The Final Of Us Episode 9 Recap: A Highly effective, Haunting Finale

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Bella Ramsey as Ellie stares intently at Joel (offscreen) in a moment from The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

Properly, pals. We’ve come to the top of the street, at the very least for now. Episode 9 of HBO’s The Final of Us is the season finale, bringing us to the top of the story informed within the first recreation. Even the episode’s title, “Search for the Mild,” neatly closes the loop opened by that of the primary episode, “When You’re Misplaced Within the Darkness.” Deeply devoted to the sport’s provocative, morally ambiguous ending and different well-known story beats in its ultimate chapter, the episode nonetheless departs from the supply materials in a number of key methods, beginning with its opening. Let’s begin with the start of the top.

Ashley Johnson as Ellie’s mom Anna

Notably, that is the primary entry since episode two that begins with a cold-open prologue relatively than the title sequence. After the primary two episodes, I really thought this was one thing the present is likely to be dedicated to in the long run, with every episode kicking off with a special, related glimpse of life earlier than the pandemic or another thread that might inform our understanding of what was to return. However no, the system fell away early on, solely to make one final return for the season finale, with a flashback that doesn’t exist within the recreation and that provides us a brand new perspective on two key characters: Marlene, and Anna, Ellie’s mom.

A couple of days in the past, Neil Druckmann, co-creator of the sport The Final of Us and one of many showrunners of HBO’s prediction, tweeted this:

The picture right here isn’t a reference to an actual factor that exists in our world. Moderately, it’s a fictional comedian e book referenced in Uncharted 4, the ultimate recreation in Naughty Canine’s different massive franchise of the previous 15+ years. But it surely speaks to the concept Anna, Ellie’s mom, is a personality who the writers of the sport (and now the present) have thought rather a lot about, even when, till now, she’s by no means really been seen. Gamers of the sport will know that she and Marlene have been pals, that Marlene promised Anna she’d take care of Ellie, and that Anna was alongside Marlene within the combat for a greater world, however that is her very first look in official The Final of Us media, and the actor enjoying her is none aside from Ashley Johnson, who performs Ellie within the video games.

We see Anna operating by way of a forest, pursued by shrieking contaminated. As if that weren’t powerful sufficient, she’s pregnant and going into labor. She emerges into an enormous clearing dominated by a farmhouse, the Firefly insignia emblazoned on the close by grain silo.

Racing to the highest of the home, Anna barricades the door with a chair and attracts a familiar-looking switchblade. Tragically, the decided contaminated busts by way of, and although Anna plunges the switchblade into its neck, it’s not earlier than she’s bitten, sealing her destiny. Ellie is born, and Anna cuts the umbilical twine. It have to be one thing concerning the timing of all this that resulted in Ellie’s immunity.

Anna takes a second to bond along with her daughter, as we watch, figuring out she has a number of hours at finest to spend with the kid. And the credit roll.

One lie comes earlier than one other

Evening falls, and three lights minimize by way of the darkness, a doable visible nod to the Firefly slogan. Marlene and two males discover Anna nonetheless in that room, quietly singing to child Ellie. The music she’s singing is “The Solar All the time Shines On T.V.” by A-ha. It’s a music we all know Ellie hears later in life, as she has a cassette tape of A-ha’s biggest hits in episode seven, which makes use of the band’s “Take On Me” at one level. (Curiously, although “Take On Me” was an even bigger hit within the U.S., “The Solar All the time Shines On T.V.” outperformed it within the UK.)

Ashley Johnson as Anna in HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

Marlene instantly sees the chunk on Anna’s leg, and right here’s the place one thing extraordinary occurs: Anna says she minimize Ellie’s umbilical twine earlier than she was bitten. After all it’s completely comprehensible. She did minimize it solely moments after, and no matter survival intuition she could have as soon as had for herself has probably now transferred onto her daughter. She desires to provide her daughter an opportunity. However as a thematic system, it’s vital as a result of it bookends this ultimate episode with lies. Ellie’s life begins with a lie, and later, it’s modified by one, each from individuals who, in their very own methods and for their very own causes, are very invested in retaining her alive.

Anna, reminding Marlene that they’ve been pals for his or her entire lives, tells Marlene to kill her and to handle Ellie, and to provide her the switchblade. Marlene protests that she will be able to’t, she will be able to’t do any of these issues, she particularly can’t kill her pal, however then she musters the power to take action. She isn’t any stranger to gritting her enamel and doing what have to be performed within the battle for a greater world. You may inform it eats her up inside, however the world of The Final of Us provides little various for one who is actually, deeply dedicated to creating a distinction.

