The Last of Us Detailed Walkthrough and the Ethics of that Ending Discussed

The Last of Us Detailed Walkthrough and the Ethics of that Ending Discussed
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The Last of Us Detailed Walkthrough and the Ethics of that Ending Discussed. First, if you’ve never heard of the show The Last of Us, you’ve just come from a millennium inducing 25-year stay in a cave. Welcome! You missed a complete nothing Y2K cutover… the Twin Towers attacks, several Middle East wars, Afghanistan and now a war in Ukraine. But more importantly, you missed a video game franchise called The Last of Us. And in the last few weeks you missed the release of the show based the game series over on HBO… which by the way, you also missed the collapse of cable, and exorbitant streaming service fees. But we got bigger fish to fry here.

I actively work to avoid TV Series… and yet, I fail at this over and over again. You guys are so unbelievably annoying on this front. Whether it is Yellowstone (1883, which might be the single greatest western ever, and 1933), Succession, Ted Lasso, etc., etc., (and that was like the last month alone), you guys are determined to make me watch absolutely everything you guys are watching. I do appreciate the thoughts, the love… thanks. BUT… gah.

Regardless, The Last of Us has got to be one of my favorite shows in the last five or ten years. From beginning to end. Just absolutely brilliant cinematic experiences. The characters? Brilliantly flawed. The world setup? Perfect. The set designs and post-apocalyptic story telling? Just fantastic. So, with that in mind, I want to do a quick walkthrough of the season, so that we are all on the same page as to what happened, and then I want to talk to that crazy ending. Okay? Now, if you haven’t watched the show yet, please don’t continue any further. I refuse to allow this blog to ruin even one person from experiencing this show for themselves in full. Okay? So, do me a favor, go watch it and then come back to discuss it.

The Last of Us Detailed Walkthrough and the Ethics of that Ending Discussed

Episode 1 – When You’re Lost In The Darkness – The Last of Us:

Joel, Tommy his brother, and his daughter Sarah, all run for their lives when a global fungal infection pandemic unleashes itself on the entire planet all at once. When confronted by a soldier who is told to kill everyone, infected or not, Sarah dies, but Joel and Tommy make it out alive. Sarah’s death obviously cratered Joel in every way possible. Turns him into a husk of a human.

Cut to 20 years later, when Joel is living in a Quarantine Zone in Boston that is run by FEDRA (Federal Disaster Response Agency), and he is working as a smuggler with his (love interest?) partner Tess. But when Tommy stops connecting via radio, Joel decides he needs to break out and cross the country to Wyoming in order to save his brother. When things start going sideways, (car batteries are really hard to come by in the midst of a global Cordyceps outbreak apparently), Joel agrees to courier a teen named Ellie for the Fireflies… the FEDRA resistance movement. Now, what makes Ellis so important? Well, apparently she is immune to all Cordyceps infections. Which, they thought, was impossible. Maybe she holds the key to the world’s redemption?

Episode 2 – Infected – The Last of Us:

In an interesting flashback, we learn that just prior to the worldwide outbreak, a government official in Indonesia is shown a corpse that has been infected to a mycologist. When she realizes what she is seeing, she asks to go spend her last remain hours with her family. (That’s dark man, dark.) Why? Because there is literally no cure. Now, when Episode 1 ended, Joel and Tess learn that Ellie is infected… but how is she not dead? Well, because she’s immune, and that the reason the duo are transporting her is because there might be hope for a cure through her blood?

Joel, Tess and Ellie are attacked by “clickers” – echo-locating infected that can see by using echolocation… and when Ellie is bitten Joel and Tess watch incredulously as Ellie’s wound begins to heal without infection. But Tess, who was also bitten, doesn’t have the same luck, who begins to turn. Deciding she won’t become one of them, she blows up the Mass. State House, and a whole horde along with her.

