial later on. A fun Easter egg in this episode is Troy Baker’s appearance. If you don’t know the video games, Troy is Joel’s original voice. I liked that the creators let the original voice actors be a part of the show, even if it was in a small way. Ending their session, we find out that the group is running out of rations.
Returning to the abandoned house, Ellie is still taking care of Joel. Now, more than ever, she’s worried, because he isn’t getting better. Running out of food, Ellie decides to try hunting. Miraculously, she killed a deer. I liked that we finally saw Ellie control her breathing and take her time shooting. Joel would have been proud of her. Following the deer, Ellie comes upon David and James, who wanted to take the deer for themselves. She sounds menacing, with that “Joel confidence,” and threatens them many times. She even used one of Joel’s phrases, calling James “buddy boy,” making him seem less than. David barters with Ellie and trades the deer for anything she wants. Thinking of Joel’s well-being, Ellie asks if they can give her medicine for infections. David agrees and asks James to fetch the medicine. James can’t believe David is giving in to this girl. Leaving David and Ellie alone, David guesses that Ellie is trying to help her dad. Now he knows a man is injured in her group. David offers to start a fire for him and Ellie, dropping her guard a little bit. Ellie agrees. I knew from that moment that Ellie had made the wrong decision. Whatever you do, don’t let your guard down. David tries to be friendly, getting information out of Ellie, but she refuses. He tries a different tactic, by letting her know she could join his group. Finding out her own info, she finds out that David is the leader and a math teacher turned preacher. This definitely screamed cult to her. David reveals that a girl’s father in their group was killed by a crazy man. By a stab in the dark, we can guess it was Joel, and this is confirmed when he says that this man was traveling with a little girl. Suddenly, James is already in killing mode to end Ellie’s life. As I said before, this was a terrible idea by Ellie. Just from the brief information she gave David, he knew she was traveling with a man. Thankfully, this time, he let her go.
Running back to Joel, Ellie now has what she needs to progress Joel’s healing. The only issue is that Ellie has no idea where to insert the needle full of penicillin. Even though Joel was out, Ellie still asked him for help. I cringed when I saw her insert the needle into his wound. Being a fan of Outlander, I immediately knew from Claire’s medical knowledge, that you inject the needle into the rear. After she was done, Ellie laid down next to Joel. This is so sweet, but also smart on her part. She wanted to make sure that throughout the night, she could listen for his heartbeat and feel him still breathing. And to add to the sweetness, Joel turned his head towards her.
At the restaurant, dinner was being prepped. We see a bin of meat come in to be added to the soup and it looks extremely unappetizing. Looking at the meat, one woman asks the man who carried it what kind of meat it was. Pausing too long, the man says it’s venison. Hearing that pause, it was evident that something wasn’t right. To further confirm that theory, we see David and James come in with the deer after the meal is served. Pretty sure that the meat wasn’t venison. David informs the group about Joel and Ellie and the girl, whose father was killed, wants justice by seeing them killed. Without hesitation, David slaps the girl. He literally slaps her so hard, she falls off her chair. Pretty sure preachers aren’t supposed to do that. Learning that David has a twisted mind, he offers his hand to the girl, almost so she can trust him again. Making matters worse, he tells the girl that she will always have a father. Meaning he will take his place. If that doesn’t scream cult, I don’t know what does.
Back in the basement, Ellie gives Joel another penicillin shot. My thoughts during this were, “how does she know how much penicillin to give Joel?” Thankfully, she didn’t kill him faster by overdosing him. Trekking outside, Ellie notices that David and his group are looking for her and Joel. This is when all hell breaks loose. Ellie runs back to Joel, gives him a knife, and tells him to kill anyone who comes down the stairs. Joel, barely comprehending what she’s saying, appears weak. I had no idea how Joel would pull this off. He hasn’t fully healed and now he’s supposed to defend himself? Ellie leads the group off the trail, taking the horse and riding away. However, James had to ruin it, by killing the horse and knocking Ellie off with it. I know animals are never harmed, but I still can never watch an animal die on TV. It makes me heartbroken and these animals have no right to die. But hearing David’s change of tone, he tells his group, “So hungry for vengeance? Deliver it.” That’s never an encouraging sign. While this is going on, Joel is about to deal with his attackers. Hearing someone trying to get down the stairs, I thought Joel wouldn’t be able to fend for himself. As I said, he was weak. He could barely get up and hide. In all this chaos, I think my explanation for Joel’s sudden cure was all the adrenaline he was dealing with. And Ellie was in trouble. He needed to get better to protect her.
