‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 1: Recap And Ending, Explained: Why Is Ellie Important To The Fireflies?

The TV adaptation of one of the most popular games ever created could not have come at a better time. That is not to say that Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann’s show needs to rely on the audience’s pandemic PTSD to be effective. But just the persistent whispers of the thought that HBO’s “The Last of Us” doesn’t look reassuringly fictional anymore add heavily to the unsettling feeling that the pilot leaves behind. While the gamers have their own share of intrigue to scramble through, the expectations of the avid watchers of HBO masterpieces are met and, I daresay, exceeded by the fantastic “When You’re Lost In The Darkness.” It is an emotional pilot, even in a cold setting suffused with terror, decay, and random deaths. Pedro Pascal, Anna Torv, and the increasingly fascinating Bella Ramsey face the challenge of a character-driven apocalyptic narrative head-on and come out victorious.


Spoilers Ahead

A Prologue 

We are yanked back to 1968, the year when the horrors of climate change were first acknowledged by the scientists. Two epidemiologists passively debate the possibility of a pandemic with a sarcastic host present. While one scientist stresses the disaster that could be brought on by a viral pandemic, another, Dr. Newman, puts a whole other apocalyptic theory on the table. He talks of the generally ignored fungi that seize the body of their host, effectively mind-control the host’s physical functions, and keep the infection going without killing it off. The fungi that commonly infect insects will thrive if the temperature rises and will target humans as their new victims. And if that ever happens, mankind can be expected to lose the war.


The Introduction Of Sarah, Joel And Tommy

In 2003 Texas, we are introduced to Sarah and her father, Joel. With no mother present in the picture, the teenager is in charge of making sure that her father doesn’t forget to live a little. Sarah wakes Joel up with a birthday breakfast, waits for him to leave for work with his brother Tommy, and breaks into his drawer to take a watch and some cash. While they go on spending their days as though nothing has changed, news of a disturbance in Jakarta and military planes flying above set the tone for the horror that is to follow. Sarah visits a watch repair shop to get the watch fixed for her dad and is practically shoved out by the frantic wife of the watch repairman. On her way back, she stops by her neighbor’s house. She bakes cookies with Ms. Adler and fails to notice the unnerving physical changes in her wheelchair-bound elderly mother. She does, however, get slightly concerned about the way their dog, Mercy, stares at the woman. Back home, Joel forgets to bring the cake for his own birthday, but Sarah’s enthusiasm saves the day anyway. That is, until Joel needs to go and bail out Tommy from police custody. 

Sarah And Joel’s Lives Turn Upside Down

Waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of blasts and alarms, Sarah turns the TV on only to find a frightening broadcast. She goes out to lead the neighbor’s dog, Mercy, back to the Adlers’ house and is horrified to find a trail of blood leading to a partly eaten Mr. Adler. She looks around to find their elderly mother with tendrils coming out of her mouth and is chased out by her. Joel and Tommy happen to pull up at that very moment to grab Sarah and kill the infected woman. They run their truck through the mazes of frenzied crowds, infected individuals, blasts, and low flying planes. Tommy wonders if it is a viral pandemic, but Sarah is asking the right questions. What if it’s everywhere and there’s nowhere to run? Joel chooses the safety of his daughter over saving another family with a little kid. But before they can pass through the massacre that Texas currently is, a blast destroys their car and hurts Sarah’s ankle. Carrying Sarah in his arms, Joel runs into a member of the military with strict orders to kill civilians with no exception. Joel begs the man to let them go and assures him repeatedly that they aren’t infected. The man may be apologetic, but he can’t defy the orders that he has been given. Before Joel can take any measures to protect himself, the soldier violently opens fire on them. Tommy intervenes and shoots the military member before he can shoot them further. The aftermath, however, leaves Sarah with a fatal shot to the stomach, while Joel gets off with a scratch. As he holds the whimpering girl in his arms and watches her go silent, Joel can’t fully accept that his daughter is no more. Saying goodbye to the person who meant the most to him, Joel continues his journey to find shelter with Tommy’s assistance.


Living The Nightmare

Twenty years later, we find Boston to have been demolished by the apocalypse and can assume that the rest of the world has also fallen prey to its cruel claws. The FEDRA basecamp is visited by a little kid who turns out to be infected with Cordyceps when checked with a tester. A member of FEDRA calms the kid with the promise of new clothes and toys before administering a tranquilizing injection. In the QZ (Quarantine Zone) we see an older Joel, now working underground as a peddler of all things illegal. The stone-cold man, whose softness died with his daughter, now doesn’t find it difficult to throw the unconscious, infected individuals into a pit of fire. The QZ is controlled heavy-handedly by FEDRA’s iron rule, and civilians receive the death sentence for daring to defy the protocols. There’s a war brewing between FEDRA and the pro-democratic Fireflies. Trying his best to survive in the thick of danger, Joel receives ration tickets from a member of FEDRA in exchange for some drugs. He is advised to lay low by the man who is concerned about the recent attacks on FEDRA by the fireflies.

Joel has an in with the man who receives cryptic radio transmissions from a certain tower. We learn that Tommy and Joel have had a falling out, and Joel is actively looking for him. When he is told that Tommy is in Wyoming, Joel conjures up a plan to assemble a car to break out of the QZ and retrieve his brother. To achieve that, he needs a car battery, and that is something his partner Tess has paid Robert for. Fidgety and unreliable Robert has double-crossed Tess by taking her money and selling the battery to someone else. Now trembling in fear of being roughed up by Joel, Robert holds Tess hostage to be certain that he will not have to pay for his theft. A sudden blast sends Tess running into the crossfire between FEDRA and Fireflies. When she does manage to break out of FEDRA’s grasp alive, she goes home to Joel, and they hatch a plan to make Robert pay.


