Warning: Major spoilers ahead for The Last of Us episode 9.


We're going to need several working weeks to recover from The Last of Us episode 9.

The finale episode to the wildly popular HBO series saw Pedro Pascal's Joel and Bella Ramsey's Ellie finally reach the Fireflies in the hopes of providing a cure - but things were nothing like they expected.

In the end, Joel is forced to make the ultimate choice - and not everyone is going to agree with him.

The spectacular episode also starred Ashley Johnson, who voiced Ellie in the games, as Ellie's mum Anna, and brought back Marlene (played by Merle Dandridge in both the show and games) - although not for long.

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After that shock ending, thankfully The Last of Us has been renewed for season 2 and, with both of our heroes just about making it out alive, clearly Joel and Ellie's story is going to continue.

But will their relationship ever be the same again? And has Joel doomed humanity forever?

What happened in The Last of Us episode 9?

The finale episode of The Last of Us begins with a heavily pregnant woman, played by Ashley Johnson, running away from infected through the woods. She races to an abandoned building, where she's clearly expecting to meet someone - but there's no one to be found. It becomes clear that she's in labour and, with the threat of infected getting ever closer, she's forced to deliver the baby on her own.

She calls the baby Ellie and shares a sweet moment with the newborn. Hours later, Marlene (Merle Dandridge) finds the pair of them, along with a dead infected. Anna has been bitten and asks Marlene to take her to Boston and find someone to raise Ellie, before handing her a gun. Marlene refuses to shoot Anna but, after hearing her cries, goes back and kills her.

Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us episode 9
Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us episode 9 HBO

Actress Johnson is best known for voicing Ellie in The Last of Us games and told RadioTimes.com and other press that she relished the opportunity to play her mother.

"The only thing we have about Ellie's mum [in the game] is her little note that she wrote. I had written that out and I put it in my pocket during the scenes just to have that little something from the game. We were able to do what we wanted with it, which was fun," she explained.

We then return to the present day, after a traumatised Ellie was forced to kill David in episode 8 before being rescued by Joel. The pair continue their journey, but Ellie is clearly not herself, despite Joel's efforts to bring her back.

The pair encounter mountains of rubble in their way, so they cut through a building and Joel gives Ellie a boost so as she can push a ladder down to him. But before she can, she gets distracted, running up the floors, only to discover a giraffe wandering through a park below.

Ashley Johnson in The Last of Us
Ashley Johnson in The Last of Us HBO

Joel decides it's time to give Ellie an out, telling her that they don't have to continue and that there will likely still be risks. He offers her the option of going back to Tommy's, but she says that everything she's done can't be for nothing. "We finish what we started," she says.

As they continue on, Joel tells Ellie that the scar on his head is as a result of him trying to take his own life after the death of his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) and she tells him she's glad it didn't work. She tries to cheer him up with some jokes from her book of puns and, just as the pair relax into their journey, they're ambushed, with Joel covering Ellie as a grenade is thrown towards them.

A man knocks Joel out while others grab Ellie. Joel wakes up in a hospital bed with Marlene watching over him. He insistently asks where Ellie is, and Marlene says she's being prepped for surgery. When Joel asks what surgery, Marlene explains that their doctors think that the Cordyceps has been with her since birth, and that they will remove it from her, produce the same chemical messengers artificially in the lab, which could provide a cure to the infection.

As Joel states: "Cordyceps grows inside the brain," he realises there's no way Ellie's getting out of this alive and, as he demands to be taken to her, Marlene's soldiers fight back. Marlene tells him: "I'm sorry. I have no other choice," and Joel responds: "I do."

Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us.
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us HBO/Warner Media

She orders the soldiers to take Joel back to the highway and, if he tries anything, to shoot him. As Joel's being marched out of the hospital, he takes a look at the map beside the lifts and, when an opportunity arises on the stairs, wrestles the gun off of the nearest soldier, shooting those accompanying him.

Joel gears up using the dead soldier's gun and ammo, and begins his rampage through the hospital, leaving bodies in his wake. He finally makes it to the room where Ellie's being prepped, killing the surgeon. He picks Ellie up and heads out of the hospital.

However, when he makes it to the parking lot, he's confronted by Marlene, who points a gun at Joel and insists that Ellie "would want to do what's right." She says it's not too late, and Joel looks down at Ellie, before we cut to him driving away.

His shocking decision is revealed when Ellie wakes up in the backseat of the car. He tells Ellie that the doctors ran tests on her and that there are many more immune people like Ellie. As it's revealed that Joel shot Marlene to get Ellie away and to stop her coming after Ellie, he claims that the doctors couldn't make it work and that they've stopped looking for a cure.

When Ellie asks where her clothes are, Joel lies again and tells her that raiders attacked the hospital and that he barely got her out. The pair of them drive away until the car breaks down, and decide they'll continue the rest of the way on foot. Joel tells Ellie about how he and Sarah used to hike, and that the pair of them would have liked each other.

Ellie then tells Joel about her friend Riley (Storm Reid) and how she had to kill her after she got infected. The episode ends with Ellie making Joel swear to her that what he said about the Fireflies is true. Joel responds: "I swear." Looking up at him, she responds: "OK."

The Last of Us episode 9 ending explained: What does Joel's decision mean?

Joel and Ellie's relationship has been built up throughout the series - while he initially views her as just "cargo", in the later episodes, he ends up seeing her almost as a daughter figure after the loss of his own daughter Sarah. It's a process that Jeremy Webb, director of episodes 4 and 5, referred to as "emotional quicksand".

It's this relationship that ultimately causes Joel to make the decision to save Ellie in the end. But, as we see in episode 9, there's currently no one else that could provide a cure - so Joel has potentially just doomed humanity to endless more years of the infection.

As Marlene said, Ellie would likely want to do what's right, with her point pretty much being proven when she makes Joel swear that what he's saying is true. While fans will either have to wait for season 2 or delve into the video games for the full story of what happens next, Joel will likely have to face some serious consequences for his actions.

Season 2 has already been green-lit by HBO and actress Johnson, who knows the games inside out, opened up to RadioTimes.com about what's set to come for Ellie.

"I think after the events of what happened up until now at the end of this season, I think she’s never going to be the same, but I’m really excited to see her relationship with Dina," she explained.

"Because those are little moments where we just get to see a little bit of light and a little bit of happiness for her. Also after watching the episode with David, the whole winter section, Bella definitely has the anger and the violence of Ellie which is something that is going to need to be there for the events that happen. I think she’s going to kill it, figuratively and literally."

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