The Last of Us Episode 9: We Just Learned the Secret to Ellie’s Immunity

The Last of Us Episode 9: We Just Learned the Secret to Ellie’s Immunity
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This is it, after almost a decade of waiting, the TV series adaptation of Naughty Dog’s hit video game The Last of Us comes to a head in episode 9. The season one finale sees Joel and Ellie reach the end of their mission in Salt Lake City.

Let’s recap everything that happened in The Last of Us episode 9, ‘Look For The Light’, and point out a few of the easter eggs that we found.

This article contains full spoilers for The Last of Us TV show. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch season 1 over on Binge now.

The Last of Us episode 9: Plot recap

The Last of Us Episode 9
The Last of Us Episode 9 (Image: Binge/HBO)

The finale opens with a pregnant woman, Anna (Ashley Johnson), running through the woods. She’s followed by the sound of infected. After finding refuge in a house she goes into labour with impeccable timing. Anna barricades the door but the sounds of the infected echo through the house. She pulls out a switchblade, ready to defend herself as a stalker comes bursting through the door. She stabs and kills it.

Amongst the stress of all that, she’s given birth to her baby. She’s also been bitten.

The baby screams. “Yeah, you fucking tell ’em, Ellie,” Anna says.

Later that night, Marlene (Merle Dandridge) leads a group of Fireflies into the house. She follows the sound of singing and finds Anna cradling her baby. Anne tells Marlene she cut the umbilical cord before she was bitten, meaning the baby shouldn’t be infected. She begs Marlene to take the child somewhere safe and then begs her to end her life before she turns, calling on their lifelong friendship.

Marlene takes the baby, but says she won’t kill Anna. She passes the baby onto one of the others, before she turns back and shoots Anna.

Cutting back to the present, that screaming baby is now Ellie, a haunted 14-year-old. Ellie is sitting in the back of a truck while Joel scavenges. He’s found a canned meal and a game of Boggle that he presents eagerly to Ellie, who can’t muster her usual enthusiasm.

They continue walking and Joel says he’d like to teach Ellie to play the guitar. He even cracks a few jokes, but she’s slow to respond, something clearly on her mind.

They’re approaching Salt Lake City and decide to get a better view of their surroundings from the top of a building. Joel points out that Ellie is being extra quiet, but she brushes him off. She’s in the middle of dropping a ladder for him to climb when she spots something and runs off.

Joel follows her and sees she’s captivated by a giraffe that is quietly eating leaves from the side of their building. They approach the giraffe and Ellie laughs as she feeds it leaves. It’s a magical moment.

The giraffe moves on and they chase after it, coming out onto a balcony that overlooks a herd of the animals, roaming wild and free.

The Last of Us Episode 9
The Last of Us Episode 9 (Image: Binge/HBO)

“So is it everything you hoped for?” Joel asks, calling back to a time he said a similar thing to her in Boston. “It’s got its ups and downs, but you can’t deny that view,” Ellie answers.

Joel takes this opportunity to remind Ellie that she doesn’t need to do this. They can go back to Tommy’s and forget about the cure. Ellie remains committed. After everything they’ve been through, it has to be worth it. Ellie says after they’re done she’ll follow Joel wherever he goes, but they have to finish this first.

They pass through an abandoned medical camp. Joel reveals he was in one right after the outbreak. He then explains to Ellie the reason his hearing is so bad in one ear. After Sarah died he was in a dark place and tried to end things, but he flinched, and the bullet missed, destroying his hearing.

In this emotional moment, Ellie tells Joel she is grateful that he’s still here. Joel changes the subject, saying he’s in the mood for shitty puns and luckily, Ellie has just the book for it. While they’re distracted soldiers sneak up on them and knock them out with a smoke bomb.

When Joel wakes up he’s in a hospital room where he’s confronted by Marlene and armed Firefly guards.

Marlene tells Joel that Ellie is being prepped for surgery. Their doctors have worked out how to produce a vaccine but they have to remove the cordyceps infection that’s already within her. The catch is that cordyceps grows inside the brain. There’s no way for Ellie to survive the surgery.