Exterior Salt Lake Metropolis

Now the present leaps into its approximation of the sport’s ultimate chapter. In each, Joel is uncharacteristically chatty, his bond with Ellie not doubtful in any case they’ve been by way of collectively and particularly after the harrowing occasions of episode eight. Ellie, against this, is preoccupied, distant, distracted maybe by the magnitude of what their arrival in Salt Lake Metropolis might imply. Whereas the Joel of the sport talks about what a fantastic day it’s, TV Joel excitedly reveals Ellie that he discovered a can of Chef Boyardee, calling again to their campfire meal in episode 4 when the nice chef’s awesomeness was one of many few issues they may agree on. Each Joels speak about at some point educating Ellie guitar, and although she says she’d like that, it’s clear that proper now, she has different issues on her thoughts.

Joel and Ellie walk down a highway outside Salt Lake City while Joel comments on the breeze in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

One attention-grabbing element from the sport that’s omitted from the present is a dream that Ellie tells Joel about, by which she’s on a airplane and it’s taking place, so she busts into the cabin solely to search out that there’s no captain. So she takes the controls however she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and simply because the airplane is about to crash, she wakes up. It’s a reasonably typical anxiousness dream—I even have nightmares about airplane crashes now and again myself—and it is sensible that Ellie would really feel that her life is uncontrolled, however she remarks on the strangeness of getting a dream set on a flying airplane when she’s by no means flown on a airplane in actual life. She by no means received to expertise the pre-cordyceps world, and but the ghost of it’s all over the place round her.

The well-known giraffe scene

Joel and Ellie minimize by way of a constructing on their technique to the hospital, and within the present, for what I’m fairly positive is the primary and solely time, Joel does one thing he does repeatedly within the recreation: he boosts Ellie up, right here so she will be able to decrease a ladder for him. Nonetheless, the normally attentive Ellie is caught off guard by one thing and as a substitute finally ends up simply dropping the ladder and operating off to take a look at one thing. Joel pursues her, maybe nervous at first that she’s at risk, and what follows is without doubt one of the recreation’s most well-known moments, faithfully recreated within the present.

Joel looks on happily as Ellie feeds a giraffe in a moment from HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

What he finds is Ellie, standing awestruck by the sight of a giraffe, peacefully munching on some leaves rising on the constructing. Within the recreation, Joel encourages Ellie to pet the giraffe. Within the present, he encourages her to seize some leaves and feed it just a little bit, and the sight of its lengthy tongue reaching out for that inexperienced goodness is fairly nice. For Joel, although, the very best sight right here is the sight of Ellie having fun with this second. You may inform, significantly within the present due to Pedro Pascal’s performing, that Joel is joyful to be alive to witness and share on this second along with her. So typically, it’s not the factor itself that issues, a lot as it’s the sharing of it with somebody.

Learn Extra: The Final Of Us Present Tries To Change What The Sport Tells Us About Joel

Maybe a part of why we’re drawn to apocalypse tales is the best way they may also help us give attention to what actually issues. There’s a line in final 12 months’s HBO post-apocalypse status drama Station Eleven (primarily based on the novel by Emily St. Mandel) from central character Jeevan who says, “Having only one particular person, it’s a giant deal. Only one different particular person.” I’m reminded of that on this scene. Like Station Eleven, The Final of Us is deeply involved with what makes our lives imply one thing, and in my expertise, that’s at all times tied up in reference to others, in a technique or one other.

Joel and Ellie stand looking out on an overgrown balcony in the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

Joel and Ellie stand looking out on a balcony in a moment from HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

Shifting to a different spot which lets them watch the entire giraffe household stroll off into the gap, Joel asks Ellie a query he requested her a lot earlier within the recreation, or, within the case of the present, method again in episode two, as they stood wanting towards the capitol constructing in Boston. “So, is it all the pieces you hoped for?” Ellie recollects that second too and says it’s had its ups and downs earlier than repeating one thing she mentioned again then as effectively: “You may’t deny that view.” It’s a second that makes us really feel the journey they’ve been on, all the bottom they’ve coated, the time that’s handed, and all of the methods by which issues between them have modified from that second a lot earlier, when all Ellie was to Joel was some human cargo he resented having to take care of. Coming to this second within the recreation once more as I replayed it for this recap, figuring out what was coming, I nearly wished to linger there perpetually, to allow them to linger there perpetually, and spare us all of the ache forward.