Who Is Ellie?

A little girl remains chained in a grimy room at a Fireflies camp. Their rigorous tests are always met with snark from the girl, who has clearly had enough. Knowing that she is not in her usual, relatively safe territory doesn’t stop the girl from speaking her mind as abrasively as she sees fit. We are soon introduced to the Boston leader of the Fireflies, Marlene. Her associate Kim doesn’t particularly see the point of fireflies attacking FEDRA left and right. When she asks Marlene about the ultimate agenda behind the attacks, she is met with the kind of aggressive remark that ironically sounds like something the dictatorial FEDRA would say. Kim isn’t one to be silenced that easily. She pesters Marlene long enough for her to spill the truth about the attacks. The Fireflies have been distracting FEDRA just so that they can smuggle the little girl, Ellie, out of the QZ and to the west. While Kim does see a convincing note from Salem about the significance of safely getting Ellie out of the QZ, it isn’t explicitly revealed to us just yet. Marlene makes herself known to the defensive Ellie, who isn’t scared to call her a terrorist. Ellie doesn’t understand why she hasn’t been sent back to military school. She hardly even knows anything about her own birth. Marlene tells her that she is the one who dropped her off at the FEDRA military school to keep her safe. Now that she has sneaked out of FEDRA, she has an incredibly significant purpose to fulfill.

‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 1: Ending Explained – Why Is Ellie Important To The Fireflies? 

Safely smuggling Ellie out of the quarantine zone means more to Marlene and Kim than their own lives. When the car battery that Robert was supposed to sell to Tess but sold to them instead turned out to be useless, Marlene and Kim got into a brawl with him and his crew. On their mission to fish out Robert, Joel and Tess run into the disastrous fallout of the fight and find Robert dead. Marlene has been shot in the stomach, and Kim has lost an ear in the fiery mayhem. When Ellie sees Joel, she instinctively attacks him and ends up being thrown against the wall with a gun in her face. Marlene knows what Joel and Tess are capable of, both good and bad. She realizes that they are the only ones who will be able to get Ellie out of the danger zone. While Joel is apprehensive about taking on responsibility for her at first, he quickly changes his mind when Marlene promises him the car and the ammunition he will need to reach Tommy. Joel’s initial reluctance is entirely understandable. He clearly has not moved on from the horrific death of his daughter. Even if he hasn’t lost the ability to care, he is simply terrified of being attached to someone only to feel the dreadfulness of loss again.


Joel and Tess bring Ellie to their home to wait out the day and start moving at night. Inquisitive Ellie overhears their conversation about meeting a certain Bill and Frank. She is also snoopy enough to have come across a book of hit songs listed by year. She quickly deduces the codes that the songs are supposed to be associated with. If the radio plays a song from the 60s, Joel will know that there’s nothing new in stock, and if a 70s song is played, he will know that something new is in. She may not be able to understand what the 80s songs are supposed to mean right away, but she is smart enough to pry it out of Joel and learn that it means danger ahead. Growing up as an orphan under the draconian rule of FEDRA has evidently taught Ellie a thing or two about the inner workings of people.

When night falls, Tess and Joel meticulously maneuver their way out of the dangerous QZ. Just when they think they are safe, they run into the FEDRA member who bought the drugs from Joel. He isn’t in a position to cut them any slack, considering the tense circumstances. They are ordered to get down on their knees while he checks them with the tester. Before he can read Ellie’s test result, she swiftly stabs him in the leg and gives Joel and Tess a chance to get back up. The furious FEDRA individual points a gun at Ellie, who is especially frightened because her test result came out positive. Joel is once again placed in a position where a little girl is facing death by a military bullet. He could’ve just as easily stood frozen. But trauma manifests differently for different people. At that point, Joel doesn’t necessarily care about Ellie. All he knows is that it’s his second chance at stopping the death of an innocent. With all the fury he has been hoarding up inside for decades, he brutally beats the man to death.


While the immediate danger has diminished, the two are understandably unnerved at the thought of smuggling an infected child. Ellie shows them the bite mark on her arm to reassure them that it is several weeks old. She is the very first person in 20 years to be immune to the deadly fungus. Her immunity to the infection is what motivated Marlene to send her to the west, where she could be examined. The Fireflies hope that once science gets a hold of an immune individual, it will be able to come up with a way to stop the monstrous disease.

What Do We Expect From Episode 2?

Joel is once again in a position where the very life of a child depends on him. He may not have wanted it at first, but it can be assumed that as they spend more time together, his fatherly instinct will kick in. The reluctant-parent trope is likely to find the two intriguing survivors of the apocalypse rediscovering and embracing what it is like to be loved and protected. Their journey is evidently not going to be an easy one. With the radio playing the 80s song “Never Let Me Down Again’, we can foresee the darkness they are about to fall into.


Lopamudra Mukherjee
Lopamudra Mukherjeehttps://muckrack.com/lopamudra-mukherjee
Lopamudra nerds out about baking whenever she’s not busy looking for new additions to the horror genre. Nothing makes her happier than finding a long-running show with characters that embrace her as their own. Writing has become the perfect mode of communicating all that she feels for the loving world of motion pictures.


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