HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Nine Review – Here we are. The finale. It’s all led to this, as Ellie put it, “we finish what we started.”
This episode is the shortest in the whole season, and you definitely feel it. I would’ve liked to spend a little more time with Joel and Ellie, I won’t lie, before going.
Even just a scene or two more. But ultimately this episode was almost an exact scene-by-scene recreation of the game, with some changes that don’t really mean all that much.
Except for what is potentially the best opening we’ve had for an episode this whole series.
Overall though, the ending doesn’t hit the way I thought it might.
Spoilers ahead for episode nine and the entire series.
HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Nine Review – Finishing What We Started
In The Beginning
While episode nine is the final episode of this first season, it takes us back further in time in the world of The Last Of Us than the games ever went. Back to the day Ellie was born, and we get an answer for her immunity.
Her mother, played by the original Ellie, Ashley Johnson, is running away, while pregnant with Ellie, from an infected chasing after her. She gives birth to Ellie, and then kills the infected as it is charging at her.
Ellie, already showing how tough she is from birth, comes out from underneath a dead infected seemingly unscathed. Anna, her mom, was not so lucky. She was bitten, and thinking first of Ellie cuts the umbilical cord as soon as she can.
The cordyceps still transferred over into Ellie, though as we know it doesn’t effect her in the same way it does everyone else. She’s instead made immune by that transfer, though it’s not exactly explained how that happens.
What does get better explained is why Ashely Johnson was hoping to find people she knew in the house she took shelter in. Marlene and other Fireflies end up finding Anna, with Ellie in her arms.
It’s here when we finally see the proof of Anna and Marlene being best friends, something that Ellie in the game is aware of, but Ellie in the show never is.
Marlene takes Ellie, at Anna’s request, and then shoots Anna, also at her request. From there, we pretty much know what happens.
Having this scene included is the exact kind of world expansion I’ve been looking for from this show since the beginning. Episode three wonderfully focused on just expanding the world, giving us new scenes with characters we already knew, fleshing out their relationships while expanding our knowledge of these characters.
Finding out how it came to be that Ellie is immune, that she wasn’t just born with evolved genes, rather a miracle of sorts occurred, is huge for any fan of the franchise and lore-diggers.
I loved it, and I think it adds even more depth to the tragedy of how the story ends.
Okay, I feel like this moment is big enough to me and to those who love the game(s) that it is worth dedicating a whole section to. Right off the bat though I have to say that I loved the use of the ladder and how we got another reference directly to the gameplay that’s mostly cut out of the show.
Ellie dropping the ladder almost on Joel is in fact the best ladder moment in the game, because it leads to a suspenseful chase that’s not terrifying, but rather exciting, as you hear the joy in her voice, wanting to see what she sees.
The payoff at the end with a gorgeous giraffe, and the view waiting at the top of the building, the moment Joel and Ellie share. It’s all just so beautiful.
In the show, we don’t have that same kind of chase sequence, but we do still get that beautiful scene with a giraffe. A real giraffe, in fact with everything else around and behind it being CGI.
It’s also here, that like in the game, Joel tries to convince Ellie they can turn around now, forget the whole thing, just go back to Jackson and live their lives. Ellie of course refuses, and it’s here where I have to once again give credit to Bella Ramsey.
They’ve hit every huge moment Ellie has so well, while of course still making it their own. I’m just constantly impressed by their talent, and as a fan happy that this adaptation found such a perfect actor for the role.
Pedro Pascal of course still impresses, as he goes on with what Ellie says, though everything in his face and how he agrees seems like it’s fighting back the urge to take her back to Jackson where he can make sure she’s safe.
How he expresses so much with so little I think is a large part of what makes him such an excellent casting as well.
Salt Lake City
While the giraffes provide a breather, it’s clear that what happened with David is still weighing on Ellie, as they move further into Salt Lake City and closer to St. Mary’s Hospital.
The time that we have here with Joel and Ellie is great in how it is able to recreate the same beats that the game goes through, but I still can’t help but feel disappointed we don’t get more of it.
And that feels like an odd thing to say. Across nine episodes, there have been so many moments just between Joel and Ellie, but I don’t think there actually were enough.
That might be a feeling that comes from having played the game, where you’re constantly with the characters – there’s very rarely a moment you’re not with Joel and Ellie.
Compared to the amount of time we have with Ellie and Joel here, it’s easy for it to feel like it’s not enough. But I don’t think that’s all that I’m feeling. I truly believe this episode could have been longer, and we could have had more time with them.