Now, he doesn’t need to think about his life with out her once more, and so he tells her that she doesn’t should undergo with this. In each the sport and the present, her response is identical: “In any case we’ve been by way of, all the pieces that I’ve performed, it might’t be for nothing.” She tells him that after that is performed, they’ll go wherever he desires, however “there’s no midway with this.” Within the recreation, Joel appears to be like up simply in time to see the final giraffe disappear into the gap. The second has handed. Their selection is made.

Joel confronts the previous

Subsequent, their journey to the hospital takes them by way of a triage camp the military arrange within the days instantly following the outbreak. In each the sport and the present, that is the location for a confrontation of kinds with Joel’s previous, although that takes very completely different kinds in every model.

Joel holds a photograph of himself with his daughter Sarah at a soccer game from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

Within the recreation, Joel mentions having been in an identical camp after the outbreak. When Ellie asks if it was after he misplaced Sarah, he says sure, and he or she tells him how sorry she is for his loss. Beforehand, Joel’s forbidden Ellie from mentioning any of his losses, from speaking about Tess or his daughter, however this time, he says “That’s okay, Ellie.” A short while later, Ellie offers Joel the identical {photograph} of himself with Sarah that he refused earlier when Tommy supplied it to him. Ellie says Maria confirmed it to her again on the dam and he or she stole it. Joel, clearly moved, says, “Properly, regardless of how exhausting you attempt, I assume you may’t escape your previous. Thanks.”

Within the present, nonetheless, we return to one thing first teased again in episode three. On the time, Joel mentioned that the scar on his brow was from somebody capturing at him and lacking. Now, he tells Ellie that the wound is what landed him in triage, and likewise that “I used to be the man that shot and missed.” After Sarah’s demise, he “couldn’t see the purpose anymore,” he says, however he flinched when he pulled the set off. “So time heals all wounds, I assume?” Ellie asks. Joel says “It wasn’t time that did it” and offers her a significant look.

Ellie reads from her book of puns in a moment from episode 9 of HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

After this emotionally heavy second, Joel seeks to lighten issues up by really requesting some shitty puns. It’s an incredible little trade, with Joel and Ellie disagreeing on the standard of a few of the jokes—one she declares “really good” and he calls “a zero out of ten”—however my favourite bit is when Ellie says “Individuals are making apocalypse jokes like there’s no tomorrow.” Joel at first appears to be like scandalized however when Ellie asks, “Too quickly?” Joel says, “No, it’s topical.” Joke time is quickly interrupted, although, when some sort of gasoline grenade will get tossed their method, Ellie is dragged off, and Joel is conked on the pinnacle with a rifle.

One final dance with contaminated earlier than all is alleged and performed

This episode and its variations from the sport’s corresponding sequence reveal some attention-grabbing variations in how the sport and the present strategy pacing and fight. Within the present, episode eight was the ultimate crucible, the peril and terror of that scenario solidifying Joel and Ellie’s bond, and it probably would have been anticlimactic for the 2 to have one other encounter with contaminated at this level. The dramatic function of such encounters has already been fulfilled. There’s actually nowhere else for them to go. Within the recreation, nonetheless, as a mainstream business product launched in 2013, it will have been unusual for there not to be one ultimate encounter with contaminated. For a lot of gamers, such fight is at the beginning what they arrive to a recreation like this for. So that you do have one ultimate encounter with an entire mess of contaminated (together with a number of bloaters) within the partially flooded tunnels close to the hospital. As soon as they’re all completed off, Joel utters Ellie’s favourite catchphrase, “Endure and survive.”

Underwater, Joel sees Ellie framed by light in the distance in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Search for the sunshine.
Screenshot: Naughty Canine

They’re not out of the woods but, although. A bit later, Joel will get caught in a bus that’s quickly filling with water. Ellie (who can’t swim) makes an attempt to rescue him, however is herself swept away. The present carries Joel towards her and he sees her, framed by gentle, earlier than pulling her up out of the water and trying to resuscitate her. That is the place the Fireflies discover them, and knock Joel unconscious.

Marlene and morality

Joel wakes up in a room with Marlene (Merle Dandridge in each the sport and the present), who marvels at the truth that the 2 of them got here all this manner and survived, that Joel really managed to ship Ellie there, when the identical journey value the lives of so a lot of her folks. “It was (all) her,” Joel says. “She fought like hell to get right here.”

Marlene speaks to Joel (not pictured) in a moment from HBO's The Last of Us.

Screenshot: HBO

When Joel insists on seeing Ellie, Marlene tells him he can’t. “She’s being prepped for surgical procedure.” When Joel realizes that cordyceps grows within the mind and that the surgical procedure Marlene is describing means Ellie’s demise, effectively, he is aware of what he has to do.

