The Last Of Us Episode 1 Ending Explained (In Detail)

Warning! This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us episode 1.HBO’s The Last of Us episode 1 is a tense series premiere, and the ending warrants a bit of explanation. The Last of Us is based on the game of the same name and is co-created by Chernobyl’s Craig Mazin and the writer-director of both The Last of Us games, Neil Druckmann. Like the game that the series is based on, The Last of Us tells the story of Joel and Ellie, a duo thrust together by circumstance in the post-apocalyptic United States who must travel across the pandemic-ridden landscape for something bigger than both of them could have imagined.


The Last of Us episode 1 takes place across two different time periods. The Last of Us’ timeline jumps from 2003, the outbreak of the Cordyceps infection, to 2023, with Joel now living in the Boston quarantine zone. The episode depicts the first meeting of Joel and Ellie and includes many elements, both new and familiar to the original game. Here is everything you need to know about The Last of Us episode 1, specifically its climactic ending and the indubitable ramifications of such going forward.

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Is Ellie Immune In The Last Of Us?

The Last of Us Ellie Bella Ramsey

The Last of Us ends with a reveal of massive proportions. At first, neither Tess nor Joel are aware of why Ellie is so important to the Fireflies and Marlene. However, The Last of Us episode 1 ends with Ellie being scanned for the Cordyceps infection by a FEDRA agent before Joel – played by Pedro Pascal – brutally beats him to death. Tess (Anna Torv) realizes that the scanner showed up red, meaning Ellie is infected. After a brief panic, Ellie reveals her bite to Joel and Tess and states that it is three weeks old, something thought impossible given infected usually begin to turn within a day of infection.

This leaves The Last of Us episode 1 ending on the major reveal that Ellie is seemingly immune to the Cordyceps infection. This explains the lengths the Fireflies and Marlene were going to in order to keep Ellie safe, as well as why Joel and Tess were hired to smuggle her out of the city. This is the core plot element of the original The Last of Us game, as with the adaptation, and will drive the story forward going into The Last of Us episode 2.

Where Joel & Tess Are Taking Ellie (& Why)

Pedro Pascal's Joel shushing someone in The Last of Us

Joel and Tess were hired by Marlene to smuggle Ellie out of the city by the Fireflies in the last act of The Last of Us episode 1. Marlene was injured in a fight, meaning Joel and Tess were given the job of moving Ellie out of the Boston quarantine zone. The duo is tasked with taking Ellie to the Massachusetts State House to rendezvous with Marlene’s team of Fireflies. The Fireflies would then take Ellie west in order to attempt and extract a cure for the Cordyceps infection via her immunity.

What The Radio’s “Never Let Me Down Again” Song Means

The Last of Us Season 1 Episode 5 Joel Pedro Pascal cropped

One of the final shots of The Last of Us episode 1 is of Joel’s radio, which is used as a signal to two other smugglers named Frank and Bill, the former played by Murray Bartlett and the latter by Nick Offerman in The Last of Us. The radio is playing a song from 1987, namely “Never Let Me Down Again” by Depeche Mode. Earlier in the episode, Ellie tricks Joel into revealing that if a song from the 1980s is playing, Bill and Frank have encountered danger in their unknown whereabouts.

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This means that should The Last of Us continue to follow the game closely, Joel will encounter danger upon visiting Bill and Frank’s town. As the ending of The Last of Us episode 1 forebodingly shows Joel, Tess, and Ellie heading into rundown Boston accompanied by “Never Let Me Down Again,” it is clear that the song is foreshadowing trouble on the horizon. This will likely be explored in The Last of Us episodes 3 or 4 given the game’s timeline and where The Last of Us episode 1 ended.

Where’s Tommy & What Happened To Him?

One of the prominent plot threads of HBO’s The Last of Us episode 1, after the time jump to 2023, was Joel’s search for Tommy. In 2003, Tommy and Joel worked together, and the former helped the latter and Sarah escape the outbreak. After the time jump, however, Tommy is nowhere to be found in Boston with Joel. While Joel and Tommy keep vaguely in touch through a radio tower, Tommy has not replied in three weeks, leading Joel to want to search for Tommy to ensure his safety.

The Last of Us episode 1 gives some hints about Tommy’s location and what’s happened to him, mainly in the scene in which Joel encounters Marlene – another character taken from The Last of Us game – and is told to take Ellie to the State House. After stating that it’s Marlene’s job to know things, Joel retorts “To know things? You’re the cause of it; you turned my own brother against me.” This insinuates that Tommy joined the Fireflies at some point between 2003 and 2023, something that Joel did not agree with. As to where Tommy is, all that is known is that he is somewhere west of Boston.

How The Last Of Us Episode 1 Compares To The Game

Ellie and Joel look back as they walk through a dilapidated urban setting in The Last of Us.

In terms of how The Last of Us episode 1 compares to the game, there are not many distinct differences. One small change to the timeline, which could set up The Last of Us Part II’s Rat King, means that the time periods are 2003 and 2023 rather than 2013 and 2033. Other than that, the only real changes are relatively small expansions. The opening scene, for instance, includes a prelude of sorts to the Cordyceps outbreak and ties the infection to a real-world issue, giving more of an explanation than the game did.

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Other additions include extending Sarah’s screen time by following her throughout her day in 2003 before the outbreak as opposed to starting in the evening of the outbreak. Also, Joel’s life in the Boston QZ is developed more, with his search for Tommy not being present in the game. While there are more additions to the world of the game in The Last of Us episode 1, these are the major changes that affect the story and characters, with other elements simply adding more to what was already present in the original game.

New episodes of The Last of Us release every Sunday on HBO.

More: Important Last Of Us Game Scenes HBO Must Bring To The Show

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