The final episode of HBO’s The Last of Us sees an end to Joel’s (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) task of escorting Ellie across the country to the fireflies in hopes of a cure. The pair have lost friends, come across different communities, and at one point been through hordes of infected all to reach St Mary’s Hospital. This episode is one of the most emotionally impactful episodes of the series, and while people had voiced their concerns around pacing, this final episode proves you can do a lot in under forty-five minutes.
In the first few episodes, viewers were treated to ‘cold opens’ that explained and expanded certain parts of the world before Outbreak Day. It’s been a missed aspect of the series since episode four, but the final episode delivers one of the best emotional cold openings to date. Anna (Ashely Johnson) is running away, finding herself at an empty safehouse in the middle of labor when an infected woman breaks in and bites her moments before she gives birth. It’s an insight into another aspect of the world that HBO has perfectly added, showing more of Marlene (Merle Dandridge) and how she first meets Ellie, promising to take her and find someone to bring little Ellie up safe. It’s a promise that Marlene reluctantly makes, but as she finishes the final part of her promise, Dandridge delivers a brilliant performance with Marlene by putting on a mask of sorts, making the tough decision to see through her friends' last wish.
Throughout the season, we have seen bits and pieces of Ellie’s life, and this episode does what the game never truly touched up. Ellie is immune to cordyceps, something that has never happened in the world of The Last of Us but is explained brilliantly as this season reaches its finale. We have seen so many things that have shaped Ellie in this horrendous world. From losing her mother, her first love, Ellie has truly been alone. Nothing has affected her more than her run-in with David’s group. Having to fend for herself as Joel lies dying, Ellie had to kill in the most brutal of ways, and the aftereffects of that echo through her life, starting in episode 9. Fans of the game will know that this altercation with David shapes Ellie, and like stated in the previous episode, Ellie has a violent heart that I think Ramsey has portrayed effortlessly, as well as that loyal and compassionate side that is brought out with Joel.
Joel’s brutality has been a talking point for some fans of the game, as, in comparison to the game, the show's counterpart hasn’t had as many kills. This is mainly because Joel’s in-game kills are done through a player controlling them, instead of a cut scene. Episode eight highlighted some of Joel’s brutality with a map, but episode nine takes it to another brilliant level. As Joel wakes up at St Mary’s hospital and discovers the fireflies need to kill Ellie to make the cure, Joel goes on a rampage, and it was one of the most breath-taking pieces of television that I have ever seen. As the eerie music plays, it overtakes the sound as Joel goes on his rampage. You faintly hear gunfire and fireflies pleading, some even unarmed, as Joel rips through them. It’s a perfect example of great acting, directing, and writing all coming together to create one of the most haunting scenes on television.
This episode is almost flawless; from the pacing to the writing, everything works perfectly. The only improvement that could possibly be needed is more explanation of the relationship between Ellie and Marlene. In the show, Ellie is not aware of who Marlene is while in the game, Marlene is the first person Ellie seeks out after being bit. Marlene explains to Joel that the decision to kill Ellie for a cure, to save humanity, was not taken lightly, as it’s a cost that will weigh heavy on her. The only reason I think this doesn’t completely work is that Marlene has stayed out of Ellie’s life. Had they included a scene of Marlene finding Ellie after she was bitten and explaining her connection to her, maybe that would have improved that one aspect of this episode. From the conversation Ellie had with Riley in Left Behind, it seemed as if she did not know Marlene and had no interaction with her aside from the first moment of her life.
Overall, this was another masterclass from HBO on how to adapt and expand on an already beloved game. The show perfectly captures the essence of the game in terms of the cost of survival. With performances from Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, they offer more depth and insight into their characters that the game could not. Episode nine answers a few questions in the most emotional and impactful way, including Ellie’s immunity to Joel’s loss of hearing. The Last of Us is certainly a love story in all forms and what lengths you would go to in order to protect the one you love in the middle of a chaotic, ruthless world.
Final Score- [10/10]
Reviewed by - Leigh Doyle
Publisher at Midgard Times
Premiere Date: March 12, 2023, on HBO
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