Notably, within the present, Marlene provides a extra detailed clarification of Ellie’s immunity, and the way the physician intends to make use of that to create a treatment. I believe that this, together with Joel’s line again in episode six suggesting that if Marlene says they’ll make a treatment, they’ll do it, are supposed to deflect the pretty frequent response to the present’s central ethical dilemma, a response I noticed as not too long ago as this previous weekend on Twitter, that claims “They most likely wouldn’t have been in a position to make a treatment anyway.”

My concern with this response is that I view it as a reluctance or refusal to interact with The Final of Us by itself phrases. I believe it’s a copout, a technique to extra simply justify what Joel does by saying “the stakes weren’t that massive anyway” by disregarding the interior logic of the work itself. Certain, for those who view The Final of Us in “lifelike” phrases, you may say that the chances of a vaccine being made weren’t nice, however that’s not the ethical dilemma we’re being requested to interact with right here. The sport and the present each work to ascertain this as a scenario by which a vaccine is clearly doable.

The sport does this partially by way of an audio diary you will discover within the hospital by which the lead surgeon rattles off a bunch of regardless of the medical equal of technobabble is, phrases and phrases that are supposed to sound respectable throughout the fiction of the sport and set up that the surgeon is aware of what he’s speaking about. He then says, “We’re about to hit a milestone in human historical past equal to…the invention of penicillin. After years of wandering in circles, we’re about to return residence…All our sacrifices, and the lots of of women and men who’ve bled for this trigger, or worse, won’t be in useless.” We are supposed to view what Joel does as in opposition to that, as overriding all of that. That’s to not say that we will’t nonetheless conclude that Joel is true to do what he does. However we should always at the very least think about it throughout the ethical calculus that the sport and the present really set up.

Marlene speaks to Joel (not pictured) in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

Ten years in the past, I felt that so many gamers’ response to the sport’s climax was not simply one in every of agreeing with Joel however one in every of cheering “Fuck yeah!” whereas he did what he does, of reveling in his undoing of all the pieces the Fireflies have performed, in his homicide of Marlene, and I ponder if a few of that isn’t simply because it’s very simple to really feel totally aligned with somebody while you’ve spent so lengthy strolling of their footwear. However I can think about a recreation centered on Marlene, one which follows her for years and years, from establishing the Fireflies, working with after which tragically shedding Ellie’s mom Anna, watching over Ellie from afar whereas making an attempt to undermine FEDRA and looking for a treatment or some technique to unfuck the world, all of the whereas seeing her fellow passionate believers combat and die alongside her, after which coming to the heartbreaking second the place her personal finest pal’s daughter is the world’s final finest hope. I ponder if, given the possibility to expertise Marlene’s battle that method, to see issues from her perspective, some individuals who see the ending of The Final of Us in quite simple phrases may discover their view of it difficult.

And this was Anna’s combat as effectively. Yow will discover an audio log that’s successfully Marlene chatting with Anna, to the reminiscence of her pal, and in it she says “Right here’s an opportunity to avoid wasting us…all of us. That is what we have been after…what you have been after.” I don’t assume any of that is in any respect simple for Marlene. I believe she’s simply discovered by now the best way to do even the issues she finds very, very exhausting, if she believes it helps the higher good.

None of that is easy. I’m conflicted about it myself, and I do typically put one life forward of many. (It’s only a recreation, after all, however you’d higher consider that on the finish of Life Is Unusual, I made the selection to avoid wasting the one particular person I felt near and cared about deeply over a city filled with others.) And I’ve no downside with Joel doing what he does. As I’ve mentioned earlier than, I need artwork and media that depicts human beings doing questionable or difficult or terrible issues typically. I simply need folks to truly have interaction with that complexity, relatively than performing as if feeling in any respect conflicted about how all this performs out is foolish and that Joel does the one affordable factor he might have performed.

Saving Ellie, dooming the world

Marlene, sensing that Joel is gonna be an issue, tries to have him escorted out of the constructing. Nonetheless, he kills his escort, and fights his method by way of the hospital to avoid wasting Ellie. Within the recreation, I discover this sequence fairly difficult. The hospital supplies your Firefly enemies with so many alternatives to flank you. The Joel within the TV present appears to have it significantly simpler. (And in case anybody is questioning, sure, within the recreation you do get a brand new weapon, the assault rifle, right here, identical to Joel does within the present.) In any case, he kills an entire mess of dudes on his technique to Ellie.

