‘The Last of Us’ Season Finale Ending Explained: Some Lies Are Worth It

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The season finale of The Last of Us allowed us to see the different choices that the characters had to make, no matter how tough they may be. Of course, Ellie didn’t have many choices and decisions in this episode because the finale mostly involved Joel and the decisions he made for Ellie. And it was during this episode that we truly understood the tough decisions that the characters made in the storyline of The Last of Us.

So, with that said, fans of the series need to see how things went down in the season finale to truly understand what the series is all about and what kind of themes it covers. Of course, it is important to note that season 1 of The Last of Us covers the entirety of The Last of Us Part 1. Now, let’s look at what happened at the end of The Last of Us season 1.

Ellie’s Past

Ellie’s past was one of the things that were never actually cleared up in the video game version of The Last of Us but was given more focus in the season finale of season 1 of HBO’s adaptation. Of course, we all know that Ellie is immune to the Cordyceps Brain Infection and that this is why Joel was tasked with carrying her all the way to the west, where the Fireflies had a base. But the season 1 finale explored the reason behind her immunity to the infection.

The episode began with a pregnant woman that was running away from a group of infected Runners. But while she could fend them off, the problem was that she also got herself infected. The stress of the event caused her to give birth to a daughter. She cut the umbilical cord before the infection reached the baby.


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Due to her familiarity with Marlene, Marlene found the woman, who seemed to be a member of the Fireflies. The girl was named Ellie, and that explains how and why Ellie was raised without her parents. Marlene took the girl with her and probably left her in the Boston Quarantine Zone, where she grew up without parents. 

Assured that the girl was not infected, Marlene took Ellie with her and then killed her mother before she turned into a runner. In that regard, Marlene always knew who Ellie was and who her mother was. But she didn’t know that Ellie became immune to the Cordyceps Brain Infection until they met 14 years later.

The Father-Daughter Relationship

As the events of the series returned to the present-day timeline, Joel and Ellie continued their way through Utah to look for the base of the Fireflies; it became apparent that the events that they went through in the past three episodes allowed them to develop a better relationship. Joel no longer saw Ellie as cargo, but as a daughter, he had to protect because he was robbed of his chance to protect his daughter 20 years ago.

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He actually started sharing more about himself and the difference between Ellie and Sarah. But Ellie was clearly bothered because she was wondering what would be next for her after they got to the Fireflies and helped them develop a cure or vaccine for the Cordyceps Brain Infection. Joel, however, assured her that everything would be alright.

While they were able to get to Salt Lake City, Joel, and Ellie found themselves getting ambushed. Joel lost consciousness, as Ellie seemed fine. And when he woke up, he found himself staring at Marlene, who took him to a hospital in the city.

Joel Learns The Truth

It was revealed that the hospital that they were in was one of the bases of the Fireflies, who took Joel and Ellie in. They didn’t know who they were at first, which was why the Fireflies attacked them. But when things cleared up, Marlene apologized to Joel for what her men did. She also commended him for getting that far while she and the rest of the Fireflies struggled to survive while they were on their way to Salt Lake City.

Marlene told Joel that Ellie was okay but was being prepped for surgery. That was when she revealed to him why Ellie was immune and what they planned to do to her to produce a vaccine that would help the entire human population take back the world.


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The reason why Ellie was immune was the fact that she was still connected to her mother through her umbilical cord while her mother was turning. As a result, her body adapted to the Cordyceps, and her brain sent signals to the fungus that she was already infected even though she wasn’t. This is the reason why her blood didn’t work when she tried to use it to heal Sam when he got infected.

Ellie’s immunity was due to her brain telling the infection that she was already infected. This means that this immunity did not result from her blood’s ability to resist the infection. Instead, it resulted from her brain telling the infection that she was already infected.

That meant that the only way for the surgeons of the Fireflies to use her immunity to create a vaccine was to take her brain out. They needed to study her brain to create a vaccine that would allow the human body to tell the infection that it was already infected, much like how Ellie’s immunity worked. In effect, Ellie needed to die for the human race to have a fighting chance against the Cordyceps Brain Infection.

Joel Massacres

Joel, however, was against this idea, which surprised Marlene because she never saw Joel as someone with morals. He insisted that Ellie should be given a choice regarding that matter. But Marlene told him that she knew Ellie would have wanted to die if it meant saving everyone else.

Of course, Ellie didn’t know what the Fireflies were about to do to her as they kept her in the dark the entire time. They never told her anything about the nature of her immunity and why she was immune. As such, she didn’t know that she had to die to help the Fireflies develop a cure,

The problem was that Joel had already become attached to Ellie, who he saw as an actual daughter instead of just cargo that he needed to deliver to the Fireflies. He already loved Ellie the same way he loved Sarah. As such, he didn’t want the Fireflies to kill Ellie for the sake of a vaccine that could possibly save the human race.


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When he got the chance to do so, Joel stole a Firefly rifle and used it to massacre everyone in the building. The Fireflies had no chance against an extremely focused and determined Joel, who wanted nothing more than to save Ellie from dying against her will. He got to the surgery room, where he killed all of the doctors present before even giving them a chance to convince him to change his mind.

Joel Chooses

After Joel killed the doctors, he retrieved an unconscious Ellie and started taking her out of the hospital before he was confronted by Marlene once more. The leader of the Fireflies tried to convince him that this was the only way and that they would never get a chance to save humanity again. 


But Joel had become too attached to Ellie and was unwilling to let her die before giving her a choice. As such, Joel chose Ellie’s part by killing Marlene and effectively crippling the Fireflies.

In that regard, Joel decides Ellie’s fate for her by killing the Fireflies instead of allowing them to try to find a way to save humanity through Ellie’s brain. And the worst part is that Ellie had no idea what happened the entire time. 

Joel Lies

During the final season finale scenes, Joel and Ellie were seen driving away from the city. A confused Ellie asked where they were and why they weren’t with the Fireflies. To that end, Joel told her they were returning to Tommy and his people because the Fireflies suffered huge losses due to an outbreak. He told her they had escaped from the Salt Lake City hospital.

Ellie, however, asked about whether the Fireflies could develop a cure and whether or not they still needed her. Joel lied by telling her that the Fireflies found several more children with the same immunity to the Cordyceps Brain Infection and that none of the things they tried worked.

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That means that Joel didn’t even tell her about how he chose for her by killing the Fireflies and saving her, even though there was a chance that she could have contributed to the survival of humankind.

This highlights what The Last of Us was all about, as this was never just a post-apocalyptic storyline that focused on humanity’s struggle against hordes of infected humans. Instead, it highlights the different choices that humanity had to make to survive the events of the outbreak. 

On Joel’s part, he decided that a lot of people would see it as a moral dilemma because he was made to choose between saving a teenage girl that he loved as a daughter and saving the human race. But Joel chose to save Ellie instead, leaving many wondering whether he made the right decision.

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