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Review: ‘The Last of Us’ Season Finale – “Look For the Light”

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The time has come to say bid farewell to the first season of one of the best video game adaptations in recent years. The Last of Us broke many records in terms of audience score and fan acquisition. Episode 8 gained more than 8 million viewers, a big jump from the record 4.7 million during episode 1. The HBO series is one of the most engaging series I’ve watched in a while and The Last of Us season finale is no exception. Let’s check out how good “Look for the Light” is.

[Warning: Spoilers from The Last of Us season finale are below!]

When you’re lost in the darkness, look for the light

The so-called “cold openings” were a big part of the first two episodes of the series, but we haven’t seen them since then. Thankfully they return in The Last of Us season finale, with a flashback to when Ellie (Bella Ramsey) was born. Ellie’s mother Anna (Ashley Johnson a.k.a. the voice of Ellie from the games) is on the run from the infected. She’s pregnant and close to giving birth. Anna hides in a nearby dilapidated house. As soon as she closes the door, the infected fall through it. Anna kills him, not noticing Ellie being born until the adrenaline wears off.

After, we learn that Ellie’s mother knows Marlene (Merle Dandridge), who’s already one of the leaders of the Fireflies. Marlene learns that Anna is infected and begins to cry. It’s then that viewers learn that they have known each other all their lives. That’s why Marlene’s so protective of Ellie in the first episode. She takes Ellie from Anna’s arms and with a broken heart shoots her right in the head.

Ashley Johnson as Ellie's mother in The Last of Us season finale
Ashley Johnson as Ellie’s mother in The Last of Us (HBO)

Returning to the present, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie are getting closer to the Fireflies’ new base in Salt Lake City, Utah. They explore the city and have excellent banter. The scenes with them together recall the gags of previous episodes. There are more jokes from Ellie’s book “No Pun Intended,” and even a few emotional moments.

After some time, we reach the iconic giraffe scene. It’s a very cool but equally sad moment from the game, and it plays out the same in the series. At this point, Joel really opens up to Ellie. He tells her how he lost all sense in life after Sarah (Nico Parker) died. Even Tommy (Gabriel Luna) was not enough for him to live.

Joel was involved in a shootout that nearly ended his life. This was a wake-up call to live for Joel. He’s now very happy and glad to be alive. Ellie led him out of a dark place and back into the light. Thanks to her, he is now a better man and strives to be an even better father.

Just after their emotional conversation, Fireflies attack with flash grenades. Joel loses consciousness and wakes up in the hospital. Marlene is with him and reports that Ellie will be operated on soon. He becomes angry after learning that in order to create a vaccine and save the world, Ellie must die.

At birth, Cordyceps grew around Ellie’s brain before Anna cut the umbilical cord. Because of this, she got infected, but not completely. The fungus sees her as an infected person, but her cells are healthy. Joel is escorted by soldiers but kills them in the stairwell. This is one of the highlights of the series. Now Joel fully considers Ellie his daughter and will not lose her the way he lost Sarah, no matter what.

The hardest choices require the strongest wills in The Last of Us

In the game, this chapter is considered the last playable chapter in the game. Players are meant to storm through the soldiers and get to Ellie. The live-action interpretation shows us something similar. We observe Joel killing soldiers without any emotions. He no longer cares whether they have a family or not. Like any parent who cares about their child, he will not rest until Ellie is safe. Joel goes on a rampage and we see him kill every soldier on his way to the operating room. There’s also one small nod to those who’ve played the game because as soon as he’s out of ammunition, he picks up another gun. I know that this is supposedly a normal thing in such a situation, but to me, it feels like a big Easter egg.

When he enters the room and sees Ellie under anesthesia, he tells the doctor to unhook her. He won’t let them take Ellie away. Without a second thought, Joel kills the doctor in cold blood but spares the nurses. Just as Joel and Ellie reach the car, Marlene ambushes them. She has a pretty good point about how Joel won’t always be able to protect Ellie, especially when she’s grown. As I mentioned before, he just doesn’t give a damn. A quick cut to a scene in the car and Ellie waking up follows. Joel lies to her, saying that the Raiders attacked the hospital and killed people. He barely saved her. A few seconds after, we see that Joel shot Marlene. We know he will finish her, because If she lives, Ellie will always be haunted by Fireflies.

Joel (Pedro Pascal) & Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in The Last of Us episode 9
Joel (Pedro Pascal) & Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in The Last of Us episode 9 (HBO)

The episode ends with Joel and Ellie in Jackson, Wyoming, to live with Tommy and the rest of the townspeople. Ellie tells him about Riley (Storm Reid) and everything that happened at the mall. After that, she demands that Joel swear that everything he told her about the Fireflies and the situation at the hospital is true. He lies, as any father would do in this situation. And with that, we conclude another remarkable episode of The Last of Us.

Final thoughts on The Last of Us season finale

The Last of Us is the perfect example of an excellent game adaptation that does not have to follow its original story 1:1. Scenes were changed, characters added, some character fates were rewritten, and still get a breathtaking work of art.

Although I’m a big fan of the game, I have to admit that this series is better than the original version. Many aspects were a perfect fit for the game, and I doubt there would be room for them in this adaptation. The work of the actors is something to be praised, with stellar performances across the board. It’s no easy task to bring video games to life, especially when it comes to such a big title as The Last of Us.

The same goes for live-action stuff that we didn’t get to see in the game. Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin have shown us that they can change even major aspects of a story and it will work better. One such moment for me was the story of Bill (Nick Offermann) and Frank (Murray Bartlett).

It’s been a wonderful journey with these nine episodes of The Last of Us series. I never thought I would see such a great adaptation and an even better story that broke many hearts, including mine. Even if the creators decide to change the story in season 2 (which is already in active development) I trust them no matter what.

The Last of Us season 1 is available on HBO  and HBO Max, with new episodes arriving weekly. What did you think about this finale? Let us know on Twitter or The Cosmic Circus Discord. And if you haven’t already, check out our review from episode 8 of The Last of Us.

Review: The Last of Us Episode 8 – “When We Are in Need”

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Wiktor Reinfuss

Big fan of all sorts of pop culture stuff. I also enjoy ambitious cinema. Games, music and graphics are all within my interests. I have a great fondness for the Arrowverse series, especially The Flash.

Wiktor Reinfuss has 129 posts and counting. See all posts by Wiktor Reinfuss