The Last of Us Episode 9 Review: How to Save a Life

Season One of The Last of Us reaches its conclusion as Joel and Ellie reach the Fireflies HQ to develop a cure. Gamers know exactly what it’s leading up to and it’s very satisfying to see in live-action. The finale is equal parts heartwarming and chilling as we wrap up on the gold standard of video game adaptations.

The Last of Us Episode 9 Review: How to Save a Life

We’re finally at the end of our journey with The Last of Us season 1. Finally, gamers can reach that moment from the last chapter of the game. It’s a difficult moment for sure and while it was tough to present that in the game, it’s more of a challenge in this adaption. Luckily, the creators knew how to pack a punch and end this brilliant television season. I’m curious to know the reaction from people who haven’t played the game, but one thing is for sure, viewers will remember this.

The Last of Us Episode 9 is now available on HBOMax. If you missed last week’s episode then read our review to catch up.

This review will contain full spoilers for the entire episode.

The Last of Us | Official Trailer | HBO Max

Story: The Decision

We reached the moment that had gamers debating about for years and it’s a still a hot button debate. Joel and Ellie finally reach the Fireflies headquarters, but there’s a twist. What Joel doesn’t know until he gets there is that they have to kill Ellie in order to make the cure. Despite being cold and distant from the beginning, he sees Ellie now as a daughter figure and does the unthinkable; he kills the Fireflies and saves Ellie. Or you can phrase it as Joel destroys the chance for a cure in a very selfish act. Looking back, the show has been setting Joel’s reasoning since the start.

On the flip side, the show has also set up that Ellie wants to help other with the cure because what else is there for her? After all the hardships and horrors she’s been through, at least there’s a purpose to it. Granted she didn’t know that she would die for the vaccine, but Joel robbed her of that chance. The decision is brilliantly adapted to the screen as these conflicted feelings are how I felt when I played the game and when I was watching this episode. People will constantly debate about this for months on end, but one thing is for sure, the show outdid itself with this.

Joel learns the truth about the cure.

Joel learns the truth about the cure.

Characters & Performances: Not Just Time That Heals All Wounds

The challenge of writing these reviews is the repetition of praising Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey performances. I just want to scream it to the world that these two are perfect casting. They both get a moment to shine and share their brilliant chemistry together. The big scene with Pedro is how he describe the scar wasn’t from a fight, but when he tried to kill himself. It just breaks your heart to see the trouble he went through, but it turns into something beautiful. This is the most vulnerability we’ve seen from Joel as he tries to tell Ellie that he loves her. The little touches that Pedro give just melts your heart.

Passing the Torch

We’ve gotten many actors from the video game to make an appearance in the show which is always great to see voice actors get the spotlight. The most anticipated appearance has to be Ashley Johnson as Ellie’s mom, Anna. There was going to be a prequel short to the game about Anna, but it never got off the ground. It’s great to see that become a reality in the finale and the poetic energy that Ashley Johnson gets to play Anna is quite beautiful. In only a few scenes, she kills it as Johnson always does. The shot of her holding Ellie seconds after she’s born is amazing and also a great passing of the torch scene. 

Ashley Johnson has a knack for playing a badass.

Ashley Johnson has a knack for playing a badass.

Cinematography & Sound: Going to the Hospital 

Of all the scenes they’ve recreated, the hospital scene might be the most impactful. While it’s the same as the game, the feeling is slightly different as you’re watching this man kill all the soldiers, not playing as him. The addition of having focus of the soldiers dead bodies on the ground is impactful. It’s not just quick shots, but it lingers to make you feel the gravity of it. There’s something else that really hit me and that’s where we see Ellie is at the pediatric wing in the hospital. Joel is walking up to the room and to see the cute murals and playrooms contrast with the horror he’s committed just sticks with you. The capper is the fantastic score as it crescendos to emotional heights.


It’s not all doom and gloom in the finale as we get my favorite scene in the game, the giraffes! Ellie discovers them and they even get to feed one. The giraffes represent such beauty and hope in the world that honestly makes you pause and take it in. I’m glad they didn’t rush this scene and let us process it just like the characters. And the fact that they used a real giraffe is pretty amazing to see.

I want to feed a giraffe so badly.

I want to feed a giraffe so badly.

Editing & Pacing: No Fat to Trim

I was a little skeptical to see that the finale was just under 45 minutes long as there’s a lot of ground to cover. That and including scenes about Anna would mean that some things would get lost. Never doubt this show, because everything rolled at a smooth pace. Some might find the ending a little abrupt, but it works as a needle drop. To add anything more towards the end would have dampen the final line.

The season finale of The Last of Us caps off the best video game adaptation in history so far. To take a sequence from the game that's ingrained in video game history and not only recreate it, but harness the essence of what we felt is fantastic to witness. The amount of love I have for Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in these roles knows no bounds. It’ll be a long wait for season two, but in the meantime, I’ll be happy to know that video game adaptations have reached the gold standard.
  • Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey
  • Ashley Johnson
  • The giraffe scene
  • Hospital Rampage

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