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The Symbolism of This ‘The Last of Us’ Casting Choice Broke My Entire Heart

Ashley Johnson returned to the Last of Us franchise to play as the mother of her original character, Ellie.

The last episode of HBO’s The Last of Us opens with a pregnant Firefly running into a farmhouse. There are enough contextual clues to help us understand that this is Ellie’s late mother before it’s explicitly stated—but there’s one very obvious clue that had me gasping when I first heard her voice.

As the mother—whose name was revealed to be Anna—breaks into the house, screaming for help, I realized (with no small degree of excitement) that the actress was literally Ellie from the video games. Although Ellie’s game model was its own unique thing, her voice belonged to Ashley Johnson, who now physically starred as Ellie’s mother in the show. To quote a certain golden retriever, what is this, a crossover episode???

Thus far, the entire show has been full of loving nods to the original game, from song choice to future character inclusions. It’s very clear that, regardless of how well certain plot beats land, this show has been a labor of love more than anything else. But in my opinion, this is probably the most loving inclusion they could have possibly made.

Ashely Johnson’s voice gave Ellie so much character and definition. It’s gruff, yet girlish in a tomboy sort of way, and it fit Ellie perfectly from her innocent teens to her murderous young adulthood. To have her literally birth the “new” Ellie was something kind of special and symbolic, a demonstration of her connection to this character.

They touch on this more in the post-episode inside look, too, which I recommend watching for Johnson’s insights alone:

Ultimately, this was a really meaningful way to begin the end of this first season. The torch has been passed, and we have no doubts that Bella Ramsey will continue to carry Ellie’s beloved spirit onwards!

(Featured Image: HBO)

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Madeline (she/her) is a writer, dog mom, and casual insomniac. Her prior experiences with media have taken her down many different roads, from local history podcasts to music coverage & production. Niche interests include folk music, elves/wizards, and why horses are cool actually.