The Last of Us fans defend Joel’s controversial decision to save Ellie

15 March 2023, 16:45

The Last of Us creators explain why Joel chooses to save Ellie

By Katie Louise Smith

"The idea that Joel was right and Ellie’s anger is justified can co-exist."

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10 years on from the debate that raged when The Last of Us game came out, viewers of the HBO series are once again arguing over whether or not Joel’s controversial actions in show's finale episode were justified or not.

The Last of Us season 1 came to a devastating end earlier this week (Mar 12), with Joel and Ellie finally reaching the end of their journey at the Fireflies camp in Salt Lake City. With the exception of a few added details and changes, the final scenes recreated exactly what players saw in the game – including Joel's infamously violent hospital rampage.

The moment played out just as brutally as it did in the game, and now people are debating if Joel was wrong for doing what he did. The show's co-creators have also explained the reasoning behind Joel's actions.

WARNING: Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us episode 9!

The Last of Us fans are defending Joel after his controversial hospital scene
The Last of Us fans are defending Joel after his controversial hospital scene. Picture: HBO

After finally making it to the Fireflies camp, Marlene tells Joel that Ellie has been taken into surgery because she is their only hope at finding a cure to fight the infection. Joel realises that the surgery will kill Ellie and he begs Marlene to find someone else. Of course, there is no one else so she goes ahead with the plan.

While Joel is being escorted out of the hospital by a couple of soldiers, he flips, kills them and moves back into the hospital, killing pretty much everyone in his path, including one man who surrenders. It’s violent, it’s bloody and it’s absolutely brutal.

He finally makes it to the OR where Ellie is lying on the table, shoots and kills the surgeon but lets the two remaining nurses live. He takes Ellie, leaves the hospital and ends up being confronted by Marlene on the way out. He kills her, puts Ellie in the car and leaves.

When Ellie wakes up in the car later in the episode, Joel lies to her saying that she’s one of several people who are immune, and that raiders attacked the hospital forcing them to leave.

The Last of Us creators explain Joel's reasoning for the hospital shootout
The Last of Us creators explain Joel's reasoning for the hospital shootout. Picture: HBO

Joel had two options in that moment: To maybe save all of humanity but lose Ellie in the process, or save Ellie and risk potentially dooming the entire world. He choses the former, and on top of that, he lies to Ellie about it after.

It’s a moral nightmare that has been splitting fan opinion since 2013. Now that debate has reared its head yet again, only on a much larger scale thanks to the popularity of the HBO series.

Some fans say that Joel was completely justified in his actions, arguing that the Fireflies were wrong, and that Ellie is a child who didn't consent to any of it. Some think Joel was selfish, senseless and went way too far, adding that Ellie would probably have said yes to sacrificing herself anyway.

Others are pointing out that both things can be true at once and there is literally no right or wrong answer. That's the point.

Was Joel right or wrong in The Last of Us finale?

Speaking on the official The Last of Us podcast, co-creator Craig Mazin explained that there’s no right answer in regards to Joel's actions.

"An answer will not be forthcoming because the truth is, you can make an excellent argument either way…It’s beyond right or not," he said. "The reality is, it’s a dilemma. And the point of a dilemma is, it ain’t easy and there isn’t one right answer. I can make an outstanding argument that Joel should have done exactly what he did and said exactly what he said to Ellie after, and I can make an outstanding argument that he shouldn’t have done any of that and that’s kind of the point."

Co-creator Neil Druckmann then added: "Intellectually, you can make the argument: ‘This choice would save the most people.' But this is not an intellectual exercise."

Additionally, during a press conference, Mazin also explained that it all comes down to unconditional love and the unconditional love that Joel now has for Ellie.

“When you love something unconditionally, logic goes out the window and you will do really horrible things to protect the ones you love. And there’s a lot of examples worldwide of this happening all the time...[There’s] greater and greater sacrifices Joel has to make for Ellie, and likewise what she’s going through to protect him. I’m confused about it morally. I think it’s a difficult choice. I go back and forth. I think a lot of people will go back and forth on it."

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