The wait is finally over. Join us every week as we dissect each episode of the long-awaited adaptation of The Last of Us, starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey.
Season 1 comes to an explosive end with episode 9, ‘Look for the Light’. Ellie and Joel reach the fireflies, but things turn sinister, leading to a devastating ending to a brilliant series.
Spoiler alert: These reviews will include spoilers for each episode, so if you’d instead go in cold, we recommend you return to this review after watching the latest episode.
This is it. The final episode of season one of The Last of Us is finally here. It has been a rewarding 9 weeks of heart-wrenching emotion and brutal violence and we’re sad to see the series go, even if it’s coming back.
Episode 9 begins with a huge detour from the games. We see a pregnant woman run through the woods, chased by the infected. We can’t see but can hear. By this point, we know how deadly they are, and their screeches alone make the hairs at the back of my neck stand up.
So far, the series has been a little light on the infected. It’s clearly been a purposeful choice; The Last of Us has constantly emphasised how humans are the real villains in a world destroyed by the infected. At times, you forget the infected are even a threat, but episode 9 makes sure we still know just how scary these bastards are.
The woman, played by Ashley Johnson, the actress who portrayed Ellie in the original game, escapes into an abandoned house. There, she locks herself into a room, but there’s simply no escaping from the infected. She is bitten only moments before she gives birth to a little baby girl.
That baby is none other than our heroine, Ellie. There’s beautiful poetry to the scene; Johnson brought Ellie to life in the games, and she births Ellie here for a different audience.
She cuts the cord as Marlene arrives, but nothing will change the fact that the woman, Anna Williams, has been bitten and she only has moments before the infection takes hold. The pre-credits intro to the episode ends in a tragedy as Marlene promises to look after Ellie as a gunshot is heard.
10 minutes in and the final episode of The Last of Us has already destroyed our emotions. Then again, were we expecting anything else? Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann’s brilliant series is a very early contender for the best TV show of 2023. It might sound like hyperbole, but it isn’t. Season 1 has been remarkable in every way and a truly masterful video game adaptation.
Elsewhere, we catch up with Joel and Ellie, who are still recovering from the trauma with David last week. They stumble upon a giraffe living in the ruins of a city now. It’s an emotional scene in the game as Ellie reaches out her hand to pet it, and the impact is the same here. There is still wonder to be found in such a violent, bleak world, even if it’s in somewhat short supply.
The pair finally reach the Fireflies in Salt Lake City. Their relief is palpable; they have finally reached their destination, their salvation. Hell, Ellie might be the key to the salvation of the entire human race.
Joel finds out that to develop a potential cure, the Fireflies intend to cut into Ellie’s brain, killing her in the process. It’s Sophie’s choice all over again; does Joel save Ellie or allow her to die in the name of humanity?
Because The Last of Us has devoted so much care and time to Joel’s character, we know he can’t let Ellie die. He needs to save her. So he forces his way through the hospital, gunning people left, right and centre to get to her.
This sequence in the game is tough, but the TV show makes it look a little too simple. Perhaps this is where the biggest weakness of these video game adaptations lies; it’s hard to communicate the challenges video games entail in a convincing way. The TV shows look like Joel is playing the scene in easy mode.
Joel reaches the operating theatre, where Ellie is unconscious, and surgeons are about to cut into her. He shoots them without mercy and takes Ellie. He is confronted by Marlene, who tries to reason with him, but Joel kills her in cold blood.
As Ellie enters the car, Joel explains that a cure isn’t possible. Ellie is clearly suspicious, but Joel comforts her, insisting that he’s telling her the truth. Ellie probably knows deep down that Joel saved her for selfish reasons, and she could still cure everyone.
And there you have it. The Last of Us season 1 hasn’t been without its wobbles, but it’s a remarkably assured, riveting and thrilling series. Both Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey have been brilliant in their roles, and the storytelling has been confident and nuanced.
Perhaps it’s easy to make a series like The Last of Us with an HBO budget and such a strong narrative base to work on, but it’s still a small miracle the series is as good as it is. The Last of Us is one of the most gripping and compelling TV shows we’ve seen in a while, and we have high hopes for season 2.