The Last Of Us - Episode 09 - Look For The Light Review
*It’s rare that we at Player 2 cover anything that isn’t in the video game realm, but with it’s roots firmly in gaming, and the prestigious talent involved in it, HBO’s adaptation of The Last Of Us is an incredibly fascinating project. So thank you for joining us, each week as we dissected the newly released episode, from the series’ first to its last. Now, for the finale of Season One*
After two months of exceptional television we’ve finally arrived at one of the biggest junction points of The Last Of Us as a franchise. Episode 09 – Look For The Light marks the end of the first season of the series, and pulls together all of the key threads established in the 2013 PS3 game, as well as those formed through this season.
There have been a number of new and important moments introduced through this first season of The Last Of Us, and the biggest and most profound of all kicks off this season finale. The episode begins in devastating fashion, a heavily pregnant woman (Ashley Johnson, Ellie from the games) is running for her life, being pursued by runners, through a thicket. The pain she’s in is extreme as she has entered labour and her waters break as she enters an abandoned house. Unfortunately the infected pursuer succeeds in getting into the building too, but despite the searing pain of childbirth, the woman kills the infected, not before being bitten by it though. The extreme duress of the encounter however prompts what is the fastest of child-births as Ellie is born. The cord is quickly cut between the two, however the question now lingers; what will happen to the baby given that for moments, she was connected to the same bloodstream as her mother who had just been bitten. Of course, for the educated viewer, we already know that Ellie is immune, so was this the moment that her immunity was established?
It isn’t long before Marlene, and her Firefly crew have founded the abandoned homestead, and the horrible scene, the baby Ellie laying in the arms of her infected mother. Perhaps as any new mother would do if faced with the same soul-crushing scenario, she lies to Marlene, telling her that the cord was cut before the bite. She then begs Marlene to take Ellie but kill her, she does, but what will this reality of being born in blood mean for the infant?
Current day Ellie is looking pensive as she, along with a now fully recovered Joel approach Salt Lake City, the supposed new home for the Firefly’s. The script has flipped fully, Joel, normally the stony faced picture of severity is now the one trying to make the fun, engage in small talk, and even offers to teach Ellie how to play the guitar too (calm down TLOU2 fans!) His confidence is right up, feeling sure that this will work, but Ellie’s actions stand in stark contrast to Joel’s. She’s anxious, stressed, anti-social, and very un-Ellie, as communication breaks down a bit between the pair. Ellie is off her game as typical boost/ladder drops are being missed, but it flips suddenly, when the pair make one of the great discoveries from the game – giraffes. The beautiful moment reminds the viewer of the beauty that is still out there in the world, and that, as Ellie’s tension melts away, the child is still buried in there, despite all that she has gone through. As Ellie admires the view, Joel begins to grow anxious, something Ellie attempts to arrest by stressing that “It can’t be for nothing.” The two vacillate between roles of optimist and pessimist. As the pair find the hospital they become focused upon it, cracking a few puns for good measure before a grenade is thrown at them and they’re then taken away.
Joel awakens inside of the hospital, supervised by the Firefly’s, Marlene in particular as she explains the ins and outs of Ellie’s situation. It’s hard to hear as Marlene explains that the surgeons will need to cut into Ellie’s brain in order to extract what they believe that they need to save humanity. The idea of Ellie going through such an operation, and likely not surviving is not well received by Joel, but Marlene stresses that for this to happen that she too needs to betray the promise that she’d made to Ellie’s mum to keep her safe, and that she can absolutely relate to what Joel is feeling. Sensing that Joel could be a problem, and that with his job of bringing Ellie to them now complete, she instructs some armed followers to take Joel to the highway so that he can begin his trip home with permission to shoot him if required.
Joel, now feeling a connection with Ellie that perhaps rivals that of his own daughter Sarah, has been reactivated, and when a moment of opportunity presents itself to him, he lashes out, killing the followers, before returning to the hospital. What comes next is nothing short of horrific, as an unstoppable Joel storms the hospital, executing all in his way, both armed and unarmed, nothing being allowed to interfere with his path to Ellie. He finds his way to the operating room where Joel quickly executes the surgeon, before instructing the nurse to safely disconnect Ellie – he scoops the unconscious teen up and carries her down to the carpark where he again encounters Marlene, gun pointed at him. Marlene’s words cut through him as she stresses that Ellie would not have wanted this.
The story resumes hours later as Joel is driving and Ellie regains consciousness in the car. Ellie begins to ask questions about what happened, and Joel lies, withholding the truth from her as flashbacks show Joel shooting and killing Marlene as he tried to leave the carpark with Ellie. Hours pass by, and the car eventually breaks down in Wyoming as the pair travel to Jackson, forcing them to walk the remainder of the trip. Joel, sensing Ellie’s confusion and skepticism begins to make small talk, and shares stories that draw comparisons between both Sarah and Ellie. Just as the pair have nearly arrived at Jackson, Elle stops Joel and tells him about Riley, how she got bitten, and how she had to kill her, and discusses other deaths that followed that. She uses this to ask Joel if everything that he had said to her about the Fireflys and the operation was true. The story ends with Joel again lying, but Ellie accepting his story.
With the exception of the episode’s opening minutes, the finale of The Last Of Us’ first season remains incredibly faithful to the source material. Again, a host of gameplay elements, namely encounters with infected on the way to the hospital have been stripped to suit the strengths of the medium better, and the inclusion of the opening scene create a couple of points of difference, but the emotions that each of the key beats hit resonate with the viewer as powerfully as they did in the game. Look For The Light puts you through an emotional rollercoaster in ways that few shows have succeeded in doing across full seasonal arcs, let alone the space of a single, 50 minute episode. All the pieces however fall into place perfectly to set the stage for one of the most incredible, and oppressing second chapters to any form of storytelling ever.
The Last of Us is available to stream now on BINGE. This episode was reviewed with early access kindly provided by BINGE. We thank them for the access they provided through this entire season.