Episode 3 – Long, Long, Time – The Last of Us:

Absent Tess… Joel and Ellie heading out towards Baltimore, in search of Bill and Frank, who are connections that Joel and Tess had made years prior. We see in a flashback how Frank originally made the first connection with Bill, a survivalist that basically built out a compound out of an entire neighborhood all by himself. The two eventually fall in love, befriend Tess and Joel, and eventually, when Frank becomes terminal, the two commit suicide together. And when Joel and Ellie arrive, they see Bill’s note and he leaves everything to Joel. They stock up, get a truck, and head out on the road to try and make it to Tommy.

Episode 4 – Please Hold My Hand – The Last of Us:

On their way through Missouri, the duo have to head through Kansas City because of a pileup on the turnpike. And it is there, in the city, that they are ambushed by someone feigning they are injured. Joel manages to kill the two men, but only because Ellie had taken a pistol from Bill’s stash, and she saved Joel’s life from one of the men. Kathleen, the head of the local group in control of Kansas City are determined to find Joel and Ellie, who she is certain are connected with a man named Henry who killed her brother. All of her people begin tearing apart the city in search of all four people. The group is hot on Henry’s and Joel’s tails, but there is a big problem… there is something growing underneath the city that is causing the ground to cave away and collapse. Joel and Ellie find a quiet and out of the way place to hide, only to be discovered in the night by Henry and his brother.

Episode 5 – Endure and Survive – The Last of Us:

Henry, Sam, Joel, and Ellie, come to a tentative truce and they all decide that maybe they can help each other. Joel wants to escape the city, and Henry says he knows a way to use tunnels out of their trapped quarters. Eventually, Henry tells Joel that he is a collaborator, and got Kathleen’s brother killed by turning him over to FEDRA in exchange for medication for Sam’s Leukemia. What would you do in that place? It’s funny, because Joel knows he would have done exactly the same thing Henry did if he could have helped Sarah… right?

After escaping through the tunnels, they are set upon by a sniper. Joel kills the sniper, but it leaves the trio vulnerable to Kathleen and her horde of men that set upon the group. Just before Henry is killed by Kathleen, the ground nearby collapses and the infected swarm out of the ground in legions. (Pretty great conflagration.) Including one enormous giant of an infected (called a bloater) that doesn’t get brought down by simple bullets. Said bloater beheads Kathleen’s second-in-command and a child clicker mauls Kathleen to death. When the foursome finally make it out alive… and safe, they marvel at their luck.

But when Sam reveals to his new friend Ellie that he’s been bitten, Ellie tries to share her blood with Sam in order cure him. But in the morning he has been completely turned and begins attacking her. Henry kills Sam and then kills himself. Ellie and Joel bury the two people, and sadly begin walking west towards Joel’s brother.

Episode 6 – Kin – The Last of Us:

Fast forward three months – and we see that Joel and Ellie have arrived at a small, but protected commune in Jackson, Wyoming. And it’s there that Joel and Tommy are reunited. It’s there that Joel tries to convince his brother that he needs to take Ellie on in order to get her to the Fireflies with the ability to create a cure out of Ellie’s blood. Joel has realized that his hearing on one side is going bad, and he is going to ruin this opportunity for the world, just like he got Sarah killed. Changing his mind at the last minute, Joel gives Ellie the choice between himself and his brother. And the duo head out on horseback. Not finding the Fireflies like they expect, they are set upon by armed men, and when Joel kills one we learn that Joel has been stabbed with a splintered baseball bat. Ellie manages to help Joel escape, but when he collapses, she has no idea how to proceed forward.

Episode 7 – Left Behind – The Last of Us:

Taking shelter in an abandoned house, Joel is definitely dying. Telling her to leave him, to save herself, she defiantly refuses. Thinking backwards, we flashback to her time with FEDRA military school with her best friend Riley. When Riley joins the Fireflies, Ellie goes with her to see what it is all about. After the two explore an abandoned mall, when Riley tells her that she’s been assigned to an outpost in Atlanta. This is to be her last night there in Boston. Ellie is upset, and the two are attacked by an infected. Ellie is able to kill it, but both have been bitten in the struggle. They decide they will remain together as they infection takes hold. Cut back to the present… and we watch as Ellie stitches Joel’s wound up.

