The Last of Us: Reflections on the Ending

I recently beat The Last of Us, and I wanted to quickly “scribble” down some thoughts here, reflecting on the ending and my interpretation of it.

The Last of Us is not an elegant tale. It is brutal, dirty, and unapologetic. It is the antithesis of Uncharted. The Last of Us does not tell an overblown, Hollywood story of an action hero who can jump 50 feet and climb ledges and poles like a monkey stripper. It is the story of a man and a young girl fighting their way across a believable post-apocalyptic USA. It is a story of companionship and trust.


I wasn’t sure how to feel at the end of The Last of Us, even after thinking hard about it and reading comments and watching videos.

The thing that really bothered me was the fact that Joel lied. I thought if Joel had told Ellie the truth, she would have understood. Joel didn’t have to prove anything to Ellie, because she had already accepted him as her “father” long ago, and he had finally accepted her as his daughter. He didn’t have to hide anything from her.

So, why the lie? Because Ellie would have felt responsible for something that was out of her control, and Joel knew what that felt like. He knew what it felt like to be responsible for the death of one little girl, so what must it be like to feel you’re responsible for the damnation of the entire human race? Joel decided to take the responsibility of losing a potential cure, because he couldn’t let Ellie die. “It can’t be for nothing,” Ellie says. Ellie’s “nothing” was not saving humanity. Joel realized his “nothing” was losing Ellie.

And perhaps Joel’s lie wasn’t really a lie at all, but something he actually believed to be true. An audio log reveals there were 12 other test subjects before Ellie that all failed to produce a cure. The Fireflies were just grasping at straws, trying to find a cure from those immune to the infection when they had no evidence it would work at all. The Fireflies were broken, and now that their leader and head surgeon are dead and much of their main base is wiped out, what is left? People can talk all day about how selfish it was for Joel to take Ellie so they would have each other, rather than trying to find a cure, but with no less than twelve previous test subjects… you have to know when you’re beat.

All in all, I loved The Last of Us. It’s nothing profound or mind-blowing, but it is a touching, unconventional story of the intertwining lives of two individuals, and how they develop a relationship through overcoming their pasts.


~ by The Retro Gamer on September 17, 2013.

2 Responses to “The Last of Us: Reflections on the Ending”

  1. I´m agree with your ending analysis and would add something else, I think Ellie is not stupid, she knows that Joel is lying, when she asked him she just hopes to confirm his answer, It’s like: I know you’re lying but it´s ok, I don´t care, you has decided to stay together and we will continue to survive another day For me the ending is perfect Joel is only a man,a person who is afraid, selfish, real, not a hero. Love it.

    • Ah, yes, I forgot to add that. You’re right, Ellie totally knew Joel was lying. 🙂 This is even actually confirmed by the writers in an interview. But it’s great that she just accepts it because she can’t lose him at this point. She knows something bad might happen if she argues with him, and she doesn’t want that right now after all they’ve been through.

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