The premise for the final episode is that Joel finally gets Ellie to the Fireflies, only to immediately be betrayed in return. He is informed that Ellie is the cure for the infestation but harvesting the material necessary requires her to die. We also get an extended flashback to Ellie’s birth with her mother (as played by Ashley Johnson, Ellie’s VA in the game) that explains a possible reason for Ellie’s immunity to the cordyceps infestation.
The best part of the episode is definitely Ashley Johnson’s performance as Anna. A pregnant woman struggling to survive against a bunch of Infested, her child being born right that moment, and then having to deal with the fact she was going to die no matter what after giving birth. Throw in her dealing with Marlene (who wants to kill Ellie) and you have a fantastic one scene wonder. It’s almost a shame they didn’t get her to play Tess or another more important character.
The rest of the episode more or less deals with Joel’s dogged commitment to making sure that Ellie survives no matter what. Unfortunately, the show failed to really make there be any moral conflict whatsoever. I was sure that 99% of the audience would agree with Joel’s decision to gun down every single Firefly standing in the way of him and his baby girl (and I’m pretty sure I was right in the numbers). However, the show doesn’t even attempt to present the Firefly’s decision in an ambiguous light or the tragedy of their misguided beliefs. Joel guns them all down without hesitation and the issue is resolved.
Part of this is due to the fact the Infected are barely shown as a threat in the show. Probably for special effects reasons, we don’t get nearly as many Infected as we do evil humans. The Fireflies are basically dismissed by most online chatter as having any possible real “solution.” Instead, I think the show should have done more to suggest that, yes, they could have come up with a proper solution. Joel made the right choice as a parent but the audience should have at least had more ambiguity about it.
After none episodes, my opinion is The Last of Us really needed an additional episode at the very least and probably should have drug out the finale across two episodes. Some more encounters with the Infected or interaction with Ellie might have been better. At the very least, I think the show should have gotten more into Ellie’s survivor’s guilt. It should be clear she was willing to die to provide the world a cure and also be cure that’s not a choice that should be forced onto anyone at her age.
In conclusion, the series was pretty good but could have been better. There’s just not enough threat from the Clickers and it moves through the final events of the game way too quickly. We needed a bit more time to reflect on just how devastating Joel’s choice potentially was. At least they kept Joel lying to her and Ellie’s reaction at the end.