Warning! Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us’ season 1 finale.
The Last of Us co-creator Craig Mazin explains how the show almost changed the game’s final moments. Based on the beloved Naughty Dog video games, HBO’s The Last of Us premiered earlier this year, earning strong reviews and boasting impressive viewership numbers. Sunday night’s action-packed finale sees Joel (Pedro Pascal) slaughtering a hospital full of Fireflies in order to rescue Ellie (Bella Ramsey). The episode’s moments, like the game, see Joel lie to Ellie about the massacre to which she simply replies, “Okay,” before it cuts to black.
In a recent interview with GQ, Mazin reveals that Ali Abbasi, the director of The Last of Us‘ finale, actually experimented with slight changes to the game’s ending. While most of the ending would have remained the same, an extra scene would have made the consequences of Joel’s lie more apparent, with the overall feeling being more downbeat. Check out Mazin’s full comment below:
“The change was really more something that Ali Abbasi, our director, had been playing around with. He had this thought of just playing out this slightly longer, sadder version where Ellie says, ‘okay’, and then she turns and walks away. And Joel looks after her. We see the two of them walking, not really together but apart, down towards Jackson. It lingers and then fades. There was something beautiful about it.
Everybody was like ‘what do we do?’ And there was that meta-discussion of, are the people that played the game going to be more annoyed that they didn’t get it just the way it’s supposed to be, or are they gonna be more annoyed that they only got what they had before? And then how will everybody else feel?
In the end, there’s something very specific about ending on that close-up of Ellie. Not knowing what comes next. Not knowing what she does. Does she walk away from him, does she walk with him, how does she feel? That moment gets suspended permanently.”
Why The Last Of Us’ Ending Scene Works So Well
As Mazin describes above, the ending to The Last of Us works so well because it leaves things slightly open-ended. It’s bittersweet in the sense that both Joel and Ellie are alive, but more conflict is clearly still ahead. In both the game and the show, it’s strongly hinted that Ellie knows Joel is lying to her, and the real question becomes how she is going to deal with this knowledge and how the revelation will affect their relationship.
Those ending moments of HBO’s The Last of Us are less about the dialogue and more about the subtle performances from Pascal as Joel and Ramsey as Ellie. There’s so much going on beneath the surface of this scene for both characters that it only really works with talented actors who have a great deal of chemistry. Thankfully, both Pascal and Ramsey, as previous episodes of The Last of Us have made clear, are a perfect on-screen duo capable of bringing nuance and complexity to the words on the page.
Although this ending could be considered frustrating if the show’s future was uncertain, it’s already been confirmed that The Last of Us is returning for season 2, and potentially even a season 3. With Joel and Ellie confirmed to return, the open-endedness of the ending serves as a unique bridge to what’s to come, concluding one chapter of their relationship while opening the door to the next. It remains to be seen what The Last of Us season 2 will bring, but consequences for Joel’s lie are clearly ahead.
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