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Show vs Game – The Last of Us Episode 9 – “Look For the Light”

Wow, after nine episodes, we’ve finished season one of The Last of Us show. I found myself both looking forward to and dreading this episode, knowing what was to come.

Check out our coverage of The Last Of Us

SPOILERS for episode 9 and for TLOU game chapters: Bus Depot through to the end of the game.


The episode begins with a heavily pregnant woman, Anna (played by Ashley Johnson, the voice of Ellie in the game, and perfect casting) running through a forest into a remote farmhouse. Inside, her waters break. Annoyingly, a nascent Clicker breaks in and Anna simultaneously fights it off and gives birth (guys, that’s not even remotely how childbirth works, but never mind). Anna uses the knife we know to be Ellie’s prized possession to cut the cord after the Clicker is dead. The baby cries, and Anna names her Ellie, telling her she’s “so tough” (ain’t that the truth). That night, Marlene and two men make it inside the house. Mirroring David from episode 8 by protesting too much, Anna insists that she cut the umbilical cord before she was bitten. Resigned, Anna hands Ellie to Marlene and orders Marlene, “kill me.” Marlene reluctantly shoots Anna.

{Segue: In this situation I’d ask my friend to kill me only once I’ve turned, not while still lucid. I’d wanna share detailed funeral plans and practice my last words.}

We cut to Ellie in the present day. She’s distracted and sad, even when Joel shows his treasure find: canned Beefaroni. They’re near Salt Lake City, Joel offering to teach Ellie to play guitar after... Once in the city, they joke about scouting for trouble using the same methods, showing how long they’ve been on the road. Joel remarks that ironically, the bombs hit everything but the one building they were trying to demolish (game note: this building looks more like it’s from Hitman 3). Ellie’s ponderousness encompasses her until she gets distracted, shouting “Woah! You gotta see this!” and runs off. And it’s here, my favourite moment from any video game in cinematic form: Ellie and Joel feed a giraffe! The animal is part of a larger group doing very well (since I guess the zoo became a very big wildlife park). We feel Ellie’s palpable wonder and she calls back to episode 2, “you can’t deny the view.”

Joel tells Ellie that she doesn’t have to go to the hospital, but Ellie disagrees, repeating, “everything I’ve done…can’t be for nothing,” but indicating that, after… they’ll do what Joel wants. They walk through the abandoned QZ, filled with remnants of early post-apocalyptic army emergency medical camps familiar to Joel. His head scar from “the guy who shot and missed” was not, as I suspected, from Tommy, but far more heartbreaking. Joel attempted suicide the day after Sarah died, flinching as he pulled the trigger. Ellie says “I know why you’re telling me” to which I shouted at the TV: I’M GLAD YOU DO BUT COULD YOU MAYBE SPELL IT OUT FOR ME BECAUSE I’M STILL NOT SURE? When Ellie suggests that time heals his wounds, Joel says “It wasn’t time that did it…” (meaning that meeting Ellie saved him, proving I have some deductive reasoning power).  They crack open the joke book delivering an actually funny joke: “What did the green grape say to the purple grape? Breathe!” Alas, their mirth is smothered by a smoke bomb followed by a gun barrel to Joel’s head.

He wakes in the hospital with Marlene who, impressed that they made it, tells him that Ellie’s being prepped for surgery. In science corner, we learn that Ellie had Cordyceps from birth. The virus thinks that she already has it, which is why she remains immune. The Cordyceps all over her brain, if removed and studied, could be a cure. Marlene knows she’s taking Ellie to her death, saying she had “no other choice,” and sensing that Joel wants to stop the op. There’s nothing like daddy-rage, so when Marlene forces Joel out on the street (not even giving him a backpack!) he goes full Rambo, taking out any Fireflies in his path. He makes it to Pediatric surgery (cute that they have their choice of operating theatres) walking down a very famous corridor from the games. The surgeon says “I won’t let you take her,” but the rifle is mightier than the scalpel and Joel shoots him in the head (this close-up shot is important). He doesn’t shoot the two female attendings, but grabs Ellie and leaves. In the hospital’s underground garage, Joel’s confronted by Marlene, who speechifies that the world won’t get fixed without a vaccine, and they agree that Ellie should have decided whether she was willing to die or not. Marlene, ever the optimist but lacking tact, tells Joel even though he’s a murderous super monster, “we can still find a way” to help Ellie make a vaccine.

Then Ellie wakes up in the back of a car, not remembering what happened, insinuating that nobody told her she’d be operated on. Joel lies that the Fireflies found hundreds of immune people but can’t make a vaccine and have stopped looking for a cure. This is intercut with scenes of Joel shooting Marlene. Ellie asks if Marlene is okay and Joel doesn’t answer, instead saying that he’s “taking her home.” We see Marlene isn’t dead (Jesus, Joel, you’ve gotta stop flinching) and she pleads for her life, but Joel knows she’d just come after Ellie and finishes the job. Ellie and Joel’s car dies about five miles outside Jackson, and Joel reminds Ellie of their first similar hike (from episode 2). Joel compares Sarah and Ellie (calling Sarah more girly, which is not true of game-Sarah at all). Ellie tells him about Riley’s death, then asks Joel to swear that everything he said about the Fireflies is true. He says it is. She says “Okay.”

But they know and we know and everybody knows…none of this okay.

I Got Ya. 

