In The Last of Us Episode 9, Joel and Ellie are brought to a standstill by a herd of wild giraffes roaming the city – but why giraffes, and what does it mean?
In our review, we called it a “flawless finale for one of the strongest – if not the strongest – debut seasons in television history; infuriating, horrifying, and poignant in equal measure.”
With a few small changes, it’s a direct adaptation of the closing stretch of the game, following Joel and Ellie on the final steps of their journey as they reach the Fireflies hospital in Salt Lake City.
Before that, though, we get one of the game’s most iconic moments in live-action: the giraffes.
What do the giraffes mean in The Last of Us?
There are different readings of the meaning behind the giraffes, but The Last of Us’ original director said it’s about how animals and nature keep on going, and its ecosystem “doesn’t need humans to maintain it.”
In an earlier interview with Kotaku, the game’s director Bruce Straley and Naughty Dog co-president Neil Druckmann discussed the scene and its importance – and why they chose giraffes out of all the animals.
“Deer are too mundane. Deer are pretty small and mundane. And giraffeS are pretty incredible. You go to the zoo and you see a giraffe up close… I was in Tampa, Florida and there was a place where you could see giraffes, and it’s pretty incredible, seeing this majestic animal up close,” Druckmann said.
You can watch the original giraffes scene from the game below:
Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest updates on Esports, Gaming and more.
Straley revealed they had a zebra concept at one point. “It came down to sort of that 12 Monkeys aspect of when the community zoo has sort of like, there’s nobody maintaining it, the animals break free, what would you see roaming around?
“And the giraffe is very docile, beautiful, elegant… it’s such a fascinating creature, and then what’s the most… if you look at Ellie’s perspective, that’s the most interesting thing that you could possibly see. This elongated neck, this weird, alien animal.”
Both were asked how the giraffes were still alive, to which Straley explained: “Yeah, they just keep breeding. That’s the idea, right, nature is reclaiming the earth and its got its own ecosystem that doesn’t need humans to maintain it.”
Talking about its placement in the narrative, Druckmann said: “We knew we wanted a section where Ellie would be out of the quarantine zone and just be enamored by wildlife. And we just called that section of the game ‘wild animals,’ that was the code name for it.
“And then we just were struggling with where to put it. And once we put it after the David sequence, the whole structure kind of fell into place. It just flowed so well from one to the other, and I think without that structure, it wouldn’t have worked as well.”
The Last of Us Season 1 is available to stream in its entirety now. You can check out the rest of our coverage here.