The showrunner addressed Joel’s decisions in the finale of The Last of Us

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The first season finale of HBO’s The Last of Us features Joel and Ellie arriving at the Firefly-controlled hospital in Salt Lake City, where they are ambushed by members of the revolutionary group. Joel eventually ends up in the hospital, where he learns that Ellie’s life is at stake as she is the only hope for a cure to save the world. Despite the dire situation, Joel decides to rescue Ellie by killing everyone who stands in his way, leading to controversy among viewers. Showrunner Craig Mazin has since addressed Joel’s controversial decisions in the finale.

During a recent press conference, attended by Screen Rant, The Last of Us showrunner Craig Mazin talked about Joel’s difficult decisions in the season 1 finale. Mazin reflected on his own conflicting morals regarding the ending and emphasized Joel’s unwavering love for Ellie, which ultimately led to his violent attack on the Fireflies. Below is a quote from Mazin regarding the topic.

That unconditional love, we give that way too much credit, it’s the highest form of love. Unconditional means literally no conditions, not including conditions whereby you really ought to be doing something that is not within the best interests of the person you love, at least according to some sort of moral code or a standard of ethics. I’m not suggesting that I have a hard opinion about how things go at the end, I don’t, I’m confused about it morally, I think it’s a difficult choice, I go back and forth, and I think a lot of people will go back and forth on it. But you are right to at least suggest that even if we weren’t necessarily soft launching anything — that’s a great term — we’re aware of things. As we built this season around the story of the first game that Neil and Naughty Dog weren’t aware of when they told that story the first time around. So, there are certain little moments and things that we put in there, but ultimately, I don’t think there’s anything this season that contradicts what was already there in essence, or explicitly, in the game itself.

The showrunner addressed Joel's decisions in the finale of The Last of Us 3

Joel’s brutal decision in The Last of Us and its relation to his journey

Following the loss of his daughter in the first episode of The Last of Us, Joel’s will to live diminished, and he attempted to take his own life. The season 1 finale disclosed that the attempt resulted in the deafness of his right ear, and since then, Joel has merely been a survivor, seeking something to fight for, whether it be Tommy, Tess, or Ellie.

The primary focus of The Last of Us story revolved around the evolving relationship between Joel and Ellie. While the two initially had a contentious meeting within the Boston Quarantine Zone, they grew to care for each other as they faced numerous life-threatening obstacles while traveling across the post-apocalyptic United States. Ellie’s curious and childlike personality, combined with her endless supply of corny puns, gradually softened Joel’s tough exterior.

In The Last of Us, Joel’s character development resulted in him becoming more open to the possibility of a brighter future with Ellie, as evidenced by his willingness to discuss his daughter and his newfound interest in playing the guitar. However, if Ellie were to die, it would rob Joel of a potential life with her and deprive her of the opportunity to grow into a woman, a milestone that was taken from Joel’s own daughter. Consequently, his decision to kill the Fireflies was an easy one. As The Last of Us continues with season 2, how this decision will impact the relationship between Joel and Ellie remains to be seen.

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