The Most Heartbreaking Twist In The Last Of Us Is Also Its Quietest

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This post contains spoilers for the season finale of “The Last of Us.”

“The Last of Us” is not set in a happy world. In case the idea of a world ravaged by a fungal zombie plague didn’t give you enough of a clue as to the tone of the story, this is a show full of heartbreak. We see beloved characters die in painful ways, and we see background people suffer constantly. This is a series almost as devoid of hope as “Attack on Titan,” set in a dystopia where to simply have someone to rely on is more valuable than any precious gem.

It is also why any display of affection, of people caring, is special. In retrospect, the Bill and Frank episode stands out even more because it is the one character story that ends relatively happily and doesn’t end in a ravaging tragedy. 

It comes as no surprise, then, to see the first season of “The Last of Us” end in such a bleak way, with Joel shooting up a hospital full of people. This is an episode that not only doomed humanity in the name of fatherly love, but also an episode where the protagonist takes away the agency of his co-lead. And yet, from all the pain and misery in the season finale, the most heartbreaking twist came not when Joel shot a bunch of people, but from a much quieter scene.

Lies And Deception

After everything they’ve been through, including facing very dumb cannibals that refuse to just eat the mushrooms off the infected, Joel and Ellie reach Salt Lake City, where they are taken by the Fireflies. There, Joel finds out that, in order to make a cure, the doctors have to cut up Ellie’s brain, which causes him to go berserk and kill almost everyone before escaping with an unconscious Ellie.

Once Ellie wakes up, she asks what happened. Joel lies to her, saying there was no cure and raiders attacked the hospital, conveniently killing everyone. Even when she presses him on it, Joel doubles down on the lies and swears he’s telling the truth. This, of course, messes Ellie up. For her, a cure would mean her journey was worth it, worth the pain she went through and worth every death, from Tess to Riley to Sam. She knows that, if Joel is lying and there was something else to what happened at the hospital, it means he did not respect her wishes.

This exchange is the most heartbreaking part of the finale, a moment that changes everything. Even if we don’t see them fight or see Ellie walk away from Joel, Bella Ramsey’s acting makes it clear Ellie is aware Joel is lying. How much of the truth she knows or can imagine is left up to interpretation, but in the final moment of the season, when Joel doubles down on the lie and Ellie just says “Okay,” in resignation, it is clear their relationship is forever changed. Something broke in that moment that isn’t easy to put back together.

A Betrayal

If Joel was telling the truth and there simply wasn’t a cure, it would be a sad, bleak ending. But the fact that Joel’s betrayal — how he lied and took away Ellie’s agency to decide whether she wanted to cut her losses or die for something larger than herself — is an even bleaker ending. Especially, as Marlene says before Joel executes her, Ellie would likely choose to sacrifice herself for a cure.

Ellie doesn’t say this explicitly, so it is possible she would want to live rather than sacrifice herself for the rest of humanity. She does say several times throughout the finale, however, that she doesn’t want Tess, Riley, and Sam’s deaths to be in vain. Joel did not murder a bunch of people to save Ellie. He did it to save his surrogate daughter because he needs her more than she needs him. In a show full of heartbreak, this is the biggest heartbreak, because it turned Joel and Ellie’s slowly-growing relationship sour and twisted an organic bond into an ugly codependency. There is no going back from that.

Read this next: How Ellie’s Room Decor In The Last Of Us Points To The Larger Story

The post The Most Heartbreaking Twist in The Last of Us is Also Its Quietest appeared first on /Film.

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