After what can only be described as the most gruesome bonding experience in history, Joel and Ellie make it to Salt Lake City, where a post-apocalyptic organization hopes to find a cure for the fungus turning humans into zombies en masse.
Over the previous 9 episodes of The Last of Us, we’ve seen Ellie the orphan forced to kill her best friend, almost eaten by a cult of cannibals, and stabbing a would-be rapist to death. We’ve seen Joel’s daughter die in his arms, his girlfriend sacrificing herself to save him and Ellie, and him getting stabbed, beaten, shot at, and nearly impaled a dozen times, trying to protect what he initially saw only as “his cargo.”
Perhaps, by the time they catch some relief at last, it is no surprise they have grown as close as any real father and daughter ever could. They have definitely earned it. So when Joel is finally ready to discuss his suicide attempt, he doesn’t need to say much at all. “I know why you’re tellin’ me all this,” Ellie cuts him off. “Yeah, I reckon you do.”
Ellie’s conclusion? “So time heals all wounds, I guess.” But here she is wrong. “It wasn’t time that did it,” Joel says. There’s a long silence, a knowing look, and then we know: Time isn’t the universal remedy. It’s love. Finally, Ellie points at Joel’s gun and head: “Well, I’m glad that…that didn’t work out.” “Me too.” And just like that, the pair is once again on their way.
Time heals a great many things. True loss is rarely one of them. Some holes only love can fill. In the real world, there’s no zombie apocalypse to knock some emotional sense into us. We must find the capacity to love within. Luckily, that well never runs out. At the risk of alienating an already-great poem: There is always love, if only we’re brave enough to feel it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.