The Last Of Us Season 1 Finale Review: As Brutal And Powerful As We’ve Come To Expect

"Look for the Light," the Last of Us Season 1 finale, is as simultaneously difficult to watch and as excellent as the rest of the series.

By Michileen Martin | Updated

last of us season finale

The Last of Us Season 1 finale is streaming right now on HBO Max, and it delivers exactly what the series has made us expect so far. It’s at turns merciless and disarmingly beautiful. It leaves us both anticipating Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey‘s return in the season to come and — assuming the series intends to continue to be as faithful to the source material — dreading it at the same time.


You should know I’ve come to The Last of Us from what I doubt is a unique perspective, but one I suspect is at least a little bit outside the norm: I’ve never played the PlayStation game, but as someone who has nevertheless had to research the source material in covering the series since long before it finally began streaming, I’ve known all the larger spoilers. I knew in most likelihood Season 1 would end with the Fireflies’ plan to sacrifice Ellie (Ramsey), and I knew how Joel (Pascal) would react to it. I’m also well aware of how — in the source material at least — the bloodshed at the hospital contributes to Joel’s fate.

Part of me worried if this would put me at a disadvantage in terms of reviewing “Look for the Light,” The Last of Us Season 1 finale. Unlike an invested fan of the games I can’t either appreciate or bristle at any changes made between the game and show, but unlike someone completely in the dark, I don’t get hit with as much of an impact when confronted with the Fireflies wanting to sacrifice Ellie or Joel’s unforgiving rampage through the hospital.

It turns out I was worrying for nothing. In spite of the cruel surprises of The Last of Us Season 1 finale, this is not a series that lives and dies by its shocks alone. The real meat of “Look for the Light” is in the relationship between Joel and Ellie, regardless of any firefights or questions of who lives and dies.

What makes this episode isn’t the gunfight or Joel’s mercilessness toward surrendered Fireflies, Ellie’s surgeon, or Marlene (Merle Dandridge). What makes “Look for the Light” work so well is Joel finally, awkwardly, acting openly like a father to the girl he previously called “cargo.” It’s the tenderness of the pair feeding a giraffe from the upper levels of a construction site, Ellie’s confrontation with Joel at the end about her suspicions, and Joel’s both selfish and generous lies.

last of us season finale
Joel and Ellie encounter a giraffe in “Look for the Light” – The Last of Us S1 E9

If there is anything I would criticize about The Last of Us Season 1 finale, it’s that I wish we had more time with Joel, Ellie, and the Fireflies before the fight. We’re barely given the chance to feel any relief that Joel and Ellie weren’t captured by raiders before we learn the Fireflies, nevertheless, mean to kill Ellie. I wonder if a longer stretch of time, perhaps even another episode, would’ve given more weight to Joel’s decision.

Regardless, “Look for the Light” delivers exactly the kind of The Last of Us season finale anyone could hope for. It’s streaming now on HBO Max.