Ellie isn’t someone you would consider lucky, would you? Except maybe when you take into account her immunity to Cordyceps, the deadly infection introduced in “The Last Of Us” Episode 1 . Saying that someone who’s been through all that Ellie has is lucky may even look as though one is being inconsiderate or cold. With that in mind, I would still say that it takes luck to be born to a warrior of a mother, and it incontestably takes luck to find a father like Joel in the thick of an apocalypse. And if anyone can be a worthy daughter to these two, it is Ellie.
A perilous fungus rocking the boat and transforming the world into a gigantic grave is definitely not the picture Anna had in mind when she imagined being a mother. Yet fate doesn’t concern itself with the plans people may have had for their future. The disease struck mankind, and there she was, a pregnant Anna, all alone in the ruthless woods, frightened out of her mind. Anna would have had half the anxiety she had then if another life hadn’t been growing within her. On and ahead walked an expecting mother when the impossible feat of keeping quiet was demanded of her. And maybe she would have achieved quietude hadn’t fate decided that it was time for her to give birth. Who in their right mind can expect a woman in labor not to scream bloody murder? And yet, keeping in mind just how much she stood to lose if she howled in pain, Anna showed superhuman restraint and kept it as low-key as she possibly could.
Finding a rundown shelter isn’t the promise of safety that she had hoped for it to be. Even fencing herself in didn’t stop the vicious infected from attacking her like a rabid animal. Labor is a battle enough without having an undead force of Cordyceps attempting to brutalize her and spread the fungus to her and her baby. As she was eviscerating the infected with a petite switchblade, Anna didn’t even know that she had already given birth. And the first course of action taken by the depleted mother after eliminating the threat was to sever the umbilical cord. The second was to take her newborn daughter in her arms and name her “Ellie” with a smile. Anna was devastatingly aware of the bite on her thigh. Still, what kept her from wondering if Ellie had been infected in the chaos was her motherly hope. Holding a knife to her own throat to end her life the second she showed a discernible sign of turning wasn’t even a hard decision for Anna to make.
Of course, that was when she had already started to give up hope for Marlene to show, and she had to protect Ellie from herself if the metamorphosis was to occur when she was alone with her newborn. The moralistic high horse has never been an option for parents whose love for their children transcends all senses of right and wrong. Anna chose to cling to the lie regarding when she had cut the umbilical cord. She couldn’t leave it to Marlene to wait for a sign of infection before losing hope for the infant. If she had a smidge of a clue that Ellie was still tethered to Anna when the infected bit her, Marlene most likely would have turned her back on them both. By lying to Marlene, Anna made sure that she would protect her baby. And even as Anna was dying, she was at peace knowing that her baby girl was in good hands.
Ellie has never known her biological father, and it is unlikely that she ever will. When she first came to be taken under Joel’s wing, he only had the emotional capacity to see her as cargo that needed to be transported for a reward. Loving her like his own daughter wasn’t something that Joel could ever have seen coming. And yet, the same man who put his foot down and vouched for his coldness as he reminded her that she wasn’t his daughter is the same man who now gives it his all to see a smile on her face. A long, dreadful path has been walked by the two. What began as Joel transporting the sole immune human being to the doctors so they could prick and prod her to come up with a vaccine has, down the line, altered into him moving mountains to protect the little girl, whom he now loves, and maybe even more than himself.
Saving the world at the cost of losing Ellie is something only an old Joel could have gotten himself to do. But that’s not something that can be expected of a father. He didn’t think twice before ferociously mowing down the entire hospital and leaving it a bloodied battlefield if it meant that Ellie could be saved. What world would he be making better if there was to be no Ellie in it? As I said before, the equilibrium of right and wrong isn’t a steadfast moral compass in the baffled psyche of a parent whose one choice determines the fate of their child. Joel was faced with two alternatives: one where the world stood a chance to recover from a fatal ailment and another where he could keep Ellie safe while giving mankind the cold shoulder. If you were to split Joel into two halves and have them duel each other in a perplexing moral conundrum, you would come to realize that it was the father in him that bypassed the system and transformed the moral dilemma into a battle of personal will.
To love someone is to choose them over anything and everything else. It was a choice made by a father, albeit a selfish one, if you unbiasedly tally up the worth of one life to the worth of all of mankind. And that is where a parent’s moral compass is alien to most of us who are not in charge of ascertaining a person’s survival. Joel did save his world, for Ellie is the whole world to him. The reason why Anna chose to lie is echoed in the nuanced lies that Joel concocted to protect Ellie from the severity of the bewildering truth. It is only telling of the overwhelming extent a parent can go to for the well-being of their child. It is proof of a parent’s infinite capacity for love and sacrifice, and their ability to hold in a lot of pain if it means that their little one can be alright.