We see that Ellie has been put into a cage and here lies the power struggle between David and Ellie. David, using persuasion and manipulation, says he wants to protect her. He believes that Ellie’s time with Joel is ending. What pushes Ellie’s buttons is that he explains that if she can’t trust him, she will be alone. Alone. The one thing that scares Ellie the most. At this moment, she has no idea what’s going on with Joel. Is he alive? Is he trying to find her? This moment was definitely a life-or-death situation. While this interrogation is taking place, Joel has turned completely savage. We get a glimpse into his old ways. And it was scary to watch. We’ve seen glimpses of Joel getting angry and turning off his emotions, but this was on a new level. Joel knocks out two guys and interrogates them in the house. Even though Joel is still weak, he shows that he is actually enjoying himself. Grabbing his knife, he smirks. As soon as he jammed his knife into the first attacker’s knee, he became another person. Screaming in this man’s face and torturing him was surreal. We saw Joel also use the phrase “buddy,” when referring to the other attacker, and now we know Joel is rubbing off on Ellie. Thankfully, Joel finds Ellie’s location but shows no mercy to these men. He gives them a horrible death, by stabbing the first guy and killing the second with a metal pipe. Still in her cage, Ellie tries to escape. While doing so, she freezes. She notices a human ear on the floor. Of course, at that moment, David comes back in. Ellie quickly realizes that this group is a bunch of cannibals and her life is at stake. Projecting himself onto Ellie, David reveals that he sees himself in her. She is a natural leader, smart, and loyal, but also violent. She has a violent heart. David isn’t wrong. We’ve seen this throughout the season. Her fascination with death and killing. But we also find out that David has a fondness for cordyceps. He thinks they’re all about love. Considering Ellie, he thinks she is beyond needing a father. That she could be an equal to him. Internalizing David’s confessions, Ellie seems to start trusting David. Of course, being the smart girl that she is, she has her own agenda. They touch hands, but Ellie breaks David’s finger. To punish Ellie, he smashes her face into the cage bars. Leaving the room, Ellie reveals her name to David. Announcing who broke his finger.
With a blizzard outside, Joel finds Ellie’s location. He finds her backpack, their dead horse, and, unfortunately, the hanging bodies of the people David and his group were eating. I’m sure that girl’s dad was one of them. Suddenly, David and James come in to kill Ellie. She bites David and leads him on by saying she’s infected. Being caught off guard, Ellie kills James and gets away. Leading to the main event, David and Ellie hunt each other in the restaurant. David wants to know how Ellie became immune and reveals that he’s changed his mind. He would like to be her father. He wants to keep her and teach her. Taking the chance, Ellie pounces and stabs David in the stomach. Again, this is the go-to place for injuries. He pins her down and tells her that fighting is what he likes most. For a second, I thought he was preparing to rape her. That would have made this episode even more disturbing, but thank God he didn’t. Just the sheer terror in Ellie’s eyes was enough. Thankfully, she reached the butcher knife and went on a rampage. She hacked at David’s body so many times that it left her in disbelief and shock. I just think all the pent-up trauma and anger towards the world and people who ruined her life came out in her anger towards David. On the other hand, I don’t think she realized she could do so much harm.
Leaving the restaurant, Ellie is grabbed by Joel unexpectedly. She tries to fight him off, but you can see she has nothing left. Realizing it was Joel, she immediately relaxed and hugged him. This is when their relationship shifted. This is when Ellie turned from cargo to family. Joel called Ellie “baby girl,” and in that instant, she became his daughter. He had called Sarah that before and he was happy that Ellie was safe in his arms. I did think Ellie would have broken down at this moment, but in hindsight, she was shocked to see Joel in the first place. The last time she saw him, he looked unwell, but he made it through. I wish this moment had lasted longer, and for some reason, I feel like it originally did. In the scene, after Joel and Ellie end their hug, we already see Ellie with Joel’s coat on. Joel placing his jacket on Ellie was definitely cut out. I wish we had witnessed that moment. Seeing Joel calm Ellie down and tell her he was here for her. To protect her. Ending this incredible episode, Joel and Ellie walk into the distance. My guess is that they will return to their abandoned home.
