The discourse surrounding The Last of Us' ending has been reignited amongst fans following the release of the HBO show's final episode.
If you've been a fan of The Last of Us for a while, you've probably seen more than your fair share of discussion surrounding the game's ending. Each time a new version of the story is released (that's five times, if you count all three Part 1 releases, Part 2, and the TV show), debates about whether Joel's actions were 'right' or 'wrong' towards the end of the game always seem to do the rounds online.
Spoilers for the ending of The Last of Us TV show and The Last of Us Part 1 will be featured in this story, so read on at your own risk.
The main takeaway from The Last of Us' ending - in both the game and the HBO show - is that Joel chooses to sacrifice humanity's only apparent chance at a cure for the Cordyceps virus in exchange for Ellie's life, and kills quite a few Fireflies in the process.
On one side of the debate, you've got people arguing that Joel's actions were selfish and were just based on his own trauma of losing his daughter years before. On the other hand, you've got people saying that Joel did the right thing, as even if the Fireflies did operate on Ellie, there's no way of knowing if they'd be able to create and distribute a vaccine.
Now, 10 years after the game was first released, a new discussion has cropped up online, and it splits the TV show fans with the game fans. Half of the community is sick of hearing the Joel morality debate, while others are much more encouraging to newcomers and want to hear their opinions on it.
Take The Washington Post reporter Gene Park, for example, who is all for having this debate again: "I don't understand folks who say The Last of Us 'right or wrong' conversation isn’t interesting or not the point," Park continues, "it’s new to the show's audience, it was creator intention to have the audience debate it. And people still enjoy doing so. It’s interesting to people that aren’t you."
i don’t understand folks who say the last of us “right or wrong” conversation isn’t interesting or not the point. it’s new to the shows audience, it was creator intention to have the audience debate it. and people still enjoy doing so. it’s interesting to ppl that aren’t you.March 13, 2023
On the other hand, Twitter user and narrative designer Meghna Jayanth said "I survived video games critics misrepresenting the weighty morality of Last of Us’s final non-choice, but now TV people are doing it." Another Twitter user, Jessie Earl, has also shared: "And so begins the 'Joel was correct' discourse anew... *sigh*."
My (charitable & artistically interesting) interpretation of Joel’s actions in Last of Us makes him absolutely the villain, driven by his own personal traumas to save Ellie but doom the world - and also, Ellie, because our survival is collectiveMarch 13, 2023
Also, the "Fireflies were correct" discourse too. *sigh*March 13, 2023
The new discourse has even made its way over to Reddit (opens in new tab), where in one post a user questions why we're even having this debate in the first place: "I feel like people misunderstand the point of the finale," the title reads before they go on to say: "[I] thought this was settled years back during the debates about the game?" In response to this, several users are having that exact same discussion again in the comments - just as Neil Druckmann probably intended.
At least Tamoor Hussain of GameSpot has got fans considering the real issues with Joel at the end of The Last of Us.
I’m glad to see that more people can now discuss The Last of Us and really think about the complex issue of Joel clearly wearing the same underwear for literally months without washing them.March 13, 2023
Discourse aside, find out what we thought about the season finale with our The Last of Us episode 9 review.