Joel is desperate to get to Ellie but Marlene sends him on his way with an armed escort. As they’re leading him down the stairs Joel turns on his guards, takes their weapons and kills them.

Joel retrieves his bag and makes his way through the hospital, mercilessly killing anyone and everyone who gets in his way.

Finally, he comes across pediatric surgery. Bursting into the operating theatre he finds Ellie unconscious on the table, surrounded by a doctor and two nurses. They’re about to start operating when Joel arrives. The doctor refuses to let Ellie go, so Joel shoots him. The nurses then unhook Ellie from the machines and Joel scoops her up and exits through the elevator.

When the elevator doors open to the car park Marlene is waiting for him. Marlene reminds Joel he can’t keep Ellie safe forever, she lives in a broken world that she has the power to save. Joel says it isn’t for them to decide and Marlene reminds him Ellie would’ve wanted to save the world. She offers a chance for him to put it right by letting her go.

The Last of Us Episode 9
The Last of Us Episode 9 (Image: Binge/HBO)

We cut to Joel driving down a highway. In the back of the car, Ellie wakes up, still in her hospital gown. She’s confused and Joel tells her that the Fireflies had already found a bunch of other people who were immune and the doctors still couldn’t find a way to make a vaccine. So they stopped looking. Raiders then attacked the hospital and he barely got them out alive.

As he’s speaking, we flashback to see the truth of what happened. Joel shoots Marlene and when she begs for mercy he says “you’d just come after her”, before finishing the job.

They drive back to Wyoming and start the hike to the settlement in Jackson. As they’re hiking Joel freely shares some memories of Sarah, telling Ellie he thinks they would have been good friends.

Before they head down the hill to Jackson, Ellie has to get something off her mind. She tells Joel about Riley, the first person who died on this mission for the cure, followed by Tess, Sam and Henry. Joel reminds Ellie those deaths are not on her, but she has to be sure.

“Swear to me that everything you said about the Fireflies is true,” she says. Joel looks her in the eye and lies “I swear.”

“Okay,” Ellie replies.

And that’s where Season 1 of The Last of Us ends.

Easter eggs

The Last of Us Episode 9 (Image: Binge/HBO)

Once again The Last of Us episode 9 translates the events of the game very faithfully into television, but there were a few surprises this week including:

  • Ashley Johnson, who appears as Anna in the opening of the episode, is the actress who played Ellie in both The Last of Us games. There’s a poetic irony in the fact that Ellie from the game gives birth to Ellie in the show.
  • It’s hard to say if this was intentional, but the farmhouse that Anna takes shelter in looks very similar to a location that Ellie visits in The Last of Us Part 2.
  • One major piece of information the show gave us this week was the secret to Ellie’s immunity. In the opening, we see that Anna was bitten while she was giving birth to Ellie, which seems to suggest that some of the cordyceps infection made it through to infant Ellie, but not enough to turn her. The cause of Ellie’s immunity is never revealed in the game so this is brand-new information.
  • One of the nurses in the hospital operating room is played by Laura Bailey, another cast member from the games who plays Abby in The Last of Us Part 2. Ironically, Bailey voiced one of the nurses in the first game. Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin certainly love poetic irony.

The Last of Us episode 9: Verdict

The Last of Us episode 9. HBO

In an almost identical manner to the game, The Last of Us ends with a finale that forces you to ponder the morals and ethics of the characters you’ve just spent nine episodes with and the lengths they’re willing to go to survive in this brutal apocalypse.

Throughout the first season, The Last of Us has proven itself to be not just an exceptional adaptation of the video game, but an incredible season of television in its own right.

While the show succeeds in bringing beloved scenes and characters to life in a new medium, it truly excels in the ways it chooses to expand on moments that aren’t in the game, establishing itself as a worthy chapter in The Last of Us franchise.

Read our weekly recaps: Episode 1 | Episode 2 | Episode 3 | Episode 4 | Episode 5 | Episode 6 | Episode 7 | Episode 8

Stream The Last of Us on Binge

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At Lifehacker, we independently select and write about stuff we love and think you'll like too. We have affiliate and advertising partnerships, which means we may collect a share of sales or other compensation from the links on this page. BTW – prices are accurate and items in stock at the time of posting.


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