Ep. 9- “Look for the Light”
Ending the season, my wish was that this episode was longer. It felt short and rushed, but overall, it gave us a good continuation for the next season. Starting with the story of Ellie’s mom, Anna, who was played by the original Ellie, Ashley Johnson, we see that she is running away from clickers heading in her direction. She is pregnant and locks herself in a room in an abandoned house. And to defend herself, what does she have? The pocket knife. She gets attacked and Anna kills the clicker. In the midst of defending herself, Ellie just popped out. While enwrapped in happiness, Anna doesn’t realize that she’s been bitten, until she looks down. While Ellie cries, Anna says, “You fuckin’ tell em’, Ellie.” Even before she came out of the womb, Ellie was outspoken. She would be a strong, independent woman. That night, Marlene found Anna and Ellie. Seeing that Anna got bitten, Anna told Marlene that she had cut the umbilical cord before being bitten. Obviously, being a lie, Anna had to convince Marlene that Ellie wasn’t infected. And miraculously, Ellie became immune. Knowing that this was the end of her life, Anna tells Marlene to take Ellie and gift her with her knife. That’s such a nice connection between mother and daughter. Passing down the pocket knife for protection. We learn that Anna and Marlene are also connected. They have known each other their whole lives. This is what makes things so hard. Anna told Marlene she needed to kill her. At first, Marlene refused. Even though her friend is infected, how is someone expected to kill their friend? Especially if they’ve known them their whole lives. Before leaving, Marlene bites the bullet and shoots Anna. She needs to be the Firefly she is and do what is right.
Focusing on Ellie, we can see that she’s still dealing with her trauma. She seems pretty disassociated from Joel, and I wish we had seen what happened between her time escaping David and progressing into spring. I wanted to see Joel console her and have her explain what happened. I also wanted to see them grow closer together and act more as a family. We can see that Joel is trying to uplift Ellie. By showing her that he found some Chef Boyardee and that she can beat him at Boggle, my heart was crushing when something like this, which would fill Ellie with so much joy, still didn’t uplift her spirits. She remained quiet and tried to sound interested. We can see changes in their relationship. Finally, Joel is ok with Ellie handling his gun and he’s sharing more about himself. He tells Ellie that he’s thinking about finding a guitar and teaching her how to play. He actually thinks she would be good at it. He actually sees potential in her. With Joel dreaming about the future with Ellie, Ellie was trailing behind and off into her own world. She doesn’t even realize that Joel is talking about his future with her. Not going off and starting a sheep farm by himself. Bringing her back with him and sharing his passions with her. Entering Salt Lake City, we can really see that Ellie has taken on Joel’s state of mind. Figuring out a way to get around the city, Ellie thinks of the same tactic as Joel. To make a joke, Joel reveals that he found some dynamite and he was thinking of using it. Quick to become excited, Ellie was bummed when Joel said he was kidding. Entering a parking garage, Joel finally asks if Ellie is ok. He sees the elephant in the room and knows she’s acting out of the ordinary. He knows she’s been quiet. Helping Joel to get to the upper level, she gets sidetracked and drops the ladder when handing it to him. She walks away and he is left irritated at her. They usually work well as a team, and Ellie still isn’t herself. He chases her and finds that she discovered a giraffe. Taking in this special moment, Joel hands Ellie some leaves to feed the animal. At that moment, Joel is so happy that Ellie is smiling again. They go to another part of the building and like once before, Joel asks Ellie, “is it everything you hoped for?” Watching out and seeing a group of giraffes. Ellie answers back in the same fashion, “can’t deny that view.” Assessing their situation and that they are nearing the end of their journey, Joel takes back his original intentions. He tells Ellie that they don’t need to go through this final hurdle, getting Ellie to the hospital. Thinking about this, Ellie wants to finish this mission. After everything they went through and everything she has done, they can’t leave before the finish line. All of it would have meant nothing. To cheer Joel up, Ellie does say that after they’re done, they can go wherever. She will follow him wherever he goes. At that moment, you can see how much growth Ellie has gone through. She doesn’t need Joel to protect her anymore and she realizes that she has a purpose. She is telling Joel what they’re going to do and after everything is done, they can go on and be a family. Heading back on track, they come across an abandoned emergency medical camp. Being more at ease with each other, Joel reveals that he was taken to one. Ellie asks if Sarah was with him, but he was there by himself. This is when he takes down his walls. He tells Ellie that the real reason he got his scar, was that he was going to take his own life. You can really feel Ellie’s empathy towards him. She thinks he’s telling her this story so that she understands that “time heals all wounds,” but in fact, Joel was expressing that she was the one that healed him. Without saying outright that he loved her, he stated that it wasn’t time. It was their connection and their ever-growing love for one another, that got him through. We saw him as a shell of a man, change to this flourishing father figure that laughed at jokes and smiled when their “daughter” was happy. Moving on, another drastic change, was that Joel actually wanted to hear Ellie tell some puns. Putting a pep in her step, Ellie was happy to oblige. She reads an apocalypse pun, which was ever so fitting. Sadly, when all is well and dandy, we have to go back to despair. A man throws a sonic grenade in their direction and Ellie gets taken. Joel gets knocked out and wakes up in front of none other than Marlene.