One thing I did however love about our time with Ellie and Joel in Salt Lake City before the Fireflies step in, is the honest conversation Joel has with Ellie about a time he attempted suicide.
This also goes on to explain his poor hearing, but more than that it elaborates and confirms a suspicion long-held by fans of the game, who see it only implied during an optional conversation between Ellie and Joel.
It was one of the better moments over which Ellie and Joel bond across the show, and another showcase of the effort this adaptation has put into creating more character depth with each of the main cast.
Having that followed up with a much lighter moment also wonderfully closed it out, just before things got tense again.
The Fireflies And Joel’s Rampage
With a smoke grenade and a flash, instead of a flooded highway tunnel, Joel and Ellie find themselves unconscious, and in the hands of the Fireflies.
Once they realize who it is, Ellie is rushed off to be prepped for surgery, and Joel is moved to a bed away from her, with a guard placed at his door, and Marlene waiting for him to wake up.
As the audience, knowing what we know now about Ellie’s immunity, the more in-depth explanation provided by Marlene on the procedure necessary for a cure here is welcomed, and more understood than it would’ve been without the episode’s opening.
Joel, of course, cannot accept that, and the outpour of violence that follows is devastating. Although I have to say that Pedro Pascal got it easier than anyone who played the game, as fans know that hospital setting to be one of the most difficult combat encounters in the whole game.
I was glad to see though that when Joel makes it to the operating room, a lingering shot on the doctor Joel shoots plants a seed for season two, and what’s to come in Part II.
Though it wasn’t really surprising to see, it was still almost shocking how exact, in comparison to the game, these events all were. Right down to Joel shooting Marlene, his lie about there being other kids, immune, like Ellie. And that her immunity meant nothing, the Fireflies had given up.
Then some raiders came along, and Joel was just barely able to get himself and Ellie out of there, in a car, safely.
Ellie waits to confront him about this until they’re overlooking Jackson, and again Joel lies. Ellie doesn’t believe him, but she says “Okay,” and to herself, vows to find out why he lied, and what really happened.
All that though is for next season and beyond. This season ends, almost shot-for-shot exactly how the first game ends. Love it or hate it, this is how the story went ten years ago, and it’s the same today.
It Can’t Be For Nothing
With the quick cut to black, the season is over, and the finale complete. While waiting for season two won’t take nearly as long as it did for fans waiting between the first and second game, before we talk about what’s next let’s reflect on what we have.
Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal, first and foremost were absolutely brilliant each episode. I was constantly impressed by both their performances. The same goes for Gabriel Luna’s Tommy, Rutina Wesley’s Maria, Kevionn Woodard as Sam, and Lamar Johnson as Henry.
Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett as Bill and Frank, Anna Torv as Tess. I think this show had incredible performances from all these mentioned, and excellent character expansion for those we thought we knew from the game.
It was also a nice bonus to have each of the game’s main cast have their own new role to play in the show, though none ended up being more important than Ashley Johnson’s time as Ellie’s mother, Anna.
Which is another example of something this adaptation did well. When it expanded on the world of the game, its lore, created new stories within characters we already knew, or even sort of knew, the show was at its best.
Episode three remains one of the best episodes in the whole season because of how well it expands on the world of the game while creating a story that’s more meaningful than it was before. The cold-opens from episode one, two and nine all provide further context that deepens the world Naughty Dog created, with episode nine’s going even further that.
I was happy to get the added emotional depth to each character, especially Joel, who more than anything felt like a person this whole season, instead of an untouchable killing machine who you remember is supposed to be a human when the cutscenes start.
Okay, that’s not exactly how the game feels, but the point stands that it’s easier to lose sight of Joel’s humanity after hours of senseless killing necessitated by their needing to be combat to engage the player.
This adaptation didn’t take as many chances like its cold opens, or the entirety of episode three, as I thought it would. After the first three episodes, it becomes so close to the game, that barring Kathleen and company’s scenes, it’s almost beat-for-beat the same.
Which on the whole isn’t the worst thing, because The Last Of Us was already an engaging story. Everything in the show was executed so well, and it was at all times an excellent recreation of the game, but I don’t think it lived up to the opportunities provided by it being an adaptation.
Hopefully we see more of that in season 2 and beyond.
You can check out the whole season of HBO’s The Last Of Us wherever it is streaming in your region, right now.