The Last of Us Ending Explained and What to Expect in Season 2

The Last of Us season 1 has come to an emotional and divisive end. Here's everything that happens and how it could affect Joel and Ellie in season 2.

Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) look out into the distance in The Last of Us
Photo: Liane Hentscher/HBO

This Last of Us article contains spoilers.

After nine emotional weeks, The Last of Us season 1 has come to an end. While this ending will likely be divisive, as it was when gamers first experienced it in The Last of Us Part I, there’s no denying that it’s satisfying to see Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) finally reach the end of their journey. After escaping hordes of infected, misguided militias, and pervy cannibals, the two deserve some peace.

No matter where you stand on Joel’s decision at the end of the episode, “Look for the Light” wraps up their story nicely while still leaving things open for season 2. Here’s everything that went down in the season 1 finale and where season 2 could go from here…

Who Is Ellie’s Mother?

The episode begins with a young, pregnant woman named Anna (Ashley Johnson, the original Ellie actor from the video games) running from infected. She makes it through the woods to an abandoned house, where she barricades herself as she begins to give birth. The infected makes its way into the house, where the woman is forced to fight it off alone. She manages to kill the infected, but not before it bites her in the leg. Her baby is born while all of this is happening, so she isn’t able to cut the umbilical cord until after the bite.

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Later, a group of people, including Marlene (Merle Dandridge) come upon the farmhouse hoping to meet Anna, but soon realize that they are too late. Marlene apologizes for being late, telling Anna that leaving the Boston QZ was more challenging than anticipated. Anna leaves the baby, who she has named Ellie, and her knife with Marlene, asking her to protect the baby with her life and to kill her before the infection makes her lose control. The two have been friends their whole lives, so Marlene has a hard time pulling the trigger on Anna. But in the end, she respects Anna’s wishes and kills her before she turns.

Ellie and Joel Find the Fireflies

After the flashback to Ellie’s birth, we reunite with Joel and Ellie on their way into Salt Lake City. It seems like their journey has reignited something within Joel, and this is the happiest we’ve seen him since the outbreak and losing Sarah (Nico Parker). Ellie, on the other hand, is uncharacteristically quiet, barely acknowledging Joel’s attempts to connect with her. She seems sad that their journey is almost over and worried that they’ll go their separate ways after finding the Fireflies.

But despite Ellie’s fears, they manage to have some touching moments together as they make their way to the hospital. While trying to find a vantage point in an abandoned skyscraper, Ellie spots a giraffe eating the foliage that surrounds the building. Joel hands her some leaves, and she feeds the gentle giant before it walks off to join its family. They step outside and admire the view, mirroring one of their first scenes together in Boston before Joel tells her that they don’t have to find the Fireflies, that they can just go back to Tommy in Jackson and live out their lives. Ellie wants to continue forward, insisting that all of the loss that she’s dealt with since her bite can’t be for nothing and that they have to finish what they started. But she reassures Joel that she’s willing to stick with him, and once the Fireflies are done running their tests and working on the cure, then they can go back to Tommy’s, a sheep ranch, the moon, or wherever Joel wants to go.

They walk further into the city, coming across long abandoned medical triage tents in front of the hospital. Ellie asks Joel what these were for, and Joel tells her about the time he found himself in a similar medical encampment after the outbreak. It wasn’t because he was nearly infected, but instead because of the gunshot wound on the side of his face. In a heartfelt moment, he finally lets Ellie in and tells her about his attempted suicide after losing Sarah on outbreak day. The person who shot and missed wasn’t some random guy with bad aim, it was Joel himself flinching in a moment of hesitation. Ellie thinks that he’s telling her this simply because enough time has passed to finally heal the wound that losing Sarah left within Joel, but he lets her know that it wasn’t time that healed him, it was spending this time with her.

To lighten the mood, Joel tells Ellie that he’s in the mood for some “shitty puns.” Ellie gladly pulls out her pun book and shares more of Will Livingston’s gems before they’re suddenly ambushed by a group of armed men. Thankfully, these men are part of the Fireflies and not just some random raiders that Joel and Ellie have to fight off. Joel wakes up in the Fireflies’ hospital base, where Marlene apologizes for her patrol men and lets him know that Ellie wasn’t hurt by the smoke bomb.

Can Ellie’s Immunity Make a Vaccine or Cure for Cordyceps?

Marlene then fills Joel in on the tests they were able to run on Ellie while he was unconscious. They learned that the Cordyceps within Ellie has likely grown inside her since birth – a side effect of the unique timing of Anna’s infection. The Cordyceps within Ellie gives off chemical markers that makes “normal” cordyceps think that she is the fungus. The Fireflies’ doctor wants to remove this benign version of the infection from Ellie in order to replicate the chemical messengers that it gives off. With those chemical markers, the doctor believes that he can develop a cure for the fungus.

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Unfortunately, because cordyceps grows so heavily in the brain, removing it from Ellie would kill her. Joel obviously won’t stand for this, so he attacks his Firefly escorts and takes down anyone who stands between him and Ellie.

The Aftermath of the Hospital and the Return to Jackson

Joel doesn’t hesitate to kill the Fireflies’ doctor or even Marlene to get Ellie out of that hospital and save her life. Ellie has already been sedated for the surgery, so she doesn’t come to until Joel is already on the road back to Jackson. She is confused as to why they left already and why she’s still in a hospital gown, but Joel does his best to put her at ease by lying to her about what happened. He tells her that raiders attacked the hospital and that he barely got her out alive. He says that there were dozens of others with immunity, but that it ultimately means nothing and the Fireflies have given up on finding a cure.

Ellie doesn’t press Joel, but she can tell that he’s keeping something from her. When they get closer to Jackson, she tells him about Riley and why she wants her immunity to mean something. She makes him swear that everything he told her about the Fireflies in Salt Lake City is true, and he does. She accepts this for now, though the range of emotions seen on her face makes it clear that she still doesn’t quite believe him.

What to Expect in The Last of Us Season 2

This section does not contain the biggest spoilers for The Last of Us Part II but those who want to go into season 2 completely fresh should stop reading here.

Joel and Ellie’s journey may appear to have come to an end, but thanks to The Last of Us Part II, the series has plenty of story left to tell. Season 2 of The Last of Us is expected to adapt the controversial second game, but given how much bigger this game is, we likely won’t see the entirety of its story in season 2. However the series decides to break up The Last of Us Part II, there are a few things that should be safe to assume we’ll see in the show.

The main story in Part II takes place about five years after the events of The Last of Us Part I, though there are some flashback scenes that show some of what Joel and Ellie have done in the years between the games. While Joel is in Part II, the gameplay focuses more on Ellie and a new character named Abby Anderson. Joel’s decision to save Ellie at the hospital is the reason that Abby crosses paths with the two. It turns out that even in this violent world, killing a bunch of people, no matter the reason, can still have consequences.

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Ellie and Abby become entangled in a cycle of violence and vengeance that takes them both to Jackson and the surrounding wilderness, Seattle, and Santa Barbara over the course of the game. These locations, both new and familiar, help expand this world by introducing new factions like the Firefly-adjacent Washington Liberation Front, the religious extremist Seraphites, and the sadistic slavers known as the Rattlesnakes as well as new stages of infected, like the acid-spore throwing Shamblers and the terrifying monstrosity known as the Rat King. In other words, season 2 will expand this world much further than even its inaugural season.

No release date has been set for The Last of Us season 2.