They made it to the Fireflies. In a turn of events, Marlene tells Joel that the doctor prepped Ellie for surgery. Now, when I heard this, I wanted to see what happened in that surgery room. Getting context clues, it doesn’t sound like she consented. If she had known she might not have woken up from this surgery, would she still have gone through with it? Marlene explains the science behind how the cure will be made and the doctor needs to perform brain surgery to retrieve certain cells. Realizing that Ellie’s head would be cut open and she most likely won’t make it, Joel shifts back into protective mode. He is not having it and he demands to see Ellie. In a strange way, both Marlene and Joel know the risks and care for Ellie in their own way. Marlene, promising Anna that Ellie would be safe, and Joel, now caring for this girl, see this ending in a different way. Knowing what Joel is capable of, she asks her men to force Joel out of the hospital. Making it more final, she gives Joel Ellie’s knife. A memento of her life. Leading Joel outside, the men had no chance against Joel. Of course, he goes completely rogue and turns savage again. So much is at stake, so the only way to get to Ellie is to kill everyone in his sight. We see Joel turn heartless again and become his former self. He finally finds Ellie and has no mercy. The doctor tells Joel that he won’t let Joel take her, but the doctor obviously had no idea whom he was dealing with. Joel kills the doctor but surprisingly lets the nurses live. He takes Ellie and takes her to the parking garage. Marlene is there and tries to talk some sense into him. She makes it clear that Joel can’t control Ellie’s life forever. It all comes down to what she would want.
Jumping ahead, Joel is in a car with Ellie and Ellie wakes up. Ellie is confused and Joel tells her she was on drugs. Then he spews a long list of lies. That the medical team was running tests on her, that they found more people that were immune. The doctors couldn’t make the cure work, so they stopped looking, and raiders drove them out. Getting more information, Ellie asks if anyone was hurt and if everything was ok. Taking longer pauses, Joel states that yes, people were hurt. I think Joel’s answers sparked something in Ellie’s mind. Was he telling the truth? Under his breath, Joel says, “I’m sorry.” Reminiscent of Ellie’s failure to help Sam, I suspect Joel was sorry that none of this worked out. Again, he failed her as a protector and I think he has failed as someone to trust. Not telling Ellie the truth has put a wedge between them. Joel has to live with telling Ellie lies. It was definitely a “Sophie’s choice” moment. Do you help stop the pandemic or save the one you love? I know that there has been a debate about whether or not Joel did the right thing, but to be honest, it’s challenging. The Fireflies didn’t even know if the cure would work. It was a trial-and-error procedure. Would killing an innocent person be logical? Even though they were the only person immune? I just wish Ellie was given a choice to begin with. Backtracking to the parking garage, we see that Joel shoots Marlene. She begs him to let her go, but knowing Marlene wants a cure, Joel makes the decision to kill her. He wants all ties severed.
Arriving back in Wyoming, the two have to hike back to Tommy’s. Joel has finally accepted that Sarah is gone and enjoys telling Ellie about her. He thinks they would get along, even though they are different. He thinks Ellie would make Sarah laugh. Continuing to share stories, we finally hear about how Ellie killed Riley. Ellie at this moment is disappointed that things didn’t work out and Joel tries to convince her that it wasn’t her fault. Ending the season, Ellie asks Joel one important question. To swear to her that everything he said about the Fireflies was true. Joel swears he told the truth and Ellie, after long contemplation, says ok. Even though she went along with what Joel said, we know deep down that she has an inkling that Joel is lying. I think this might come between them next season and that day might come back to haunt Joel.
This quickly has become one of my favorite shows. The character dynamics were complex, the relationships evolved and it jumped between all genres. I’m excited to see what’s in store, even though we can reference the game. I’m just curious about if next season is the last since the game only spanned two parts, or are the creators planning to elongate the story into multiple seasons or change up the story entirely? I guess we’ll find out.