The Last of Us episode 9 just closed out one hell of a season. I don't know what most people expected from the season finale, but I believe that showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann went above and beyond on this one, with two big moments that the games never gave us.
It all followed Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal)'s emotional reunion at the end of episode 8, where Ellie stabbed David (Scott Shepherd) to death after he assaulted her and threatened her with rape. Reunited, our heroes are here to close out the fiirst season of one of the best HBO Max shows ever.
The below contains a detailed recap of The Last of Us episode 9, so there are spoilers.
The Last of Us episode 9 reveals Ellie's origin story
Anna (Ashley Johnson) is running while grimacing — and we hear screams of the infected chasing her. Ashley Johnson, if you haven't heard, voiced Ellie in The Last of Us games. So, what's about to happen is very fitting. Anna arrives at a house where she expected to find people, but nobody's there. She discovers her water's broken as she walks upstairs and into a room that she seals shut with a chair.
Anna then pulls out a knife, just in time for an infect to pound at the door. She drops the knife, but picks it up as the infected bursts in — and claws at her as she stabs it. And after she's killed it, the cries of a newborn baby ring out, and Anna realizes she's been bitten by the infected — which prompts Anna to cut the umbilical cord with her pocket knife. The infant and Anna share a tender moment of love, followed by crying and Anna saying "Yeah, you tell 'em. You tell 'em, Ellie. You're so tough. I got you, it's OK. Roll credits.
Marlene (Merle Dandridge) and other Fireflies arrive at the abandoned house with a lot of wariness, only to find Anna, with a knife at her own throat. Anna tells Marlene that Ellie's hungry, because she didn't want to nurse her. Anna claims that she got infected after she gave birth. And in these scenes, I've realized that Druckmann and Mazin have given us an explanation for Ellie's immunity. She was give a tiny amount of infection (somewhat like a vaccine), and then her body built a resistance.
Anna tells Marlene to take Ellie to Boston, and to give her the pocketknife. Marlene says she can't, but Anna reminds her that they've known each other their whole lives. So it's her responsibility to take Ellie and to kill Anna before she turns. Marlene leaves after saying she can't kill her, and hands Ellie to a Firefly, and tells the guy to cover her ears (he doesn't). Marlene shoots Anna, and we're going back to present day.
Back on the road, Ellie's in her own mind, and doesn't hear Joel excitedly announcing he found more Chef Boyardee. Beefaroni, in fact! Joe explains that he thinks he's found the hospital they're looking for, and Ellie doesn't react much, aside from standing up. Joel also found Boggle. which she's never heard of.
Bella Ramsey's Ellie emerges through numbness
Then, they're on the road again. Joel mentions he found a guitar, and suggests he could teach Ellie how to play, and she doesn't react, again. It's clear she's still processing the evils of David and his followers. Ramsey nails these softer moments, and it even pervades her sass, as she rattles off exactly what Joel is about to tell her for his plans. Her numbness pervades these scenes, especially as she looks at floorplans.
Throughout, Pascal is hitting the notes of Joel finally trying to embrace this newfound fatherhood of sorts. He even asks about her being "extra quiet," before she helps the plot progress by having Joel boost her up to the next floor, where she can get a ladder for him. Or at least she kinda does that. Instead, she just drops the ladder towards him, as something amazing distracted her. Joel follows along upstairs until he sees what she saw: a giraffe. A majestic animal that somehow has survived this hellscape.
Joel grabs plants for Ellie to feed the giraffe, and the animal is exactly what she needed to smile again. She even curses, saying this it's "so f**king cool." The Ellie we love is back, and the two go further upstairs until they see a majestic view of a zoo's worth of animals among the greenery.
They then call back to the last beautiful view they shared, back in episode 2 when Ellie looked outside the QZ in awe, as Joel asked if it's everything she hoped for. Ellie replies that you can't deny the view.
Joel, suggesting something bad could come of going forward with their plan, asks if Ellie's still into the plan.
And here we get an awards reel monologue from Ellie, saying "after all we've been through," and everything she's done, "it can't be for nothing." She knows Joel wants to protect her, and says they can do whatever they want — together — once this is all done. They could go to to Tommy's, a sheep ranch and even the moon. She'll follow him wherever he goes, but there's no halfway with this. And that monologue sets up the big grand finale.
But first, outside, Joel and Ellie wander through a rescue camp. Joel even lets his guard down about the scars on his forehead Ellie's asked about. And that's when Joel tells Ellie something he never said in the video game, he's responsible for the scar. He shot and missed, trying to commit suicide. Possibly on the day after Sarah died. Joel says he couldn't see the point anymore, and that he wasn't scared. He was ready. But he flinched when he pulled the trigger, and he still doesn't know why.
