Skip to main content

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)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Madeline (she/her) is a staff writer with a focus on AANHPI and mixed-race representation. She enjoys covering a wide variety of topics, but her primary beats are music and gaming. Her journey into digital media began in college, primarily regarding audio: in 2018, she started producing her own music, which helped her secure a radio show and co-produce a local history podcast through 2019 and 2020. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz summa cum laude, her focus shifted to digital writing, where she's happy to say her History degree has certainly come in handy! When she's not working, she enjoys taking long walks, playing the guitar, and writing her own little stories (which may or may not ever see the light of day).