The Last of Us showrunners explain why they felt it was important to delve deeper into Joel’s struggles with anxiety and how the inclusion of his panic attacks in episode 6 represents his growing attachment to Ellie.
HBO’s The Last of Us continues to be a massive hit, with the show now delving into the back half of the season. And while the show continues to be a faithful adaptation of the beloved video game, added details and expanded sequences have continued to make their way into each and every episode.
In the most recent episode, the relationship between Ellie and Joel was stronger than ever, with the series now fully delving into the bond between the two. For Joel, his attachment to Ellie, despite trying his hardest to distance himself in the beginning, is becoming more and more apparent.
In episode 6 of The Last of Us, their newfound care and dynamic was shown through Joel’s panic at the potential of losing Ellie. In the game, Joel’s struggles with his anxiety are alluded to early on, with a bottle of anti-anxiety medication about to be spotted in his and Sarah’s house during the prologue of the game.
And while he does show moments of extreme care later on in the game with Ellie, the panic attacks in the show are a new layer to their relationship.
The Last of Us writers on why they added in Joel’s panic attacks
During the most recent episode of The Last of Us podcast, showrunners Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin spoke about how the TV series allowed them to delve deeper into Joel’s anxiety.
“It’s your body telling you that you’re in terrible danger but you don’t understand why. This episode is about Joel coming to terms with how terrified he is that she’s going to die and it’s going to be his fault. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll see as many times Joel has helped her, he’s failed her. And those are the things he dwells on. Like a lot of us, if you have core trauma the way Joel does, the things you do well are discounted but you will magnifiy your failures and tragedies until they threaten to subsume you.”
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As well as this, Druckmann and Mazin also explain how these feelings of anxiety are a way to showcase just how attached he has become to Ellie and how he beings to grapples with the fear of losing her.
“He is convinced what’s best for Ellie is to let her go but it’s to protect himself. In the game, the camera is quite far back. You swing it around the character, there’s no way to see what’s going on in the faces so we did it with dialogue. We just made Joel distant, like their relationship has gone backwards. Here, we can have intimate close up moments with the camera, we can show this in subtle ways. Ellie’s reaction is when you look at your parents who have protected you forever, you don’t want to accept they have any sort of weakness.”
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