The Last of Us bosses talk Joel’s choice: “I’m confused about it morally”

The Last of Us Episode 9
The Last of Us Episode 9 /

For the last decade, gamers have debated the morality of the choice Joel (Pedro Pascal) makes at the end of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us video game. And now a whole new audience is debating it after the the season finale of HBO’s The Last of Us TV series, “Look for the Light.” Beware SPOILERS below!

So what choice did Joel make? After traversing a zombie-ridden United States with Ellie (Bella Ramsey), the pair finally found the Fireflies, a kind of underground militia that hopes to use Ellie’s immunity to the zombie plague to synthesize a vaccine. The catch: in order to extract the material they need to make the vaccine, they’ll have to kill Ellie.

This sets up a troubling dilemma for Joel, who has come to think of Ellie as a daughter. Rather than allowing a vaccine to be made, he makes the choice to save her, killing everyone in the hospital and taking her away. He foregoes the possibility of curing the zombie infestation that has brought society to its knees, killing many people in the process, in favor of protecting someone he loves.

The Last of Us Episode 9
The Last of Us Episode 9 /

The Last of Us shows the dark side of unconditional love

So did Joel do the right thing? Speaking at a press conference following the finale, showrunner Craig Mazin gave his verdict. “I’m not suggesting that I have a hard opinion about how things go at the end — and I don’t,” he said, per Entertainment Weekly. “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.”

Earlier on in the series, Joel called Ellie “cargo.” But by Episode 8, he was there to comfort her following her traumatic experience with David (Scott Shepherd). By the time we reach the finale, he is pretty much a father to her. “I like that unconditional love, we give that way too much credit,” Mazin said. “It’s the highest form of love. Unconditional means literally no conditions, none, including conditions whereby you really ought to be doing something that is not within the best interest of the person you love, at least according to some sort of moral code or a standard of ethics.”

The climax of the show plays out exactly the same way in the game. However, Neil Druckmann, who created the game, believes that Joel’s actions in the show hit differently. “It started with, for the game, how can we make the player feel the unconditional love a parent feels for their child, and this worry and fear and love and joy that can come with it?” he said. “But then sometimes, when you love something unconditionally, your logic goes out the window and you will do really horrible things to protect the ones you love.”

With season 2 confirmed, we’ll get to see how Joel’s decision affects his relationship with Ellie.

Is Naughty Dog making The Last of Us Part III

In 2020, seven years after the first game, Naughty Dog released The Last of Us Part II. Despite a lot of fan backlash, it was a huge hit and fans are desperate for more. Without getting into spoilers, the game ended with a feeling of finality, although there is still plenty of room to tell more story if Druckman wishes.

No future The Last of Us projects have been announced beyond an upcoming multiplayer game, and Druckmann is playing coy about whether he’ll ever make a Part III. “I know the fans really want The Last of Us Part III,” he told Kinda Funny. “I hear about it all the time.”

Druckmann didn’t say whether the fans would get Part III, but did tease something on the way. “We are already into our next project, the decision has already been made but I can’t say what it is,” he teased. “We picked what we were most excited for.”

If this is Part III, don’t expect it anytime soon. I mean, the wait for the second installment was seven years. In the meantime, we have season 2 of The Last of Us to look forward to. Season 1 is currently streaming on HBO Max.

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