The Last of Us: Hope in Desperate Times: The Ending



     It's been quite a few months since I beat The Last of Us, and I still haven't written anything of substance about it.  I figure with the Left Behind DLC slated to arrive next week, now's a good time.  Naughty Dog has created a masterpiece of a game and an ending that will not be soon forgotten.

     It bothers me that many see Joel's decision to be dooming humanity.  In the Fireflies' Lab Joel has a chance to do what he failed to do in the beginning of the game- save a daughter.  If the cordyceps has mutated, maybe it is mutating in more people.  Changing over time- it is a good response for things to adapt to stop killing it's hosts- to eventually live in a symbiotic relationship.  They should theoretically be able to biopsy the cordyceps without killing her and getting the information they need to make their vaccine.
     "The doctors tell me the cordyceps, the growth inside her, has somehow mutated.  It's why she's immune."-Marlene
     "Apparently, there's no way to extricate the parasite without eliminating the host. Fancy way of saying we gotta kill the fucking kid. ... I need you to know that I've kept my promise all these years... despite everything that I was in charge of, I looked after her. I would've done anything for her, and at times...
     Here's a chance to save us... all of us. This is what we were after... what you were after. They asked me to kill the smuggler. I'm not about to kill the one man in this facility that might understand the weight of this choice. Maybe he can forgive me." -Marlene

     Joel did something so important here- he is giving Ellie a chance at a life she wouldn't have had.  A choice she really didn't get to make.  Ellie wants her life to mean something, but how can she make that decision at such a young age?  Was it really a choice for her if the Fireflies preyed on her survivor's guilt to make her believe her only value is in the potential to save lives.  If it didn't work?  What then?  Joel's actions killed plenty of people, and may cause the death of thousands more if the vaccine would've worked.  But like I mentioned earlier- if Ellie had contracted a cordyceps that mutated, maybe Joel was right to save her.  Give her a real shot at a life without the burden of guilt.
     The fact humanity has become more monstrous than the infected makes me seriously consider the question of should we be saved?  I mean, none of the infected are killing each other to survive.  With the Fireflies willing to kill a girl for the mere chance of a vaccine shows the hasty decision of desperation.  They were willing to kill a young girl at with the hopes it might provide a viable vaccine (no guarantee it would actually work)- and without her consent.  Joel had to have realized that humanity was so lost already and the potential vaccine being so slim it wasn't worth sacrificing Ellie for.  As Marlene said, Joel may be the only one that understands the weight of this choice.


     The moral choice of saving one versus the possible death of many is a difficult one to make, but I believe Joel made the right one, even if his motivation is originally selfish in saving the daughter he once lost.  But as a man that has lived with survivor's guilt for years, Joel knows what it can do, and how it can ruin lives.

     Joel has gone the extra step- "I got you."  He says it over and over in the last chapters.  In taking the role of responsibility, and being a type of father, he's taking that guilt off of her.  She believes it's her fault she's immune, that she holds the blame for the deaths of Riley, Tess, and Sam.  That's a hell of a thing to live with, especially as a kid.  The infamous lie in the end is giving her a chance for a real choice later- one Marlene and the Fireflies would've made for her (one that isn't overwhelmed or influenced with the "why did I live, and Riley die?" mentality hanging over her)- and as Joel said, "That ain't for you to decide."


  1. That's an interesting philosophical perspective you have there and I also agree with his decision, but I have a different reason for doing so. If the fireflies had found a cure what's the possibility they would have freely shared it, instead of using it to control other settlements and administering the drug to members of their group who they saw as important and fit to survive. Their possible tyrannical tendencies is hinted at in the multiplayer and seeing how they react to non-affiliated individuals to their group (guard's threat to joel, their paramilitary outfits and equipment, among other factors) it is possible they are also xenophobic imperialists. Finally I found it difficult to sympathize characters that the plot showed to us by having them on the verge of killing on of the characters I'd grown attached to and threatening another I'd come to idolize.

  2. Thank you for the comment, and sorry the reply took so long, I thought I posted it already:

    Holy crap- good call on the Fireflies possibly holding ransom on the potential cure. Leverage into more power would be a hell of a dark turn! They do seem to hold the "ends justify the means" mentality- and that is a frightening prospect, because it makes everyone expendable. Then if they did use it for control and only for their chosen recipients it would make a hell of a statement.

    I still see it as double sided- Joel was selfish, but for non-selfish reasons- he's giving Ellie the chance to really live. To live for something, mirroring what Riley in Left Behind says- we need to hold on to those people as much as we can- to fight for life not just give in.

    Once again, thank you for the comments, it's a brilliant take on the end.

  3. Really enjoyable post Joshua. Thanks for presenting such type good article.