Ellie thinks she knows why Joel's explaining it. She suggests a moral of Joel's story, that time heals all wounds. Joel, with the most emotional look he's had in ages, says that it wasn't time. He would have said it was Ellie, but he's still Joel. Ellie says she's glad it didn't work out, which Joel agrees with.
The two move out, and Joel asks for "sh**ty puns." Ellie whips out No Pun Intended: Volume Too, and makes an apocalypse joke followed by a meteor pun. And as the two bicker about how to rate a joke about a purple grape holding its breath, a soldier walks into the background, and flings a tactical grenade. Ellie's taken, and Joel's knocked out while screaming for her.
The Last of Us' season finale ends where some knew it would
Waking up to the sight of a Fireflies logo on a plastic tankard, Joel is groggy as Marlene welcomes him. She claims patrol didn't know who he was. Ellie's safe, according to Marlene, and Joel keeps asking about Ellie. Marlene doesn't say where she is, but credits Joel for getting her here. Says she owes him, they all do.
And Ellie is being prepped for surgery. Their doctor confirms what I hypothesized above, that the cordyceps has been growing with her since birth, and it created an immunity. Joel again asks where is she. Marlene doesn't say, and Joel mentiones that cordyceps grows inside the brain, and starts to demand they use someone else. And this will have many nodding their heads, knowing that HBO's The Last of Us is going to deliver the iconic ending of the original game.
A Firefly knocks Joel down with the butt of a gun, and Marlene claims that she understands the loss. That she promised Anna she would save her child. She has no other choice. And while Joel says he has another choice, Marlene tells the Fireflies to walk Joel — with Anna and Ellie's pocket knife — out. And to shoot him if he does anything. Big mistake letting grunts take care of Joel.
On his way out with two soldiers, Joel stops to check what floor they're currently on, before they go into the stairwell. In mere moments, Joel kills both Fireflies, one of whom refuses to tell him where Ellie is. And then we see Joe go on a killing spree as he tries to track Ellie down. You may root for Joel, but Mazin and Druckmann are clearly showing off how he's losing his humanity, shooting people who have their hands up and guns down, in anger. When one of the two people he cares about anymore is taken from him, Joel has no other choice.
Joel makes his choice
Walking through the pediatric wing of the hospital, Joel enters the room where surgeons remove a mask that had been putting Ellie under. The doctor (who will be important, trust me), raises a scalpel, and says he won't let Joel take her. Joel puts a bullet in his head. The nurses follow Joel's orders, covering her arm, and unhooking her. He leaves with Ellie in his arms, as the doctor bleeds out on the floor.
Joel takes an elevator downstairs, where he finds a van to drop Ellie in. Marlene's there to try and talk Joel out of this, says it isn't for Joel to decide. She thinks Ellie would do what's right. And she thinks Joel knows it. She pleads with Joel, that it's not too late. Joel looks down at Ellie, gets a sad look on his face — and we cut to a car ride. Ellie's in the middle row of a car, and Joel lies about what happened. He claims there are a whole lot more like her, and that the doctors couldn't make any of it work.
And then we see Joel shoot Marlene before he claims they stopped looking for a cure. Ellie asks about her clothes, in a tone that possibly suggests she doesn't trust Joel. He claims that raiders attacked, and he barely got her out of there. She asks if people were hurt and if Marlene is okay. Joel doesn't say anything about Marlene, but that he's taking them home. We know he's the raider, and he says he's sorry to Ellie.
Back in the garage, Joel walks back to Marlene, who is begging to be let go. He says "you'd just come after her," and kills her.
Ellie and Joel are still on the road, but time's passed, as Ellie's out of her hospital gown and has clothes. Their van's broken down, and now they gotta walk. A five-hour hike. Ellie's still a little different, but smiles as she agrees the hike. But a look of confusion permeates Ramsey's face as they walk up to a summit. After a discussion about how Ellie isn't girly, and he talks about how Sarah and Ellie would have been friends.
Right before they get to Jackson, she tells Joel about Riley, who "was the first to die," as Ellie almost admits she killed Riley. And as Joel rambles, Ellie's look of distrust takes the form of a sentence: "Swear to me that everything you said about the fireflies was true."
Joel answers "I swear." And Ellie, with a completely unsure look on her face, says "Okay." We cut to black.
The Last of Us episode 9 outlook: Yes, that's how the game did it
Well, with that kick to the heart done, it's time to show y'all how closely Mazin and Druckmann mirrored the ending of The Last of Us Part 1.
The good news, I guess, is that HBO's confirmed The Last of Us season two is happening — and The Last of Us season 3 is already being buzzed about.
And we can go play The Last of Us Part I and The Last of Us Part II. And that everyone from Pedro Pascal to Bella Ramsey to Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett feels like a shoe-in for awards.
As for what's next in the immediate future? We're now just two short weeks away from Succession season 4, the final season of HBO's other best series.