The first season of HBO’s The Last of Us concludes in a manner reminiscent of the video game, with Joel reassuring Ellie that they always discover a new reason to persevere, regardless of who they lose along the way. However, in the season’s final scene, Ellie presses Joel to swear that his statements regarding the Fireflies are accurate – that numerous individuals like herself are immune to cordyceps and that the Fireflies have ceased their search for a cure. Spoiler alert for episode 9, “Look for the Light.”
Joel, who perceives Ellie as his daughter, falsely assures her that his statements are factual. Ellie was unconscious when Joel killed Marlene and the Fireflies to rescue her. He shoots a Firefly physician on the verge of extracting the cordyceps from Ellie’s brain, which would have resulted in her death but could have saved humanity. “Okay,” Ellie replies. The season finale concludes with an abrupt cut to black, mirroring the video game’s ending that fans have discussed for years. This concludes Part I.
How the ending of The Last of Us has evolved
The Last of Us TV series almost had a different ending. Instead of the iconic cut to black, an alternate ending was considered where the camera would focus on the increasing gap between Joel and Ellie as they journeyed toward Jackson, Wyoming.
Craig Mazin, the co-creator of The Last of Us TV series, recently revealed that the director, Ali Abbasi, initially proposed the alternate ending. The extended, melancholic version portrays Ellie saying “okay” and walking away from Joel as they travel towards Jackson, with the camera lingering on their paths until it fades out.
Mazin expressed his admiration for the alternate version and shared that the team debated which ending to use, taking into account the potential reactions from both game enthusiasts and non-gamers alike. He disclosed this information in a GQ Magazine interview. Mazin co-wrote the episode with Neil Druckmann, the game’s writer.
Mazin further elaborated that the decision to end the season with the close-up of Ellie was deliberate, as it leaves the audience uncertain about her next move and her emotional state. The moment’s ambiguity makes it impactful and memorable, according to Mazin. “That moment gets suspended permanently,” he concluded.
Craig Mazin, co-creator of The Last of Us TV series, anticipated that some viewers would feel frustrated with the first season’s cliffhanger ending, attributing it to “the anger of desire and anticipation.” As of now, it is likely that The Last of Us season 2 will not air for at least two more years.
However, for fans of the original video game who did not know that a sequel was in the works, the cut to black in the final scene was a conclusive ending rather than a cliffhanger. Neil Druckmann, who co-wrote the episode with Mazin, acknowledged that the moral ambiguity of Joel’s decision to lie to Ellie may have left some viewers conflicted.
Still, the uncertainty was more straightforward for game fans to accept as they didn’t know if there would be a follow-up. The reaction to the cliffhanger ending of the TV show could differ now that fans see a sequel is in the works.
According to game writer Neil Druckmann, there is a moral ambiguity surrounding Joel’s decision to lie to Ellie. It raises the question of whether viewers are still rooting for him. Druckmann explained that when the first game was made, no one knew if there would be a sequel, so the cut to black at the end was viewed as a proper ending rather than a cliffhanger. However, with the knowledge that a second season is coming, viewers may react differently and feel like they were left on a cliffhanger. It remains to be seen how fans will respond to the upcoming season.