The Last Of Us TV Show Ending Explained: Were Joel’s Actions Right Or Wrong?

The Last Of Us ended on a high note. Joel killed a lot of Firefly people just to save Ellie’s life. But did Joel do the right thing by saving Ellie and killing many innocent people, or was he in the wrong? Let’s answer this question.

With the death of Sarah, Joel was left shattered and isolated. Joel, however, says that Ellie has greatly helped him in moving on and that he doesn’t really want to go through this again. Joel is aware of the harm and effects that are losing may have on an individual. 

Joel fears that going through all of this twice in one lifetime will destroy him, and he sees Ellie as a light. He might easily lose himself in a dream about the life Sarah should have had, which is why he’s so determined to save Ellie. His only concern is that she represents a second opportunity at the life, he and Sarah were supposed to have shared.

Last Of Us Ending Explained

Let’s try to defend Joel’s choice. First, can we trust the fireflies to develop this cure successfully? I mean, this is a post-apocalypse we’re talking about. It is doubtful they can mass produce the cure efficiently at this point.

For all we know, they can’t even manufacture the cure at all. I mean, the fireflies Doctor believes that Ellie’s unique condition could create a cure, but no one knows for certain if it will work. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt to do some more tests before killing the only person in the whole world who is immune—just saying.

Joel on a killing spree (CC: HBO)

Also, the openings of the first two episodes made it clear that it may be impossible to cure Cordyceps. Not to mention that the Fireflies take the choice away from Ellie. Marlene doesn’t wanna give Ellie a vote because the cure is more important than Ellie’s wishes. She must be sacrificed for the greater good. And the fireflies proved time and time again that they’re really incompetent and careless.

In the first episode, most of the fireflies get killed in the Boston QZ. In the second episode, a bunch of others get killed at the rendezvous point. They entrusted humanity’s only hope in the hands of two brutal smugglers instead of getting an army of fireflies to escort Ellie to safety.

And then all of them get wiped out by a 56-year-old man. Not to mention that these so-called freedom fighters are into blowing stuff up, not really caring who gets caught in the crossfire in their war against Fedra.

So even if they create a cure, can they really be trusted to give that cure to everyone? Considering all of this, maybe we’re giving them too much credit that they could actually create a cure, let alone save what’s left of humanity. And sure, if we apply real-world science to this, then maybe it’s hopeless. But I mean, it’s a fictional story.

So let’s assume that within the context of the story, the Fireflies will be able to create a cure. If the cure works, then humanity might have a chance to rebuild civilization. This might be a terrible thing to say, but if sacrificing Ellie’s life saves everyone else, isn’t that the right thing to do? Wouldn’t Ellie want to give her life for the greater good?

Ellie Mattered More That The Cure To Joel

But here’s the thing, guys, none of this matters to Joel. Whether or not the fireflies can create a cure is not even a factor in his decision. When Joel made that choice to save Ellie and kill the Fireflies, he didn’t care if they could actually save the world. He didn’t consider the cure at all, or even the world, for that matter.

The Last Of Us Ending Explained

Ellie helped Joel (CC: HBO)

Joel did this for one reason only: He protected Ellie, he created a powerful bond with her, and she became the daughter he lost. And now the Fireflies expect him to experience that terrible pain all over again. I mean, for Joel, that is not an option. His decision is not rational.

It’s made from pure emotion. He loves Ellie, and he cannot live without her. Joel’s love for Ellie is fundamentally destructive because, for him, it’s less about saving Ellie and more about not losing her. And no matter how much we understand Joe’s reasons, the truth is that his actions are horrific. What he did is morally wrong. He kills the fireflies.

He kills the doctors. He destroys any chance for a cure. Joel stole the world’s future because, for him, there is no future without Ellie. So it doesn’t matter if the fireflies can or cannot actually make a cure. Joel is not thinking about the future of humanity because the last 20 years taught him to survive by being selfish and brutal.

He has spent a long time caring only about his own life and the lives of the people that he protects, like Tommy and Tess. No one else matters. And now, the only one that matters is Ellie. The rest of the world can burn for all he cares.

