Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal together as Ellie and Joel in The Last of Us

Joel Miller Was Right in ‘The Last of Us’ Finale

Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) is a complicated character. From the start of HBO’s The Last of Us, we knew that he was going to have some decisions to make in the end—and fans of the game, knew how some of those would play out. But now, after the release of the season finale, “Look for the Light,” fans are coming to terms with everything that happened with Joel.

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Spoilers for the entire first season of The Last of Us lie ahead.

When Ellie and Joel are captured by the Fireflies, Joel wakes up to the news that Marlene’s doctors have a plan for Ellie that doesn’t benefit her at all. She is, in this situation, the sacrificial lamb in hopes that all of society can be saved—the operation needed to use her immunity to create a cure will kill her. But that hope is not guaranteed, and Joel makes the decision not to risk Ellie’s life because of it.

But his choice does bring about issues for many, because he is, in theory, taking away the hope of a cure for the Cordyceps fungus from everyone else in the world. If this were not 20 years into the apocalypse, which they sort of have figured out by now outside of the odd encounter with an infected, it might be a different story. But the reality is that the world around them has been so destroyed, from humanity deciding to protect their own instead of those around them, that it really does make Joel’s actions a little less selfish than those of the Fireflies.

Because when you think about it, the Fireflies didn’t even give Ellie a choice. And sure, Joel also didn’t give her a choice when the time came, by lying to her about what happened, but in the moment of the rescue, there was no way for him to give that choice anyway. In making his ultimate decision to hide the truth from her, he recognized the turmoil she’s already been through for a kid and decided against telling her that there’s still a possibility she could be part of a cure, but that she’d have to die for it. And I think he’s right to do so!

Ellie is just a child

Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal together as Ellie and Joel in The Last of Us
(HBO)

The moment that sealed the fate of the Fireflies came from Marlene (Merle Dandridge) telling Joel that they didn’t tell Ellie what they were doing. If Ellie had decided that this was what she wanted, Joel would have had to come to terms with it or would have been in the wrong for stopping it. But Ellie didn’t know. The Fireflies decided that Ellie would be their sacrifice and gave her no choice in the matter.

And the reality is that not even Marlene knew their plan would even work. They just knew that Ellie was immune probably because her mother was bitten, and they’d have to examine how, in her brain, that was possible. So really, they could have killed her, used her brain, and then not made a cure out of it anyway, and Ellie would have died for nothing.

The idea that Joel should have just let it happen for the hope of a cure is, frankly, foolish. They didn’t know anything, and Ellie shouldn’t have to just die in hopes that it’ll work. If these are the “best” doctors, they should have a way of knowing for sure what would happen, and then Ellie could have decided. But that wasn’t the case.

So really, Joel was right to do it

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

Yeah, sure, it’s some “the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few or the one” nonsense, but it’s not a given. So, Joel took charge and saved Ellie because he knew that if it came down to it, she should have at least a say in her own fate. And he also knew that Marlene would keep coming for her if he didn’t stop her right then and there.

Maybe Joel needed to do less murdering and more non-lethal incapacitating in his process to get Ellie out of there, but he also knew that the Fireflies wouldn’t rest until they had Ellie dead on a table with their cure plan completely executed. So yeah, sorry, I think Joel was right to take Ellie out of there, and mainly because Ellie didn’t have a choice in her fate with the Fireflies, whether or not Joel let her have that choice later.

Joel’s lie to Ellie about what happened is also a source of contention among fans, but again, she’s just a kid. I get his knee-jerk reaction to lie to her. I’m sure he’s going to regret it, but in that moment, I don’t think he was wrong. So this is a Joel Miller defense account.

(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.