The finale, “Look for the Light,” put Joel (Pedro Pascal) in an impossible position. He and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) finally found the Fireflies. Not only that, but it turns out they can use Ellie’s immunity to the cordyceps plague to create the cure. The catch is that Ellie will have to die for the doctors to extract the material they need from her body.
After having grown deeply attached to her, Joel is unwilling to let this happen. While Ellie is unconscious, he massacres the Fireflies and takes her back to Jackson, Wyoming. He lies and says that the hospital was attacked by raiders and that her immunity is of no help in finding a cure. Ellie doesn’t quite believe him, but chooses to go along with things when he swears to her that everything he said is true. The final shot of the season is of her saying “Okay.”
The Last of Us almost ended differently
That’s also the final shot of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us video game. Although at one point, showrunner Craig Mazin said that the ending was going to play out slightly differently. “The change was really more something that Ali Abbasi, our director, had been playing around with,” he told GQ. “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. As we’re recording this, we haven’t aired it yet and we don’t know what the reception is going to be. I think people will get angry!"
In the end, they kept the ending as is, which sets up the second season, which will adapt the video game The Last of Us Part II.
Are The Last of Us creators nervous about backlash? “I don’t care”
Speaking of The Last of Us Part II, that game was on the receiving end of a brutal backlash when it came out for the PlayStation 4 in 2020. Don’t worry, we won’t spoil it here, but some of what happens in that game is very intense and there were a good number of very vocal fans who were not happy about it.
Are the showrunners nervous that the second season of the show could receive a similar reaction? “I don’t care,” said Neil Druckmann, who created the original games and runs the show alongside Mazin. “How they react is how they react, that is completely outside of our control. So how do we make the best TV show version of that story? That’s the problem that we wrestle with every day.”
Mazin, meanwhile, thinks strong reactions are part and parcel of the kind of show they’re making. “To the extent that the storylines move people to rage, confusion, or disappointment or anger. Well that, I suppose, is preferable to the worst possible outcome, which is indifference,” he said. “There’s been a lot written about the third episode of this season, and it’s an episode we’re very proud of, and it moved a lot of people. It’s one of the lower-rated shows on IMDb for one reason – a lot of people came on and gave it a 1/10. Not 5/10. One. The median score on that episode is 10. And the mean is an 8 or something. And that’s because there are incredibly strong opinions one way or the other. But I would much rather have a show that lives off of 10s and 1s, than a show that lives off of 5s.”
The Last of Us will continue on HBO for at least two more seasons
Episode 3 is the best episode of the season and I will die on that hill, incidentally. In any case, Druckmann and Mazin are confident that they can deliver an adaptation of Part 2 that’s every bit as powerful as what they’ve done already.
That said, Part 2 is different. The story is more sprawling, the cast is bigger and there are some major perspective changes. But it sounds like Mazin has it figured out:
"I think we know what we’re doing on this one. I’m not saying that in snarky way, I’m saying that in a hopeful way. There are going to be things that are going to be different, and there are things that are going to be identical. There are things that are going to be added and enriched. There are some things that are going to be flipped. Our goal remains exactly what it was for the first season, which is to deliver a show that makes fans happy. We’ve got an incredible returning cast. It’s a daunting task. But Jesus, so was the first season. You can’t make everyone happy. But we’ve made a lot of people happy and that’s our intention to do it again."
On that note about Part 2 being a bigger game, Druckmann confirmed that it will take more than one season to adapt. “It’s more than one season,” he said simply.
"Some of the stuff I’m most excited for [in Part 2] are the changes we’ve discussed and seeing the story come to life again in this other version. And I think it’s exciting because it leans into those feelings you had from the game, really heavily, in a new way."
How many seasons exactly will it take? Two? Three? Mazon wouldn’t get specific. “You have noted correctly that we will not say how many. But more than one is factually correct.”
As for when we could see that, our bet is sometime in 2024.