The Last of Us – Look for the Light review S1 E9

HBO decided not to risk a mid chapter episode of The Last of Us not getting a max audience and aired it on Friday instead of getting demolished by the Super Bowl.

Clearly there was no such concern about the Academy Awards even with this being the season finale. Not that it was necessary at all as Look for the Light was taking aim at all the gold statuettes anyway tonight complete with a final scene reminiscent of one of my all-time favorite films, which was an Oscar winner itself.

A very nice touch for the show has been finding on-screen roles for the amazing voice cast of the video game. Last week was Joel voice actor Troy Baker in the role of James. This week it was Ashley Johnson (The Avengers), who voiced Elle, playing the ironic role of Elle’s mother Anna.

Anna’s on the run in the woods from an infected. She attempts a crude barricade but the infected busts the door down and comes after her. Anna manages to kill it while delivering her baby —making her hands down the multitasker award winner for 2023 — but she did get bit.

The Last of us - look for the light review - Anna

Marlene and fireflies get to the safe house way later than expected. Anna says she didn’t feed Elle, but wants Marlene to take her, give her the pocketknife Elle still cherishes and kill Ann before she turns. Marlene doesn’t want to kill her friend, but reluctantly agrees after Anna tearfully begs her.

In the present day, it’s role reversal as Joel is the overly chatty one while Elle broods. There’s close to the hospital where the fireflies are converging. No dynamite death trap like the game. They’re taking the long way.

This does make for the cute moment of Elle geeking out over seeing and feeding a giraffe before it goes back to its family. Bella Ramsey has such an outstanding method of conveying Elle’s childlike wonder when experiencing new things.

As they close in on the hospital Joel reminds Elle they don’t have to do it. They’ve seen enough heartbreak and he’s trying to spare her another. Elle is determined to finish the task, then she’s game to go wherever he wants.

While walking, Joel says he tried to kill himself after Sarah died. Pedro Pascal’s quiet, matter of fact delivery has made one of my favorite video game characters into one of my favorite TV characters in just one season.

Naturally this was another great moment in a series that seems to pop out a “showing someone this one scene will make them a fan of the series” every other week.


Joel gets Elle out of her funk by asking to hear some bad puns. They’re legitimately laughing and enjoying each other’s company so much they miss a group sneaking up on them with a smoke bomb.

Marlene greets Joel when he wakes up. She’s indebted to Joel for doing what no one else could have accomplished in getting Elle safely across the country to the firefly Nevada base. Not enough to let him see her though — she’s being prepped for surgery.

Turns out the doctor is feeling pretty positive that Elle’s Cordyceps has the genetic code that makes her immune to the zombie fungus that attacked humanity’s Cordyceps and triggers the infection. The doc can synthesize it and create a cure…but it means killing Elle.

That’s not a trade off Joel can live with and he kills his guards and starts searching the hospital for Elle.

The show runners have been very deliberate about not going too video game indulgent with the action scenes. Endure and Survive was the last one so this was well-timed.

The Last of us - look for the light review - joel

Joel goes full-on Mando searching for Grogu or final boss stage mode and he’s fully leveled up. The fireflies aren’t a match for Joel’s cold hearted brutality.

This is so beautifully shot from the music and the slow-motion showing all the killing and destruction Joel is willing to do to save Elle in the way he wasn’t able to save Sarah. He doesn’t have time to repeat himself or put up with scalpel wielding surgeons.

It isn’t done like some gratuitous shoot ‘em up, but rather the cost to save a loved one. Joel is all in and ready to cash out.

Marlene catches Joel as he’s nearly left the hospital carrying an unconscious Elle at the garage. She pleads with Joel that Elle would sacrifice herself for the good of humanity — and this is from the woman who was there the day Elle was born. “Even after everything you’ve done, it’s not too late.”

There’s a smart transition to Joel in the car with Elle as he reflects on the showdown with Marlene. He lies to Elle coming up with a story that there were others the fireflies tried to extract a cure from, but raiders attacked and killed everyone except for Joel and Elle.

As Elle asks if Marlene was ok, we get another brilliant edit to Joel shooting her twice. As she begs him not to kill her, Joel simply says “you’d just come after her” before his final shot to Marlene’s head. It’s ruthless and completely without remorse, but he’s probably right.

The Last of us - look for the light review - elle

Elle confesses that Riley was the first person she killed. Maybe to encourage a confession out of Joel..

With Tommy’s camp in the distance, Elle asks him directly to swear that everything you said about the fireflies was true. With his best Michael Corleone impression, Joel looks Elle dead in the eyes and says “I swear.”

That’s good enough for Elle and an absolutely epic way to end an amazing first season of this series. Good luck to every other show debuting this year.

I could rave more, but there’s plenty of time for that later. This series shattered expectations and over delivered constantly. What a fantastic, mature way to tell a zombie story. Absolute excellence on every level.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Photo Credit: HBO