Pedro Pascal looking good as Joel Miller in the Last of Us finale

Joel Miller Went Full Dad Mode in HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ Finale

HBO’s The Last of Us season 1 has come to an end, and with it comes the finale that fans of the game have been waiting for, because we knew from the moment Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) was interacting with Marlene (Merle Dandridge), things weren’t going to go well in the end. Marlene, who is the one who enlists the help of Joel and Tess (Anna Torv) in the beginning of the season, has been waiting for Joel to reach them for his entire journey with Ellie.

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She made it from Boston to the Firefly hospital, where they have plans to try to make a cure from Ellie’s immunity to the Cordyceps infection, which has turned the rest of the population that contracted it into dangerous fungal “infected” creatures.

And for the most part, that was the last time we saw (or thought) about Marlene, because the story since then has been about Joel and Ellie’s journey, until the finale brought us back to the Fireflies and to her. But after the last episode, where Ellie (Bella Ramsey) had to fight for her life against a cult of cannibals, she and Joel had a few moments of respite before they were thrust into the nonsense of the Fireflies. The finale, titled “Look for the Light,” was an episode that stayed relatively true to the game the show was based on, but still brought us moments that were wonderful to see played out in live action.

That’s mainly because of how both Pascal and Ramsey played the scenes. Yes, Troy Baker (who played Joel in the game) and Ashley Johnson (who played Ellie) did a phenomenal job, but the way Pascal brought his concern for Ellie out and how Ramsey reacted to everything after the cannibal ordeal was really fascinating to see. And getting to see dad-mode Joel take care of Ellie reminded us who he used to be.

The Last of Us finale’s sweeter moments

Joel and Ellie look over a low wall.

At the start of the episode, we could see Joel trying. He was checking in on Ellie and making sure she was okay while just trying to distract her from everything that happened. It was, frankly, a very dad move. There were always moments when your dad (if you had a good relationship with him) just didn’t know what to say. I know that, often, my dad would try to comfort me but just not do a great job at it. But it is the thought that counts, and that was what happened with Joel after they escaped from the cannibals.

That’s why we love Joel so much despite the less than favorable things he’s done in the name of survival. He’s cared when it mattered. From seeing the giraffe together and watching Ellie smile over it to asking her to read her bad puns, he was working to make sure she was happy despite all that had happened to her, and that was a dad move.

But it did lead into him making choices, when it came to Ellie, that meant Joel didn’t take her feelings into consideration—especially where the Fireflies and Marlene were concerned.

Lies in the name of protection

Pedro Pascal as Joel Miller hugging Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in the hospital in The Last of Us

Joel and Ellie were attacked by Fireflies who did not realize who they were, but it did feel targeted when Marlene told Joel about their plans for Ellie. Because the Cordyceps infection grows in the brain, they were ready to kill Ellie in the name of science to use her brain for a cure, but the problem was that these doctors were, frankly, not the best. And so they could have just wound up killing Ellie for no reason and still not getting one step closer to a cure. And Joel recognized that.

He fought his way to Ellie, killing everyone in his path to make sure she was safe, and when he did rescue her, he didn’t tell her any of it. Joel lied to her, and while, yes, that can feel like a betrayal, she was 14. She didn’t need to know what was at stake and what Joel did to protect her.

Yes, it will play into their relationship at some point because you know that lie isn’t going to just fade away. But it is still indicative of who Joel is. He’s willing to kill to protect who he loves. Until we know where season 2 is going to take Joel and Ellie, we know that Joel will do whatever it takes to keep Ellie safe.

(featured image: HBO)

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Rachel Leishman
Rachel Leishman (She/Her) is an Assistant Editor at the Mary Sue. She's been a writer professionally since 2016 but was always obsessed with movies and television and writing about them growing up. A lover of Spider-Man and Wanda Maximoff's biggest defender, she has interests in all things nerdy and a cat named Benjamin Wyatt the cat. If you want to talk classic rock music or all things Harrison Ford, she's your girl but her interests span far and wide. Yes, she knows she looks like Florence Pugh. She has multiple podcasts, normally has opinions on any bit of pop culture, and can tell you can actors entire filmography off the top of her head. Her work at the Mary Sue often includes Star Wars, Marvel, DC, movie reviews, and interviews.