Skip to main content

‘The Last of Us’ Episode 6: That Cliffhanger, Explained

Joel and Ellie sit at a bar in The Last of Us.

After half a season of heartbreak, episode 6 of The Last of Us finally gives us a little breathing room—only to end on the season’s biggest cliffhanger yet. What does that last scene mean for Joel and Ellie? What’s likely to happen next?

Major spoilers for The Last of Us episode 6 ahead!

Joel and Ellie find the Firefly lab

To recap: Joel and Ellie make it to Wyoming, where miraculously, they’re picked up by an armed band that’s connected to Joel’s brother, Tommy. Joel and Tommy have an emotional reunion, and Joel confides in Tommy that he’s trying to get Ellie to a Firefly lab where they can use her blood to create a vaccine. After learning that the closest Firefly base is in Colorado—and briefly deciding to pass Ellie off to Tommy and stay in the community of Jackson—Joel decides to take Ellie there himself, and the two go for a weeklong horseback ride before reaching the University of Eastern Colorado.

However, the Fireflies are gone. They’ve abandoned their lab with little way to find them. Joel and Ellie stand in the abandoned lab, trying to figure out what to do, when a band of raiders comes upon them.

Joel and Ellie flee, but not before one of the raiders manages to stab Joel. Once they’re some ways away from the university campus, Joel passes out from blood loss, falling off the horse and lying unconscious in the snow.

The episode ends with Ellie kneeling over Joel, pleading with him to wake up. Ellie is by herself, in the middle of winter, with no shelter and no way to know where to go. Even worse, the one figure she’s come to rely on is dying.

Is Joel dead?

To put it bluntly: No. Of course not. Come on, Joel has the thickest plot armor in the whole series! You think he’s going to die of one measly stab wound?

What makes the cliffhanger so great, though, is that it’s not at all clear what Ellie’s options are. She could go back to the university and throw herself at the mercy of the raiders—one of whom Joel left with a snapped neck. She could forge ahead and try to see what help might be out in the wilderness. Or she could stay with Joel by the train tracks, hoping that he pulls through (and both of them don’t freeze to death).

All three of those are pretty bad options, though, so what happens next week is anyone’s guess.

(featured image: HBO Max)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Julia Glassman (she/they) holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and covers film, television, and books for The Mary Sue. When she's not making yarn on her spinning wheel, she consumes massive amounts of Marvel media, folk horror, science fiction, fantasy, and nature writing. You can check out more of her writing at, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.