In short: Mazin and Druckmann say Ellie definitely didn’t buy Joel’s (Pedro Pascal) story. The smuggler told his cargo-turned-family that there are other immune people, that the Fireflies stopped looking for a cure, and that her missing clothes were thanks to raider attacks. While Ellie initially seems receptive to this story as she wakes up from anesthesia, she’s stricken by guilt about the fact that she survived soon after. According to the show’s co-creators, these final scenes point to the most obvious conclusion: on some level, she knows Joel is lying.
“I’m not sure if Ellie is saying you’re lying to me and I’ll move on, or you’re lying and we’re now changed forever in a negative way, or you’re lying and it’s incredibly important to you, and because I love you I won’t dwell on it,” Mazin tells the podcast. He adds that she also might be “so terrified of the truth that she wants to believe him.” It’s that emotionally raw open-endedness that made the end of “The Last Of Us” so powerful when it was released, and the implications of that final conversation carry over into the sequel as well.
“It can be any of those things, and that’s why I love it,” Mazin says of the ending. “There was never an option of her believing it. She will simply choose to believe it, and the why will come later.” Ramsey, whose fantastic performance as Ellie has layered in both endearing naivety and unexpected world-weariness throughout the season, nails all of this with her lingering last look.