The overall shape of “The Last of Us” congeals more in its season 1 finale, where we see how Joel and Ellie now parallel Henry and Sam. Joel is willing to do anything to keep Ellie safe, even if it means massacring people and dooming the rest of humanity by depriving it of the potential cure Ellie’s immune brain could provide. Elsewhere, Craig Mazin and “The Last of Us” co-showrunner and game co-creator Neil Druckmann have said that the series is about the dangers of unconditional love. Druckmann told Empire that Henry and Sam’s deaths hammer home to Joel the importance of protecting Ellie since she’s become his only reason for living. “It was important to show that if you lose her, you lose. That’s it,” he said.
The finale also reveals that Joel previously tried to take his own life after losing his daughter early in the Cordyceps outbreak. Mazin said this revelation originally came earlier in season 1, and it would have seen Henry live to bury his brother, only to leave Joel with some bleak departing words:
“It’s the next morning, they bury Sam, and Henry essentially tells Joel, ‘You can do whatever you want, try as hard as you can, but she’s gonna die. There’s no f***ing point.’ That was actually the moment where Joel initially revealed that he himself had attempted suicide and failed. And Henry’s like, ‘No, you’re an idiot, you should have done it.’ But it was actually even darker and more disturbing that way.”
This ending tells, rather than shows, the peril and pointlessness of protecting a loved one at the cost of one’s soul, but whether it’s truly darker is up to the viewer to decide. “The Last of Us” season 1 is now streaming on HBO Max. Season 2 is in the works — here’s what to expect, according to Mazin and Druckmann.