According to Mazin, “It was a joke then, but here we kind of answer the question of who the mom is. And in a way, Marlene was her mom because from basically two hours after she’s born, Marlene becomes the woman who looks after her.” But as Druckmann points out later in the interview, if Marlene does have a maternal sort of love for Ellie, it’s tempered by her sense of duty for the greater good. “They both kind of have accepted this kid, and they’ll do anything they need to protect them,” Druckmann says. “But for Marlene, her love is much more outward and broad for all of humanity, that she’s willing to sacrifice her own morality and what she believes is right.” Joel, as he points out, “is the exact opposite of that.”

There are plenty of other reasons Druckmann and Mazin cite for putting Ellie’s birth scene in the show at the last minute. It “hurts more,” as Mazin says, plus it points to “the nature of [Ellie’s] immunity.” It also hearkens back to a point of innocence, however brief, in Ellie’s story just after we see her most upsetting, innocence-shattering moment. Plus, from a writer’s standpoint, Mazin points out that we begin this story with Joel as the closest thing we get to a main character, and only learn about Ellie as the pair get to know one another. “We are discovering her through him,” Mazin shares. “It’s better to watch her becoming who she is with him and let that relationship be its own thing.