The Last of Us finale nearly changed the game’s ending

Cameron Frew
Ellie in The Last of Us ending

The ending of The Last of Us is among the most sacred in gaming, but HBO’s adaptation nearly changed it for the show’s finale.

In our review of Episode 9, 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.”

Just like the game, the final episode of Season 1 follows Joel and Ellie as they finally reunite with Marlene and the Fireflies at the hospital in Salt Lake City.

The final moments of the show have been lifted almost shot-for-shot, word-for-word from the game – but under original plans, there may have been a few changes. Spoilers for The Last of Us to follow…

The Last of Us finale nearly had a different ending

Episode 9 ends with Joel massacring everyone in the hospital, including Marlene, before taking Ellie back to Jackson. “Swear to me that everything you said about the Fireflies is true,” she demands. “I swear,” he replies. With a pensive look on her face, she says: “Okay.” 

Right down to the music, it’s exactly the same as the game. However, in a new interview with GQ, co-showrunner Craig Mazin revealed there were discussions to alter the ending slightly.

“The change was really more something that Ali Abbasi, our director, had been playing around with,” he said.

“He had this thought of just playing out this slightly longer, sadder version where Ellie says, ‘Okay’, and then she turns and walks away. And Joel looks after her. We see the two of them walking, not really together but apart, down towards Jackson. It lingers and then fades.

“There was something beautiful about it. Everybody was like ‘what do we do?’ And there was that meta-discussion of, are the people that played the game going to be more annoyed that they didn’t get it just the way it’s supposed to be, or are they gonna be more annoyed that they only got what they had before? And then how will everybody else feel?”

As we’ve now seen, they decided to keep the original ending. “There’s something very specific about ending on that close-up of Ellie. Not knowing what comes next. Not knowing what she does. Does she walk away from him, does she walk with him, how does she feel? That moment gets suspended permanently,” Mazin added.

The Last of Us Season 1 is available to stream in its entirety now. You can find out more about Season 2 here.