The Last of Us showrunner defends controversial finale

The Last of Us showrunner defends controversial finale
Images via HBO

Written by 

Tom Chapman


13th Mar 2023 12:42

Warning: major spoilers for The Last of Us Episode 9 ahead

What a journey it's been. Just nine weeks after HBO extended its tendrils into our lives and infected our Sunday/Monday viewing schedule, The Last of Us Season 1 is bowing out in style.

Like the network's success with House of the Dragon in 2022, HBO yet again proves it's the place to get your most daring dramas. As the final credits roll on The Last of Us, we know Season 2 is already on the way - that's if you're tuning back in.

Ellie actor Bella Ramsey promised March 12's "Look for the Light" would be divisive, and now, we know what she means. Although the series has been a largely faithful retelling of Naughty Dog's 2013 game, some fans are forgetting it.

Now, showrunner Craig Mazin is defending THAT bullet-riddled finale. This is your last chance to turn back if you haven't seen The Last of Us Season 1 finale. 

What happens in The Last of Us finale?

Following in the game's footsteps, The Last of Us Season 1 ends with Joel taking out a hospital full of Fireflies, choosing to rescue Ellie instead of potentially saving the world.

Like in the game, the Fireflies plan on removing the infected part of Ellie's brain to hopefully replicate her immunity and give the surviving remnants of humanity a cure to the Cordyceps infection. This would kill Ellie, and with Joel now thinking of her as his daughter, he goes full Rambo.

Things culminate in a dramatic showdown with Marlene (Merle Dandridge), who reprises her role from the game. Joel shoots Marlene, and although she says she'll leave them to go free, he knows she'll keep coming for Ellie.

In one of the coldest moments of the series - and echoing the game - Joel murders Marlene in cold blood. Season 1 has had plenty of swings away from the source material, but unlike Bill and Frank's arc or Joel trying to take his own life, Marlene's death is the same in both mediums. 

The Last of Us showrunner defends controversial finale

The Last of us Ellie and Joel Season 1 finale
Click to enlarge

While there are sure to be angry viewers throwing their remotes at the screen that Joel has potentially doomed the human race, there are arguably more who've stood by Joel's choice for the past decade. Joining them, showrunner Craig Mazin has defended Joel's actions to The Hollywood Reporter.

"When you love something unconditionally, logic goes out the window and you will do really horrible things to protect the ones you love," says Mazin. "And there's a lot of examples worldwide of this happening all the time.

Mentioning the "beautiful joy" that can come out of an episode like Bill and Frank or Henry's fate worse than death by having to kill his brother, Mazin said he wanted to lean into these themes with Joel saving Ellie. 

"[There’s] greater and greater sacrifices Joel has to make for Ellie, and likewise what she's going through to protect him," concluded Mazin. "I'm confused about it morally. I think it's a difficult choice. I go back and forth. I think a lot of people will go back and forth on it."

The game makes some aspects clearer than the show, so it's true that parts are lost in translation. 2013's story implies Ellie would want to save humanity, and even if she didn't know the operation would kill her, Joel saving her gives her a sense of survivor's guilt.

There's a surgeon's tape recorder that talks about "past cases," however, it's largely accepted that the Fireflies experimented on other Infected while Ellie's immunity is a one-off. Either way, Episode 9 seemingly confirms that Ellie's unique immunity comes from the fact her mother gave birth when infected.

Whether you love or hate The Last of Us Season 1 finale, we guess there are plenty who will be pretty p*ssed with what happens next. No spoilers here, but is anyone for a round of golf?

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