"WARNING THIS ARTICLE HAS SPOILERS FOR THE PLAYSTATION 3 EXCLUSIVE TITLE, "THE LAST OF US". IF YOU HAVE NOT BEATEN THE GAME OR ARE THINKING ABOUT PLAYING IT DO NOT READ THIS ARTICLE."
Still Here? Okay let’s get started.
THE LAST OF US is an amazing game from Naughty Dog that tells the story of Joel & Ellie. If you’re reading this then you probably know what happened & you’re trying to process it’s very open-ended ending.
Why did Joel save Ellie? What about the cure? Would the cure have saved mankind? Why can’t I grow a beautiful beard like Joel’s? There’s a lot of questions surrounding the ending of this game & I personally found my own way of understanding it. So I’ll get started.
As Joel awakens after the bus being submerged in Salt Lake City, he awakens to find out that The Fireflies & Marlene have Ellie all ready to go in order to proceed with getting the cure to the virus. But in doing so, Ellie would die in the process.
Joel proceeds to go into full on gorilla mode & push his way desperately to save Ellie. As Joel bursts the door down & probably shoots the last brain surgeon in North America, Joel steals Ellie & makes off into the emergency elevator. As the door opens, Joel is stopped by Marlene.
Marlene then proceeds to barter with Joel for Ellie in order to convince him that one little girls life is worth the sacrifice for the entire human race to prosper. Joel decides to neglect her offer & shoots Marlene. He then finishes her off with a headshot because even allowing Marlene the option to survive would result in a wild goose chase. Joel then takes a car & leaves Salt Lake City with the still comatose Ellie in the backseat.
As Ellie awakens disorientated by her location, Joel reveals to her that they found The Fireflies & lies to her about pretty much the entire situation. The car breaks down, Ellie changes into her teenager gear & the pair set off back to Tommy’s dam hideout in order to live. Ellie stops Joel, professes her guilt by revealing her friend Riley died as well & asks Joel to swear to her if everything he said was true.
"I swear it." Ellie nods clearly knowing it’s a lie but comforting herself in it by saying softly, "Okay." The credits then roll. The ending to me was extremely realistic yet as well extremely polarizing to many fans. People think Joel was selfish to put his own needs before everyone else’s but I think there’s one question I’d like you to ponder as you read.
Was humanity worth saving?
What I mean by this is you’ve gone on this long journey throughout the apocalypse witnessing human atrocity after another in a variety of ways. The government kills people as do The Fireflies & other affiliated groups. Would a cure really save these people? Or the better question being is—-
Would you even want to save them?
The entire game you’re probably thinking you’ll get Ellie to The Fireflies, they’ll make a cure & they will distribute it & everything will get back to normal. But in reality if Ellie were killed & the cure was created, which by the way was never said to be 100%. They could have literally just killed her to SEE how her body fights against it but that doesn’t ensure they could make a cure to begin with.
But let’s go with the possibility that, yes, they make a cure. Now what? The Fireflies will go find those human cannibals you fought in the Winter segment & be like, “Oh you eat people? That’s cool. Here’s a vaccine.” Or The Fireflies would go to the destroyed & militaristic government & say, “You guys gun down people for disagreeing with you? Wanna be immune?” Seriously think of the leap in logic in how this would make sense.
Realistically what would happen is that The Fireflies would obtain this “cure” & use it as leverage to sway what’s left of humanity in order to create a unified group under their rule. They would barter salvation in order to enslave us all. This isn’t a world of happiness either. People kill & rape one another because there’s no more rules. You really think that guy who worked a dead end job before everything went to shit will just magically accept his minimum wage job again because society can return?
Or do you think he’s more content with taking what he wants, when he wants, however he wants. This society doesn’t have to save up money, apply with insurance companies & make sure their line of credit is good enough in order to buy a car or house. Instead they just take it because they want it, that’s a lot easier & natural to the primal features of our species.
You have a nice cave, I want your cave. I kill you, your cave is now my cave. I think Tess pretty much summarizes exactly what humanity has come to when she’s talking to Joel earlier in the game. "Were shitty people." Tess says. That couldn’t be more true in a world like this one.
So with that in mind, let’s dial back to the ending of THE LAST OF US. Joel kills others in order to get what he needs in order to survive, which is Ellie, & takes off. Can you seriously blame him for he did? Would you allow your sister, brother, daughter or anyone you would fight to the death to protect in order to, on the off chance, that it MIGHT make some sort of cure?
Would you risk your happiness & well being for the likes of others?
Joel isn’t a good person after all. This is a man that witnessed his daughter get gunned down, hell even himself almost by a military soldier because it was either that soldier’s ass who would get burned by his chain of command or just follow orders & survive. From the moment you start playing this game, THE LAST OF US constantly shoves that idea in your face.
We are not worth saving. The entire experience also displays the fact that nature is getting along fine without us. The horses, rabbits, monkeys & giraffes are all doing completely fine. They’re not raping each other, well maybe the monkeys are, but in general they’re not destroying their environment in a way only mankind is capable of.
All humanity has done up until this point is exhaust resources, fight over territory & exploit one another for self gain to further enhance our own existences. Joel kills people because that’s the world he lives in, Ellie kills people because she knows the alternatives. Even that creepy David guy who gets butchered by Ellie shows that once upon a time, he was just a regular guy too.
Many people were creeped out by David & his fascination with Ellie, but really is Joel any better than him? How many people did you kill & disfigure throughout your journey in THE LAST OF US? How desperately did you want to protect Ellie against the human enemies? The only reason why you care about Joel & don’t initially antagonize him is because you’ve witnessed his losses.
You witnessed Sarah die, you witnessed the lifeless body of Tess soaked in her own blood. You’ve been along with Joel this entire time & that’s why you sympathize with him. But when David is talking to Ellie by the fire & talks about the rumours of a crazy man who has been killing all of David’s friends, how do you think David’s people interpret Joel & Ellie?
They probably think they’re monsters, demons with horns ripping out of their human shells for all we know. But it’s the context, the sole reason that you KNOW where these two are coming from. If you knew where David was coming from in his life before, would you judge him?
So I believe the ending to THE LAST OF US was more about the reflection of our own humanity being thrown in our faces & clearly people didn’t get it or liked it because the simple answer is this.
You couldn’t face yourself.
Joel represents what a capable & willing person would resort to in order to survive in this world. No one is a good person in this society. You might say Ellie is, but then I’d disagree with you & just remind you of all the people you shoot & stab with a switchblade in the Winter segment.
In order to survive we have to sometimes become the things we fear in our own thoughts. It might manifest in the form of a lie, saying goodbye to someone you love or grasping onto whatever’s left in your life in order to convince yourself that life is worth living.
THE LAST OF US has an extremely powerful & thought provoking ending that I believe just displays how truly disfigured the face of mankind really is. We are not good people, we are not truly worth saving & most of all—-
We are not integral to the survival of this planet. That’s why the ending is amazing.
BY: MILAN JEGENJAN
PSN: Shoryyuken ( If you want to add me on Playstation Network, just put Tumblr in the message we can play! I don’t have a mic though sorry. )