It was surreal to listen to Ashley Johnson’s melodic voice in episode 9, having heard it in the games for years. It’s so soothing that I can pick it up anywhere (even in The Witness). We start the next game chapter in the same place as Ellie and Joel start the episode, outside Salt Lake City, on foot. Joel is breezy, wanting to teach Ellie guitar, but she’s distracted. Because gameplay demands collecting items, the player can scout around. In an RV, Joel finds a photograph of a nice-looking family. On the flip side, it says “forgive us.” And that’s all we get. Chilling. Ellie sees a travel advert and mentions her dream about flying a plane that’s nosediving, even though she’s never been on a plane. Dream-analyst Joel ponders, “dreams are weird.”

They enter Salt Lake City with Joel’s “another city, another abandoned quarantine zone” calling Ellie “kiddo”and we see the hospital. They cut through a subway station. Ellie mopes around, Joel noticing, “you kind of seem extra quiet today.” Joel picks up an old note in a suitcase, from a Graham to Lucia. It’s optimistic, indicating letters can be sent between QZs. Graham laments that their daughter Hanna is coping better with the new world than he is. Joel muses, “We didn’t have a clue back then.” Like the show, Ellie runs off with, “You gotta see this!” Watching the roaming giraffes NEVER gets old. I cried (again). Yes Ellie, it’s “so fucking cool,” as is the score, the game pausing to let the player admire grazing giraffes. Joel and Ellie have the same “you don’t have to do this” conversation, word for word, although Johnson’s inflection is different to Ramsey’s. When game-Ellie says “it can’t be for nothing,” she sounds hopeful. They find the medical tents, but here, Joel says he ended up in “triage” after everything went down. There is no mention of suicide, he is sad, talking of “families being torn apart.” Ellie is sorry, “losing someone you love like that. Losing everything that you know.” Then Joel tools up, before Ellie gives him the picture of him and Sarah. Joel’s response, “you can’t escape your past. Thank you.”

They head into the medical evacuation tunnel (how pleasant), Ellie confident that the Fireflies will be at the hospital. That dark, scary tunnel means only one thing…Infected. It’s messy! Multiple Bloaters, Clickers and Runners come for Joel and Ellie, reminding the player of how scary Infected can be. The player can go in guns blazing or stealth around. Either way, Ellie still throws a crate around, shouting “look out below!” like she wants death by Clicker! Further down, the tunnel is water-logged. Ellie suggests, “once we’re done. You can teach me how to swim!” (cue my: WHAT TOOK YOU SO LONG groaning). Joel swims to get a ladder so Ellie can continue, then she climbs over a jammed door, the player having to kill a Clicker before it gets her (an ironic and boring way for Ellie to die). “I can’t wait for those things to be wiped out,” Ellie says. They try to make it over deeper water, with, you guessed it, a pallet. The water gets higher and faster, with precarious jumps needed. “You sure you’re gonna catch me?’ Ellie asks. Joel’s confident “I got ya,” is ruined when he immediately gets knocked underwater. Famous non-swimmer Ellie jumps in to save him and nearly drowns. Joel gets her to safety but while trying to resuscitate her two guys tell him to put his hands up, and oh there comes that gun barrel to the face – thwack.

Like the show, Joel wakes up in the hospital with Marlene’s “Welcome to the Fireflies.” Joel’s line that Ellie “fought like hell to get here,” seems more resonant. Marlene gives a slightly different pseudo-science lecture, saying the virus has mutated in Ellie’s brain and needs to be removed, twisting the knife with, “don’t waste this gift, Joel.” Just the one guard (big mistake) walks Joel out enabling our hero(?) to use his torture-shooting trick to extract the information of Ellie’s whereabouts. In the game, this works, the guard spitting ‘top floor’. Joel thanks him with a bullet to the head. The Fireflies are looking for Joel, and these are military-level guys with assault rifles, so it feels less suspect when Joel shoots back. The player picks up audio recordings, including one from the surgeon, about Ellie, who notes, “we’re about to hit a milestone in medical history equal to the discovery of Penicillin.” A couple of Marlene’s recordings show that the doctors asked for her permission to kill Ellie and she agreed because of exhaustion. Joel fights his way through, “I’m coming, Ellie!” In another Marlene recording, to Anna (weird as she’s been dead for years) Marlene notes she won’t kill Joel, then tells Anna  “Your daughter will be with you soon,” (tactless, I told you). Sadly, Joel MUST kill the surgeon to progress, but he leaves the one female and one male attending in the operating room, then legs it through a storm of gunfire. {Second segue: It is possible for the Fireflies to grab Ellie and shoot Joel, but the player can’t finish the game this way}.

Joel makes it to an elevator and when he gets out at the parking garage, Marlene gives the same speech, albeit with key digs missing and ending with, “she won’t feel anything.” We cut to Joel driving, having the same conversation to a just woken Ellie, verbatim. We see Joel shoot Marlene and then… we cut to the player as Ellie. In a nice plaid jacket, she gets out of the broken-down car. {Third segue: The player can try running away from Murder Joel, but the road is – nonsensically – blocked.} They walk over a grassy hill, Joel, happy but “feeling his age.” Ellie tells Joel about Riley. He replies that to make it through “you keep finding something to fight for.” Joel swears to Ellie he’s told her the truth about the Fireflies, and again, Ellie’s last word, delivered with more resolution by Johnson, is “Okay.”

Tell me lies, tell me sweet little lies.

Because there’s so much to discuss about the ethics explored in The Last of Us, I’ll follow up later this week with another piece on who’s right and wrong in the great morality debate of TLOU.

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