After the traumatic events of “When We Are In Need,” Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) are close to the next Firefly base in Salt Lake City. With few hurdles remaining, they believe they are close to mentally preparing to save the world. Yet other forces work against them, forcing Joel and Ellie to make another tough choice. Check out our recap of “Look for the Light” below.
The Recap – The Last of Us – “Look for the Light”
A pregnant woman named Anna (Ashley Johnson) runs through the woods. Infected screams echoing through the trees. The woman reaches a farmhouse safely, but as she ascends the stairs, her water breaks. The infected followed her into the house, and she draws a knife as she’s attacked. She fights off the Infected and, as she does, gives birth to a baby. Anna realizes she’s been bitten on the thigh, but she shakes it off and holds her baby for the first time. Realizing her fate, she lets out a sob.
Marlene (Merle Danbridge) and a man approach the farmhouse in the dead of night. The signs of struggle are present throughout the house. Marlene hears singing in the bedrooms upstairs and calls out to Anna. As Marlene enters the room, she sees Ellie and Anna in the corner of the room. Anna tells Marlene to take Ellie, handing over her daughter. She wraps her in a coat and puts the knife she used to defend herself in the swaddle. She asks Marlene to kill her, but she cannot do it. Anna begs Marlene to kill her, and her friend eventually does.
Ellie (Ramsey) sits in the bed of a truck, zoning out to the door. Joel (Pascal) calls out to her, having found cans of Chef Boyardee. They pack up and begin walking down the road. Ellie remains distracted, still haunted by the events with David.
As they enter the city, Joel and Ellie begin climbing to higher ground to find a lookout point. Ellie continues to appear disconnected. Joel asks if she’s okay, but Ellie shrugs him off. He boosts her up a level, and when she’s handing down the ladder, she gets distracted. She drops it on Joel and takes off running.
Joel races up after her, and he sees a giraffe eating from the overgrown plants. Joel tears some of the ruins to help Ellie feed the giraffe. After it eats, it walks away. They go up another level and see the herd of giraffes grazing.
Joel confronts Ellie about her depression. He lets her know they will find the hospital. However, they can also leave and return to Tommy. Ellie thanks Joel for the offer but thinks they’ve been through too much to turn around. As she notes, there’s no halfway, and they must finish what they started.
Joel and Ellie continue walking through the ruins of the city. They pass through an Army medical camp. Joel tells Ellie about his time in a camp. When she makes a joke about the person who shot and missed, Joel reveals he was the one who tried to shoot himself. After Sarah’s death, he did not see a point in living. Ellie thinks Joel is telling her that “time heals all wounds.” He denies this, instead telling her how much she’s helped him. As she tells jokes from the pun book, a flash bang goes off behind them. The soldiers grab Ellie and knock out Joel with a rifle.
When he comes to, Joel sees Marlene standing at his bedside. She lets him know Ellie is unhurt. This is a Firefly base, and the patrol did not recognize Joel or Ellie. She apologizes and thanks him for keeping Ellie alive.
When Joel asks to see Ellie, Marlene shuts him down. Ellie is being prepped for surgery because the doctor believes she’s been growing Cordyceps since birth. The doctor thinks this could be a cure for the Infection. However, Joel realizes that Cordyceps grow and infect the brain. Marlene tells Joel she has no other choice. She then has her men take Joel out of the hospital to abandon him outside. She tells them to shoot Joel if he tries anything.
Joel walks out through the hospital, and the guards force him down the stairwell. Joel takes out the guards and grabs a rifle. He shoots the guards and goes back up the stairs. A walkie is heard in the distance, yelling about the shots fired. Joel stalks the Fireflies in the hospital, shooting and killing as he searches for Ellie. He finally reaches the level for pediatric surgery, where he finds Ellie on the operating table. Joel shoots the doctor and takes Ellie with him to the elevator.
As he walks toward a car, Marlene holds him at gunpoint. She threatens to shoot him and asks Joel what Ellie would want. He looks at Ellie and thinks about it. We cut to Joel driving down the highway. Ellie wakes up in the back of the car and asks Joel what happened.
Joel lies, telling her that there were others like her, but no cure could be found. He tells Ellie that they were attacked by raiders, and they barely escaped. Ellie rolls over, and they drive to Wyoming.
The car breaks down just short of Tommy’s town. They begin hiking, traveling the last 5 hours on foot. Joel tells Ellie more about Sarah and that they would have liked each other. They reach the ridge overlooking the valley and get ready to descend to town. Before they go, Ellie comes clean about killing Riley. When Joel tells her it wasn’t her fault, she makes him swear that the Fireflies story was true. He does, and she accepts it.
The Episode Breakdown – The Last of Us – Episode 9 – “Look for the Light”
Off the bat, casting does an excellent job looping in the actors from the games. After using Troy Baker (the actor who did the mo-cap for Joel in the game) showed up, it seemed likely Ashley Johnson would as well. Sure enough, they cast her in one of the most personal roles possible. Johnson, who played Ellie in the game, plays Ellie’s mother in a tragic scene. The sequence shatters you, and lets you know that the stakes of the finale are extremely high.
The real question of both The Last of Us and “Look for the Light” is whether the sacrifice is worth all the trauma. Every moment of Joel and Ellie’s journey has been fraught. They’ve lost new and old friends on the way. They’ve had to kill and lie to get to this moment. Yet the fate of the world rests on their shoulders.
In many ways, Ellie serves as a sacrificial lamb, heading to the slaughter. She does not know what will occur when she gets there, but she knows it needs to be done. Joel, on the other, comes across as a wrathful god in “Look for the Light.” He destroys everything and everyone in his path. He cannot be touched, and his rampage leaves a trail of bodies in his wake. Of all the horrific things Joel did over the season, this is the most monstrous.
The way that Craig Mazin writes and directs the episode should inspire some controversy. As good as Joel’s revenge feels, the imagery feels closer to an act of terrorism than an act of heroism. Mazin makes his opinions of Joel’s actions obvious. This is not a good thing. It is a violent and outright brutal act that may doom the world. Yet in our current media ecosystem, many viewers read “depiction as endorsement.” It’s very probable that Mazin’s ideas are lost in the process.
Ultimately, this finale feels weaker than the few episodes that preceded “Look for the Light.” There’s nothing inherently wrong with the episode. This speaks more to the quality of The Last of Us over this time. With so many of the episodes approaching all-timer status, this finale feels slightly less captivating.
With the season over, expect The Last of Us to bring significant speculation. Will the series continue to follow the game plotline? Or is this the start of something new and different? Time will tell, and sadly, we will likely have to wait until mid-2024 for a new season (at the earliest). As long as Bella Ramsey continues as Ellie and Pedro continue as Joel, we should be in for a treat.