After A Gripping Finale, “The Last of Us” Creators Tease Season 2 & Beyond
After the horror of “When We Are in Need,” the eighth episode of The Last of Us, which found Ellie (Bella Ramsey) fighting off a sadistic cannibal preacher she’s forced to stab, repeatedly, in a fit of sorrow and rage, one hoped that the season finale, “Look for the Light,” would give the resilient but battered teenager a well-deserved break from carnage and horror. And, in a sense, that’s what Ellie got, but only because she’d been anesthetized into a deep sleep for an operation she was both unaware of and would never wake up from. It’s not easy being “The Cure” in a zombie-infested hellscape.
Enter Joel (Pedro Pascal), who had finally embraced Ellie as his family at the bloody, brutal end of “When We Are in Need” and was going to stop at nothing to save her life, even if it meant demolishing humanity’s last hope for a cure to the Cordyceps plague, which it turns out to exist not in Ellie’s blood but in her brain. The contingent of Fireflies who promised a way to safely transfer Ellie’s immunity to the plague to the world at large, the very people who Joel and Ellie spent all season moving towards, at great personal cost, to give humanity a fighting chance against the zombie plague, could only perform their miracle by killing Ellie in the process. It was a sacrifice Joel wasn’t willing to make and one Ellie was never given a say in.
And so, after Ellie survived the horror of the preacher’s cannibal community, there she was, drugged into her final slumber with Joel being marched out of the Salt Lake City hospital at gunpoint, powerless to stop it. But having already survived his daughter’s murder, which he never stopped blaming himself for, and after having nearly given up on himself as being capable protecting of Ellie, nothing, nothing was going to stop Joel from getting her out of that hospital. So Joel goes on a killing spree, dispatching every single armed combatant in the place, plus a doctor who was stupid enough to grab a scalpel, leaving only two terrified nurses (more on them in a second) alive and spirits Ellie out of Salt Lake City to take her back to his brother’s compound in Wyoming.
Then Ellie finally comes to in the SUV Joel took from the Fireflies and asks him what happened; he spins her a tale about how it turns out she’s not that special, that there are dozens of other people who have the same immunity to Cordyceps that she does, and, that the Fireflies realized there was no way to transfer that immunity to anybody else. Then, accounting for the need to escape the hospital, Joel tells her that some raiders attacked, and he was lucky to get them both out alive.
The season ends with Joel and Ellie finally making it back to his brother Tommy (Gabriel Luna)’s Wyoming compound. They’re safe at last, but their entire mission was for naught, and something is just not sitting right with Ellie. In the season’s final seconds, she asks him one last time to tell her the truth about what happened when she was unconscious—was the place really attacked by raiders, did the Fireflies really reveal that Ellie’s blood couldn’t help them, and was there really no hope for a cure? Joel looks like he’s about to waver; a moment’s hesitation and a flicker of heartbreak pass on his face, but then he lies to her and says that yes, that’s precisely what happened, even if we see the gleam in Ellie’s eye that she knows he’s lying. It was a hugely bittersweet finale, with Joel and Ellie alive but at such a terrible cost, and the hint of discord to come when Ellie inevitably finds out what really happened.
Creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have revealed that they’ll be lifting storylines from the original video game’s sequel, The Last of Us: Part II, to tell a much larger story going forward, one that will take more than just one season. The second installment in the video game arrived on PlayStation 4 in 2020, seven years after the original, and boasts characters, more flashbacks, bigger action set pieces, and more infected. Speaking with GQ, Mazin and Druckmann confirmed that adapting Part II will require multiple seasons, but they wouldn’t share just how many it would take.
Part II of the video game includes some of the core characters from the original game, most crucially Joel, Ellie, Tommy, and Maria (Rutina Wesley). It was also revealed that one of the actors from Part II, Laura Bailey, who plays a character named Abby, was one of the nurses in the operating room where Ellie is being prepped for surgery. Might Abby ultimately reveal what Joel did at the Salt Lake City hospital, a story that will get back to Ellie?
Season two will likely be a bloodier affair, too. Not that season one didn’t have its moments (see above), but Mazin and Druckmann teased that in future seasons, viewers can expect a lot more infected on the screen, and different kinds, too. Considering many of us are still having nightmares about the clickers, this is both a blessing and a curse.
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Featured image: Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. Photograph by Liane Hentscher/HBO