The Last Of Us: 5 Reasons Why I Stand Behind Joel's Decision At The End Of Season 1

Oh, boy, I have been waiting years for this moment – and now, I finally get the chance to defend my main man, Joel Miller. 

From the moment I played The Last of Us to the second I started watching the HBO adaptation of the famous series, I knew that the ending was going to make fans debate over and over again for hours on end. And now, a few days later, I finally see people from all over debating if Joel (played by Pedro Pascal), at the very end of The Last of Us Season 1, made the right decision – that is, killing literally every Firefly in that hospital and stealing Ellie away to prevent her death. 

While I’m sure you all have many questions after watching that episode, today, I’m going to focus on Joel’s decision – and why, to this day, even after watching the show, I still stand by his decision and will be a Joel-defender until my dying days. Let’s get into it. 

Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us.

(Image credit: HBO)

First Off, They Didn’t Even Give Ellie The Choice – Marlene Just Assumed She Would Want To Die 

This has to be one of the biggest things that ticked me off about the ending of both the game and the show – the fact that neither Ellie, nor Joel, were given a choice in the matter of her death. 

Marlene said that they simply made Ellie unconscious and unaware of what they had to do, saying that she would feel no “fear,” but that’s not okay in the slightest. Ellie herself didn’t even understand the mechanics of how her immunity worked – we all saw what she tried to do with Sam in Episode 5. I doubted she thought it meant her life had to end. 

Granted, you could also say that Joel didn’t give Ellie the choice in the first place to see if she wanted to do this and give up her life, but at the same time, the Fireflies didn’t even give him the chance to speak with her and have a calm discussion about this – or even to say goodbye. They should have at least gotten the chance to talk.

That’s where my big issue comes into play – the fact that Ellie isn’t even given the opportunity to speak for herself is where Joel steps into play – and because it was either shoot or be shot at, he chose the bloody way out to save his girl. 

Marlene in The Last of Us.

(Image credit: HBO)

Secondly, The Fireflies Are Seen As Terrorists – There Would Have Been No Feasible Way To Distribute A Cure

Look, I love The Last of Us cast and Merle Dandridge as Marlene is great but let’s be honest – the Fireflies are terrorists in the eyes of the government in the show. 

Regardless of what your political opinion is on the matter, do you think, that after all the trouble that the Fireflies have put FEDRA through and vice versa, that FEDRA would be willing to let the Fireflies into their zones and allow them to distribute a vaccine that hasn’t even been tested or approved by anyone to their people? No. They have been killing people left and right in the show, even with the lack of violence from the video games. 

And even if, somehow, FEDRA did end up taking this vaccine seriously – you’re telling me that it would just be distributed and everything would be hunky dory? Nah.  

The doctor about to operate on Ellie.

(Image credit: HBO)

Third, It Wasn’t Even A Guarantee This Would End In A Cure

I don’t know if you remember this, but Marlene said that the doctor in the show “thinks” he could multiply the cells from her immunity and create a vaccine. 

See that? Thinks. That doctor didn’t even know for sure if killing Ellie would lead to salvageable and civilization-saving answers.

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There is literally no way, in the history of science, that someone would be so willing to operate on someone’s brain and literally kill them without running tests and coming to a conclusive argument that death is the only way forward. You’re saying this is the only way they could have made a vaccine? That doesn’t make any sense – it’s been maybe a few hours. 

Also, did we see the state that this hospital was in? I don’t even think they would have the equipment to be able to keep that brain on ice and able to function properly once it was gone from Ellie’s head. That abandoned hospital was dirty and disgusting and was in no way, shape or form good for creating a freaking vaccine through the brain. 

This also might be a spoiler for Season 2, but in The Last of Us Part II, we find out that the doctor who was going to “create a vaccine” from Ellie’s brain was literally a veterinarian before the world went to crap. This infection and the people it affects don't exactly fall into their field of study.

While we don't know if that's the same origin story for the television show, I still don't know if I would trust the fate of humanity in some random doctor working with the Fireflies with his two assistants.

David in HBO's The Last of Us

(Image credit: HBO)

And Even If The Cure Did Happen, There Is No Guarantee That It Would Save Humanity

It has been twenty years. Twenty. The world of The Last of Us (at least in the television show) started in 2003 and has been going on for twenty years, with several different types of infected, new love stories, and even crazier people who have had to do the worst to survive. Marlene is acting as if making this vaccine is going to be what “saves humanity,” but does this version of humanity really want to be saved? 

No. It doesn’t. 

Sure, there are some societies like Jackson that might thrive off of a vaccine, but you’re telling me the Davids of the world and the powerful people of FEDRA are going to suddenly hand over their power to go back to how they were before the world went to hell? Heck no, they’re going to keep it for as long as they can and kill anyone they have to. The same goes for people who have become raiders, scavengers, and even worse – it’s how they’ve survived. They’ve become indoctrinated to this life – there’s no easy way out of it. 

Also, not for nothing, but people would not be so willing to trust this vaccine, especially from the Fireflies. As we’ve even seen with real-life events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, people can be a little less than enthusiastic to suddenly take a new vaccine when they feel inadequate testing has been done or for whatever other reason – this would be like that, but on a whole different scale. 

I don’t know, there are just so many factors into this that weren’t taken into consideration that more people need to think about.

Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us.

(Image credit: HBO)

In The Eyes Of Joel, He Did Save The World – His World 

Think about it. Joel has witnessed Ellie grow up in a matter of months. She didn’t have some quirky coming of age story – she has gone through real trauma and these two have bonded like no other. In every way, Ellie has become Joel’s surrogate daughter, and as he said in the finale, she saved him. 

So what would you do if you were told that your surrogate daughter, that you love with your whole heart, was suddenly going to be put down just for the slim chance that her immunity could make a cure that might or might not help some people when it’s not even guaranteed? Then, take into account that this might not work – then Ellie’s death would have been for nothing

Joel isn’t the biggest fan of humanity. He despises the world and is distrustful of everyone, except for one person – Ellie. That right there is his world. There is nothing quite like the love between a parent and their child, and to Joel, he did just save the world – his world, because without Ellie, he has none. 

While I’m sure everyone has their own opinion to say on this, I will forever stand by Joel’s decisions and refuse to back down. I’m not one to take opportunities on the slim chance that it might help someone when in reality, that’s just not how the world works. 

You may think what Joel did was selfish, and sure, him lying to Ellie in the end wasn’t the smartest decision – but you will not change my mind about that hospital. That’s his daughter right there – and if I was in his shoes, I would have done the exact. Same. Thing. 

Until the next season.

Alexandra Ramos
Content Producer

A self-proclaimed nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire, Alexandra Ramos is a Content Producer at CinemaBlend. She first started off working in December 2020 as a Freelance Writer after graduating from the Pennsylvania State University with a degree in Journalism and a minor in English. She primarily works in features for movies, TV, and sometimes video games. (Please don't debate her on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!) She is also the main person who runs both our daily newsletter, The CinemaBlend Daily, and our ReelBlend newsletter.