Episode 8 – When We Are in Need – The Last of Us:

Ellie, needing food, leaves Joel behind in order to scavenge. Shooting a deer, she follows the tracks of blood and comes across a preacher named David. Swapping the deer for penicillin, Ellie learns that Joel was stabbed by a member of David’s group. Which, should bode ill, no? But Ellie isn’t thinking clearly, and she heads back to give Joel the penicillin, and David and his group follow her to Joel’s location. Because, um, vengeance? When she realizes what they are doing, she runs to draw them away from Joel, but she is captured. Oh, and she discovers that David has turned his group into cannibals, so she’s got that going for her right about now.

Back at the ranch, Joel awakens and realizes that Ellie is gone. Determined to get her back, Joel tortures a few of David’s guys into telling him where she is. David and one of his guys attempt to kill Ellie, but she manages to kill James and get away. This kid is resilient. David chases her down and attempts to rape her, but Ellie kills him with a meat cleaver. When Joel arrives, he finds a shell-shocked Ellie burning the cult’s HQs to the ground and he tries to comfort her.

Episode 9 – Look For the Light – The Last of Us:

Rewind: we see Ellie’s mother, Anna, get bitten by an infected as she is giving birth to Ellie. Marlene – who we know to be the leader of the Fireflies – listens to Anna… takes Ellie, and kills Anna at her request. Jump back to the current day and we see Joel tell Ellie about his failed suicide attempt after Sarah’s death.

Out of nowhere, Fireflies capture Joel and Ellie and knock Joel out. When Joel wakes up, he’s in a hospital, and he’s being told about how they have Ellie, and ready to go into surgery in order to prepare a cure. But when he finds out that the cure will kill her he flips out. Marlene orders Joel to be removed. But Joel escapes from their captivity, and kills the Fireflies that are guarding him. He even kills those that surrender to him. He also kills the surgeon as well, then he takes Ellie, who is still unconscious, and escapes. But Marlene finds them, and pleads with Joel that there is still chance to find a cure. But Joel shoots her.

When Ellie awakens, he lies and tells her that the Fireflies have failed to develop cures from other people that are immune. And they begin hiking to Jackson. Along the way, Ellie asks Joel to be honest with her… to tell her the truth. Is the story you are telling me about the Fireflies true? And he lies again and says that it is true. And her response is, “OK.”

The Ending of The Last of Us Explored Ethically

The first question on the table is simple enough – is Joel a good person? We are told by Joel in Tess’ own words right off the jump, “Joel and I are not good people. We are just doing this because you are worth something.” OK, so maybe not a good person? But like you for you, I’m sure, the answer isn’t black or white.

The next question is also simple enough – in a post-apocalyptic land riddled with zombies from hell – what even is the definition of a ‘good person’? Are ethics and morals bendable and relative in that they change to accommodate situations like this? Should we become selfish to our own survival needs, and allow those in need of help around us go? Especially when slowing down to help someone could be a life or death choice? Take benevolence off the table. What about if you capture someone who seems vague in their motivations? Should you let them go and leave someone at your six? Or should you murder them just to be sure?

Morals and Ethics get rather murky when the world is actively attempting to murder itself.

Step back for a second and think about what the symbolism and metaphors of a standard zombie film are. Maybe this has never crossed your mind before, but these are stories we tell ourselves because we are obsessed with the idea of judgement. Think about it, when a hurricane slams into Florida… oh, they must have made God mad somehow. Similarly, zombies are just another manifestation of the plagues unleashed by God on the Egyptians. Let my people go or else… no? Okay. Pharaoh, meet frogs. Frogs? Meet Pharaoh.

