The Last of Us HBO: what happened in the season 1 finale? Ending explained

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey starred as Joel and Ellie in the hit HBO series

The Last of Us brought Joel and Ellie’s quest to find the Fireflies to a dramatic conclusion in the season finale.

HBO’s new hit has followed the unlikely duo, played by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, on their journey across post-apocalyptic America. In the last episode of the first series, the pair arrived in Salt Lake City looking to find the rebel group once and for all.

The season finale, entitled “Look for the Light”, aired on Sunday (12 March) night in the United States and the early hours of Monday (13 March) in UK and Europe. It saw the show adapt the final chapter of the Naughty Dog video game.

HBO have announced that The Last of Us will return for a second series following the blockbuster viewing figures seen during the first run of episodes. A timeline on when to expect the return has not been announced, however Pedro Pascal did hint that filming could begin later in 2023.

But what happened in The Last of Us finale and how does it compare to the video game?

What happened in The Last of Us season one finale?

In a flashback sequence, which is exclusive to the TV show, Ellie’s mum Anna is introduced on screen for the first time.

Back in the present day, Ellie and Joel arrive at the end of their journey across post-apocalyptic America as spring dawns. The duo arrive in Salt Lake City, following the hint that the Fireflies have gathered in the Utah city found at the university in episode six.

Joel and Ellie find a giraffe, allowing a moment of serenity and reflection after everything they’ve been through. The pair are caught by surprise and knocked unconcious by the Fireflies.

After being taken to a hospital, Joel discovers that Ellie is set to be operated on as part of the bid to create a vaccine - but it is a procedure that will kill her. Unable to deal with the loss of his surogate daughter, he escapes from his room in the hospital and goes on a murderous rampage, freeing Ellie and dooming humanity.

Bella Ramsey as Ellie in The Last of Us (Credit: HBO)
Bella Ramsey as Ellie in The Last of Us (Credit: HBO)
Bella Ramsey as Ellie in The Last of Us (Credit: HBO)

Does Ellie believe Joel? Ending explained

The final moments of HBO’s The Last of Us pick up as Joel and Ellie walk through a forest heading back to the settlement of Jackson, Wyoming. Ellie confronts Joel about what happened, clearly suspicious of his story, and he repeats his claims.

It is left up in the air whether she believed him or not - although it does suggest she has some doubts. It sets the ground work for the future series of The Last of Us.

The question of whether Ellie believes Joel about what happened at the hospital plays a role in the follow up game, 2020’s The Last of Us Part II, and is likely to heavily feature in the second season of HBO’s hit series.

What happened in the video game?

The series has been a faithful adaption of the original source material on the whole with a few divergences and differences to help it better translate to television. For the season finale, the same is very much true,

HBO’s The Last of Us covers the same story beats as the game in “Look for the Light”. After a jump in time following the conclusion of the David arc, the story jumped to spring as Joel and Ellie arrive in Salt Lake City.

Ellie becomes pensive as they approach the end of their journey - including during a memorable moment when after 10 plus hours of pressing triangle to boost her up to a ledge, she simply ignores the prompt.

The pair discover a giraffe before continuing on with their search for the Fireflies. After heading down into the city’s underground they face a horde of infected before nearly drowning.

They are captured by the Fireflies and Joel wake sup in a hospital, Marlene informs him that Ellie is being prepared for surgery. He is told that in order to potentially create a vaccine, they will have to remove the infected part of Ellie’s brain - killing her in the process.

Unable to accept that, Joel escapes from his room and goes on a murderous rampage, rescuing Ellie from the operating table by gunning down the doctor preparing to operate on her. He is confronted by Marlenne and kills her, before putting the unconcious Ellie in a car.