It feels like just yesterday we were getting ready to head out of the Boston QZ with Ellie, Joel, and Tess (remember Tess?) and now here we are, heading into the first season finale of The Last Of Us. It’s been a wild and emotional ride with some unexpected—but not unwelcome—detours that surprised fans of the game as much as newcomers. Each camp is naturally going to have different questions about what’s in store in episode nine, but there’s plenty of overlap too. We’re going to cover those areas of common ground without giving away any spoilers for the end of the game. The details are out there if you want to know, and besides, there’s no guarantee that showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann are going to go the same way anyway.
With Joel still healing up from the physical wound he sustained way back in episode five and Ellie dealing with fresh psychological wounds after her ordeal with David in the previous episode, neither of them is in top shape as they approach their final destination. At the end of their long road is a hospital in Salt Lake City and a lab where the Fireflies are supposedly working on a cure for the cordyceps infection. What happens in this last stretch and what awaits them if and when they get there are big questions looming over the end of the season. But they’re not the only ones.
How closely will the finale follow the game?
Even if the showrunners follow the broad strokes of the game’s ending, there are bound to be some elements lost in translation, as we’ve seen over the course of the season. There’s also lots of room for adaptive choices that add depth to the story and characters. Fans will have certain expectations and set pieces they’re hoping to see, and we expect the powers that be will do their best to deliver them. They are, after all, admitted fans themselves. But can it all be done in a way that will be satisfying for an audience that includes newbies as well as gamers who know and love the source material?
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Does the show even need to provide a satisfying ending? HBO has already renewed The Last Of Us for at least one more season, so Mazin and Druckmann have some leeway to set up a cliffhanger if they want to, and they can pay it off at the beginning of season two. That’s not something Druckman and his team necessarily knew when they completed the first game. We’re not saying we want this to happen, but it could. Conversely, they could also take the opportunity to move up some scenes or events from the second game to give us something to chew on while we wait for the show to come back.
Will we find out why Ellie is immune?
The reason for Ellie’s immunity to the cordyceps fungus has never been explicitly explained in the games, or in any supplemental material for that matter. Fans have been speculating about the cause for years. Was Ellie born with a genetic mutation? Was her mother bitten while she was in utero? Did it have something to do with the circumstances of her birth? There are hints, but no real evidence to back up any of these claims. That may be about to change.
In an interview with Newsweek, Druckmann said that he had written a scene about Ellie’s mom, Anna, that he couldn’t fit into the game but was able to include in the show. We know from the cast listing that Ashley Johnson, who played Ellie in the game, will be playing Anna Williams (in a flashback, we assume), so maybe this mystery will finally be solved. The scene or scenes could also answer other lingering questions about Ellie’s past too, like how well Marlene knew her mother and whether she was aware that Ellie was special before she was bitten.
How will Ellie be affected by her ordeal with David?
Ellie has been through a lot in a relatively short amount of time. When we (and Joel) first meet her in Firefly custody it’s only been three weeks since she and Riley got attacked at that abandoned mall. We didn’t see it, but we know that Ellie had to kill her best friend. Death has been a part of this journey from the beginning. Tess, Bryan, Sam, Henry—they all hit hard in different ways, but her ordeal with David was by far the worst of it. Everything Ellie has been holding inside came out in a mess of frenzied blows as she hacked him to pieces in that burning restaurant. Something inside her snapped.
Although Joel was able to bring her back to her senses we can’t help but feel like what’s now broken in Ellie won’t be easily fixed. She may be tougher than most kids, but she’s still just a kid. The horrors she barely escaped are going to stick with her, maybe even well into the next season. Will Joel let himself slip into dad mode permanently to help her through it? Has their bond fully evolved into its final form? And will that be enough to save the last shreds of Ellie’s youthful spirit or is her innocence lost for good?
Will there be any more zombie action?
With the exception of a few scattered set pieces, The Last Of Us has been fairly light on zombies (or “infected,” if you prefer) this season. That’s been one of the biggest differences between the show and the game. Mazin and Druckmann took advantage of being freed from the restrictions of gameplay and gave us richer character moments and backstories instead. The result was that the threat felt farther removed than it did in the game. Since a horde came rushing out of that fiery sinkhole in Kansas City in episode five, there’s only been one infected attack, and that was shown in a flashback. The creative team went to all the trouble to create some amazing creature designs for the clickers and the bloater, and then barely used them.
We get that the theme of the show is that humans are the real monsters. It’s not a particularly original concept. But human puppets being controlled by a fungus and using echolocation to track down more humans to infect? Now that’s interesting. Would another sequence like Kansas City be too much to hope for? Or have we already seen all the extreme makeup effects we’re going to see in season one?
It won’t be long until we have the answers to these questions, and probably some more we didn’t even realize we had. The season one finale of The Last Of Us airs on Sunday, March 12, on HBO.