So, the question we are thinking about here is very, very specific. When encountering God’s judgement, what are we to do? What is okay? What is acceptable? Well, we got ourselves into this mess by being selfish and self-reliant. Being more selfish and self-reliant doesn’t seem like the best option.

The Interesting Path that is Joel’s Character Arc

Joel can’t talk about any emotions, ever. He can’t talk about Tess after she dies. And he can’t talk about Tommy seeing as though he isn’t sure whether he’s alive or dead. And he sure as hell can’t talk about Sarah. That is for sure. He is so damaged by this Judgement that God is throwing at him that can’t talk about any of it. All he can do is try and survive from day to day.

That’s why his arc with Ellie is so fascinating, if obvious. He, at first, refuses the mission knowing full well that it would bring back echoes of his own daughter’s death. He knows that it will cause him to relive his failures with Sarah. Then over time he even goes so far as to ask his brother to try and take her down to the Fireflies in Denver. He gives her up. And we even know that the only thing that Ellie is afraid of is being left alone, to be abandoned. Joel ultimately comes around though, and sticks with her.

Which brings us to the denouement of this interesting character arc for Joel. You’d think this would be a story about Ellie, but it’s not. Not even a little bit. Ellie is just the human McGuffin… the magic box that needs to be delivered to the medical facility. But Joel? He is just struggling with this own failures and inabilities to protect his own daughter. And the zombies? Those are just the judgements being poured out on him for his failures. Everything else is a side thought. But when Joel doubles back on his plan to abandon Ellie, we know his growth and learning are turning around. And when he slaughters absolutely everyone at the medical facility who are hell-bent on killing Ellie, he has accepted her as his own daughter.

The Fake Moral Choice of 1 for the Whole Planet

Our initial thought is to stop and say… if a train is heading towards a chasm, and my daughter is playing in the gears… should I kill my daughter and save all the train’s passengers? Bah, that isn’t what this story is about. The Last of Us isn’t a Christ-like one must die that everyone will live story. These medical technicians are just one more manifestation of evil and chaos that has been poured out on the planet like so many bowls of judgement. Since when do you have to murder someone in order to learn from them? Worse, it seems like a myopic choice to destroy the only sample you have. She could live and continue to inherently develop blood, and samples that could be studied for as long as she lived. So killing her seems like the height of draconian ignorance.

But all those that are saying that Joel is missing the point… are missing the point. His story arc is 100% about his failure as a father. He failed to protect Sarah from a megalomaniacal military determined to kill everyone whether they were infected or not. We even see piles of bones of the dead who were not infected. It’s pogrom level insanities happening here. And Joel failed, morally… (in his mind anyway), to protect his daughter. So, Ellie is trapped by an insane medical community, hell-bent on murdering his daughter in absentia, so what is the natural conclusion? He should kill absolutely everyone that has decided that this is the logical conclusion.

My Thoughts on The Last Of Us

The show is perfect. There was quite the kerfuffle about episode 3 and Bill and Frank. Especially from conservative circles. But I didn’t have any issues here at all. It was a really interesting juxtaposition. And showed the broad growth of a single character over the course of a single episode. Better yet, if you are a conservative Republican, and you want to be offended about something, you should take issue with the way Tommy and Joel are tip-toeing around each other on the topic of whether or not the Jackson, Wyoming walled city are Communists or not. “Literally, we are in a commune, by definition, we are Communists.” Seems like the show is talking down to those of a particular political persuasion that don’t know what Communism even is.

I personally thought that the character arc for Joel was brilliant. I thought his late breaking move to intercede on Ellie’s behalf was fantastic. And I think the end befits its beginning. Regardless, I look forward to seeing where they take the characters in season 2. We know that they are going to make another season. They have multiple video game story lines to draw from. And I wonder, will they follow the story lines as rigidly as they did with season 1? Will be fun to see where it goes.

Edited by: CY