A surgeon tries to fend Joel off with a scalpel in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

Arriving within the working room, Joel orders the physician to unhook her. He grabs a scalpel and stands in Joel’s method. Joel kills him, too. Sure, the physician was about to take her life. By doing this, although, Joel has taken the life of somebody who was deeply liked by anyone else. And the way most of the folks he killed on his method up right here may even go away a void within the lives of individuals after right this moment? God, what an ethical mess.

Joel has one final encounter earlier than he makes his escape, this time with Marlene. In each the present and the sport, Marlene asks Joel to think about what Ellie herself would need. The look that performs throughout his face in each circumstances reveals that he is aware of what he’s doing isn’t what she’d need.

After years and years of working tirelessly for a shot like this at a greater world, after sacrificing a lot, Marlene, too, is killed. “You’d simply come after her,” Joel says, earlier than pulling the set off.

Joel’s lie close to Jackson

Ellie wakes up behind a automotive, nonetheless in her hospital robe. Joel’s driving them to Jackson, and when she asks him what occurred, he feeds her a lie about there being dozens of people that share her immunity, and the medical doctors not having the ability to make any use of all of it, to the purpose that “they’ve stopped in search of a treatment.” Ellie is clearly crushed.

Considerably, within the recreation’s brief ultimate sequence, you play as Ellie as she and Joel stroll the final little bit of distance towards Jackson. Joel, prepared for his life with Ellie to start in earnest, begins speaking about how a lot he thinks Sarah would have appreciated him. Ellie is, after all, preoccupied, and ultimately she stops Joel, and begins speaking about how she misplaced Riley.

Ellie looks pleadingly at Joel in a moment from the game The Last of Us.

Screenshot: Naughty Canine

The purpose of the story, I believe, is that Ellie felt left behind (sorry) by Riley’s demise, that she would have relatively died if it might have meant a treatment than being alive, and that she suspects Joel made a selection of his personal accord to avoid wasting her relatively than let that occur. Joel, maybe sensing the place that is going, tries to supply a few of his old style knowledge about how it may be powerful to return to grips with surviving however you retain discovering issues to stay for. However she calls for a straight reply, asking him to swear that all the pieces he mentioned concerning the Fireflies is true. “I swear,” he says.

Joel looks at Ellie (not pictured) in the final moments of HBO's The Last of Us (season one).

Screenshot: HBO

There’s a protracted pause. Is she doubting him? Deciding whether or not she will be able to belief him? Debating telling him that he’s filled with shit? The place would any of that go away her now, on this world the place all the pieces she thought she was residing and preventing for has now evaporated into nothing?

“Okay,” she says.

Last ideas

Taking part in by way of the sport once more alongside watching the sequence gave me rather a lot to consider. Maybe most of all, I thought of how, simply by advantage of being an interactive expertise that’s set in maybe probably the most lovingly rendered imaginative and prescient of the post-apocalypse ever created, the sport The Final of Us is way more concerning the haunted world than the present is. Naughty Canine clearly approached designing the places you cross by way of very thoughtfully. They didn’t simply design some property after which toss them collectively. Fairly the alternative. For each home or condominium you enter, you may inform that Naughty Canine requested themselves questions like: Who lived right here? What was their cultural background? What did they do for a residing? Did they’ve any pets? Most of us most likely know the sense of vacancy an individual can go away behind after they die. Closets full of garments they’ll by no means put on once more. A toothbrush within the lavatory. It is a world full of that vacancy.

Alternatively, I respect that the tv present discovered a number of alternatives, right here and there, to remind us that even in its world, love is feasible, and by extension, lives of which means are doable. The sport, with its framing of Invoice and Frank’s relationship, with the tragedy of Henry and Sam, leans so relentlessly into loss and tragedy, with little dramatic counterpoint to remind us what love on this world—any sort of love, the love between a person and his adopted daughter, as an illustration—may even seem like. After all episode three—the Invoice and Frank episode—was probably the most radical occasion of the present departing from the sport to supply a picture of affection, nevertheless it wasn’t the one one. Marlon and Florence in episode six received so little display screen time, however there, too, due to the 2 fantastic actors solid in these roles, we received a way of an actual, lived-in relationship, folks being there for one another throughout many years.

All of that is to say that I respect that the inventive group behind the HBO present approached this endeavor as an adaptation, not merely a retelling or recreation. Now the wait begins for the present’s subsequent season, after I anticipate finding out how they proceed to not simply re-tell the very same story we’ve already skilled, however adapt it for a brand new medium.

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