It’s hard to imagine anybody thinking The Last of Us on HBO would end up being the global phenomenon that it is. It’s arguably the absolute best adaptation of any video game that exists, whether it’s on television or at the movies, and tuning in every Sunday night has been both a heartwarming and heartbreaking treat. This makes the fact that we’re finally at the season finale quite the surreal feeling.
When we last saw Ellie and Joel, it was during a relieving embrace that happened after Ellie brutally murdered a violent and cannibalistic cult leader that was trying to rape her. It’s the traumatic experience of traumatic experiences, and Ellie had to take things into her own hands because Joel was nowhere to be seen until then–he may as well have died.
Titled “Look for the Light,” the season finale begins with the first backtracking cold open since episode three. It’s here where we finally meet Anna, Ellie’s mother (played by Ashley Johnson, who voices Ellie in both The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II) running away from infected while being very, very pregnant–so pregnant, that she gives birth to Ellie just as she fended off an infected that corners her into a dark room… but not before she’s bitten.
And that’s how we lose her.
We also learn that Anna is Marlene’s best friend, and Anna made Marlene promise to watch Ellie.
On top of that, we also learn how Ellie became immune, which is something never confirmed in the game, and this will unquestionably cause some discourse among a lot of the fanbase. Personally, I think we could’ve gone without knowing, but at the same time, my opinion is the same one I formed as I played through the second game: This is a story being told to us; we have no control over it.
So that brings us to the ending. It’s pretty much frame-for-frame the same as the game.
Nobody likes it when a conversation ends in “okay.” There’s no finality to it. It’s oftentimes something people are pretty much forced to say in order to accept something, whether they like it or not and whether it’s true or not. When my girlfriend says “okay” after a heated discussion, I always feel like I did something wrong. It’s the same sort of thing here.
I wasn’t okay with the original game’s ending when I played it, and I have similar feelings with the way this finale ended, but the ending isn’t why I thought this was the weakest episode of the season.
The season finale just felt rushed, and that’s something I haven’t felt about the TV series since the show’s pilot.
After the fantastic Ashley Johnson sequence, we’re thrown back into the show’s current day to see Ellie and Joel pretty much be the exact opposite of the characters fans fell in love with at the beginning of the season. Joel, fully healed from his stabbing, was talking way too much. Ellie? She wasn’t saying anything. Maybe it’s because she’s dealing with the fact that she was almost cut to pieces, eaten, raped, and almost killed in addition to killing two people herself all in the last episode… but no.
It took them weeks, maybe months, to get to Salt Lake City. The journey is almost over, and we didn’t get any of that. Instead, we got a 52-minute episode of what are pretty much the last 30 minutes in the game, minus the killing rampage that Joel goes on, which is done way more gracefully and easily in the finale. For the record, we don’t see Ellie and Joel until around 13 minutes in.
Yes, the game does this the same way, but it doesn’t mean the show should’ve either. In fact, the game probably did it better as they went ahead and mentioned that it was already spring. It felt like the showrunners were trying to fit as much story in that amount of time as possible, and it’s weird because you would think after taking the time they did further developing characters in Tess, Bill, Frank, Sam, Henry, along with some new ones in Kathleen and Perry, shouldn’t there be a renewed focus on Joel after his miraculous recovery? What about the darkness in Ellie after going through what she went through in the last episode?
The pilot episode was over 80 minutes long and really set up the foundation for what this world is, and both Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann did an incredible job making us fall in love, hate, and resonate with all the characters they introduced in the last eight episodes along with Ellie’s mother in this finale. That said, the unwillingness to let this new Ellie and Joel fully marinate before this ending (a conversation starter on its own) just leaves a weird taste in my mouth, and what makes it even more frustrating is we know that both Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal are more than capable of telling the story with their awesome portrayals.
This isn’t to say that the episode was bad, but I was left wanting more in a bad way, and this season finale had every reason to be way better than it ended up being–especially since people already know what’s coming.
Can’t get enough of HBO’s The Last of Us? Check out our reviews of previous episodes:
- Episode 8: “When We Are In Need“
- Episode 7: “Left Behind“
- Episode 6: “Kin“
- Episode 5: “Endure and Survive“
- Episode 4: “Please Hold To My Hand“
- Episode 3: “Long Long Time“
- Episode 2: “Infected“
- Episode 1: “When You’re Lost In The Darkness“
Or check out our reviews of the games!
- The Last of Us Part II (2020 – PS4)
- The Last of Us Remastered (2014 – PS4)
- The Last of Us: Left Behind (2014 – PS3)
- The Last of Us (2013 – PS3)