Now, on top of all the murder and condemnation of the human race, Joel also robs Ellie of her agency. Granted, he doesn’t really get a chance to let her choose because the Firefly stole that choice from her first. But by that point, Joel learned about what they were planning. It was too late for any conversations.

Joel’s Lies Will Crush Ellie

That being said, Joel clearly knows that what he did was wrong because he lies to Ellie about what really happened. Now, you could say that he’s protecting her from the truth, that he doesn’t want to put that burden on her. But in truth, he lies because he knows telling Ellie what he did might tear apart their relationship. And his lies became uglier with him making things up.

The Last Of Us Ending Explained

Joel lying to Ellie (CC: HBO)

This lie crushes Ellie because, for her, it means that all of her sacrifices were for nothing. Ellie has experienced immense trauma in her short life. She lost people that she loved and cared for. Her trauma only intensified after what happened with David, a turning point that might have destroyed a part of her forever.

A crucial aspect of Ellie’s personality is her survivor guilt. Ellie and Riley were both infected. Ellie survived, but Riley turned that Ellie had to kill her. After that, it was Tess and then Sam. She took on that guilt. We saw how her inability to save Sam crushed her.

Deep down, Joel knows that if given a chance, and Ellie knew that her sacrifice could save the Rileys and Sams of the world, she would not hesitate to sacrifice herself. She would see it almost like balancing the scales, that it’s only fair for her to give her life, so everybody else gets a second chance after she got so many second chances herself.

Ellie is his purpose, but saving humanity was her purpose, and Joel stole that purpose from her, her only chance to honor the people that died for her. When and if Ellie discovers what Joel did, she might never forgive him for that.

So what’s next for Joel and Ellie now? Ellie may or may not recover from her trauma. Maybe they will find a safe haven in Jackson. They might even have a somewhat normal life. But sooner or later, Joe will die. I mean, the average life expectancy in this world isn’t very high.

By then, Ellie would likely be a skilled survivor, but Joel condemned her to lead a harsh life with a hopeless future in a world that she could have saved. Ellie’s death would have meant that there could be a cure. It would have created a safer world for Tommy and Maria’s children.

Were Joel’s Actions Right Or Wrong?

When you think about it, every character that Joe and Ellie meet through the season serves as an interesting parallel to Joel’s decision. For example, Tess. She sacrificed herself to give Joel and Ellie a chance to escape. She died believing in Ellie and the cure.

True, Tess was infected, so she was going to die anyways, but she went out on her own terms. In her final moments, test fully believe that Ellie could be a second chance for humanity, and Ellie would likely want to go out that way as well.

The Last Of Us Explained

Joel and Ellie before the hit (CC: HBO)

Frank and Bill represent a more hopeful outlook for the world. When Frank decides to die, Bill accepts his decision. He could have fought it, tried to find some way to change his lover’s mind, to lay the inevitable. But instead, Bill loved Frank the way he wanted him to.

This story had two important lessons for Joel. The first was finding something to live for like Frank gave Bill a reason to live. The second is understanding when it’s time to let your loved ones go. Joel’s best lesson was then enduring and surviving.

Kathleen was so blinded by her need for revenge that she was willing to do horrible things for her own selfish needs, and in the end, she and her people died for it. In the same way, the world’s going to suffer from Joe’s selfish decision.

Now, Henry did some bad things as well, but we can justify his actions because he did them to protect his brother. But after Sam is infected and attacks Ellie, Henry has to make a terrible choice. Kill his brother or let him tear Ellie apart.

Now Henry made the right choice. It may seem like the only choice, but how could Henry kill his brother even if he’s infected? But he chooses to save Ellie and let his brother go knowing that it’s the only way. However, he couldn’t live with what he did.

And this is the fundamental scene for Joel because Joel faces a similar conflict in the end: let Ellie die to save everyone else, or save Ellie and condemn what’s left of humanity. In the end, Joel was wrong because he robbed everyone of the chance to hope for a better future.

Also Read: The Last Of Us Season 2: Everything We Know So Far

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