The Last of Us 1×09 Review: “Look for the Light”

The Last of Us season 1 episode 9 review
Ellie in ‘Look for the Light’ (Screengrab: The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 9)

Well my friends, we are finally here. The season one finale of The Last of Us titled ‘Look for The Light’ has come, and not only does it have the shortest runtime of any of the episodes it also brought Joel and Ellie’s story to a close… for now.

After watching episode 8 last week, I was really skeptical if this show would be able to pull off a fitting and successful finale to our entire run with Joel and Ellie over the course of the current season. So, did they accomplish this? Well, let’s find out!

Firstly, we got a brief flashback of Ellie’s origins with her mom, Anna, played by Ashley Johnson (who brought Ellie to life in the video game). The likeness between Ellie and Anna was uncanny, and it was nice to find out that the role of Ellie truly came full circle between the game and the show. It felt so tragically bittersweet that a mother’s last few fleeting moments of life would be with her newborn daughter in a world that is no longer safe. But at that moment, it was just them two.

I have to say Johnson killed that role. I thought it was a nice touch to vaguely offer an explanation of Ellie’s immunity that, at the time of her birth, she was exposed to the Cordyceps virus, but rather than it taking over her, It basically would become dormant within Ellie for her entire life. It was a one-in-a-million chance circumstance that led to everything she and Joel had to face in the present day. Marlene being the one to be there during Ellie’s birth also gives us context to the very beginning of the show and why she was so familiar with Ellie and adamant about her survival. 

From there, ‘Look for the Light’ just becomes so damned rushed. We see this very apparent disconnect between Joel and Ellie. You would think they would be thick as thieves, but while Joel tries to cheer her up, Ellie is dealing with the harsh reality of all the trauma that has weighed on her, and it’s leaving her distant and just emotionally gone. 

The pack of giraffes was a nice scene in all the bleakness. It was nice to see that life still has beauty in it and is moving forward despite the apocalypse right before our eyes. We finally get Joel to open up about his failed suicide attempt after the loss of Sarah. And he basically confesses that Ellie was the one that saved him. An emotional moment that felt so raw but gets so quickly snatched away that we don’t even get enough time to really sit with it. I mean, we’ve waited for a heart-to-heart like this for the entire show, and just as we get it, we are swept away by a flashbang by the Fireflies. 

It’s at this point that the short runtime does not do this show justice because now the show has to do the heavy lifting to close things out with a satisfying payoff, and unfortunately, we’re sprinting to the finish line. Joel awakens to Marlene and a couple of Firefly soldiers in a virtually abandoned hospital. Marlene adds context that Ellie is essentially a kind of chemical messenger to the Cordyceps, which basically means it does not recognize Ellie as a potential host; rather, it sees her as already infected. While great for her survival, it also means that in order to extract such resistance, it will need to be taken from her brain, in all likelihood killing her. 

And so we have the old back-and-forth since the release of the first game, is Joel’s decision justified? It’s an argument we have heard before, one between picking rationality and emotional choice. It really has you sit and ponder… what would I do? Save the entire world and lose the one thing that makes me strong enough to keep going? Or forsake humanity and go on living knowing that I get to keep my world together just a little longer?

There are those who look at Joel with disdain because they justify it as ending one life to save millions. But those who sympathize with Joel can look at his decision and safely say that they would do exactly what Joel did.

Joel rampages through the Firefly hospital in a montage that I just could not get behind, not because of, well, you know, murder… but because you really want me to believe that Joel took out floors of Firefly agents who are powerless to stop him and survive the ordeal without a scratch on him?

‘Look for the Light’ should’ve honestly been split into a 2-parter because everything was rushed to get to the ending. Marlene is murdered virtually unceremoniously, and Joel rescues Ellie. 

As Ellie comes to, Joel lies to her while on their way to Tommy’s settlement, telling her that an accident happened, how everyone died, there was no cure, and that there were so many immune patients out there that they didn’t know what to do with them. And I’m just in pain, watching that scene, as he spins these lies because Ellie feels it in her bones that he’s lying. The finale ends with Ellie telling Joel to swear to her that what he said was the truth and Joel lying again.

I just..  I was disappointed, to be perfectly honest, not just in Joel but in the fact that this episode was gutted to give us a speed-run version to get to the end credits. It was like, as soon as an emotional scene came up, I just ended up getting whiplash because we just moved on to the next scene. As the audience, you don’t get the necessary time to feel the emotional weight of this long journey and the peril and the trauma that these two characters have suffered to get here. It almost felt disrespectful to both Joel and Ellie to rush it the way that it was. 

Overall I wouldn’t say it was wasted time. I think the show and its source material are astounding, but this final episode definitely left a sour taste in my mouth. Season two is confirmed, and I can’t wait to see the ramifications of this lie because it is only going to lead to ruin for both Joel and Ellie.

Thanks for sticking here with me at The Geekiary and fanning out with me to this overall wonderful first season of The Last of Us.

I will see you next time!

Author: Micah Carrillo

Micah is studying English and Digital Design. His love of geek culture spans across diverse mediums and genres. Comics, anime, films, you name it! He enjoys video games on the Nintendo Switch and Xbox.

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