Bella Ramsey Explains Why Ellie Chose To Believe Joel In The Last Of Us Season Finale

This post contains spoilers for the season finale of "The Last of Us."

When it comes to the absurdly high-stakes trolley problem that makes up the climax of the season finale of "The Last of Us," we can debate all day long whether Joel did the right thing. In the episode's final moments, however, the thematic conversation shifts a little: rather than concern itself with the ethics or the societal implications of Joel's actions, the final scene is a small, quiet one between just Joel and Ellie. Morality aside, how is this going to affect these two characters' relationship going forward?

From the moment Ellie wakes up in the back of Joel's car, his description of what happened while she was out doesn't make a ton of sense to her. The idea that they were attacked by raiders and were forced to leave, and also that the doctors had time to confirm that she wasn't special and not worth doing any more tests on, is easy to poke holes in. By the final scene when they're hiking back to Tommy's community, Joel is trying his best to be a good friendly dad, but Ellie's still a little too concerned about the truth of what happened to enjoy it. Finally, she confronts him directly, telling him to swear to her that everything he said about the Fireflies is true. Joel swears it is, and then the camera lingers on Ellie's troubled face as she finally says, "Okay." And then the episode ends.

It's an unsettling note to end the story on. Ellie chooses to believe Joel, but it seems clear she knows on a deeper level that he's lying. So, why does she go along with it? In the "Inside the Episode" featurette, Bella Ramsey shed some light on her character's actions.

'It's too painful'

"She knows deep down that he's not telling the truth. But she can't let herself believe it, because it's too painful, and it's too scary, the idea that her only purpose in life hasn't been fulfilled," Bella Ramsey explained. "That that had been taken away from her by the person that she loves and trusts the most is too overwhelming. So she forces herself to believe Joel."

As the final moments make clear, "The Last of Us" isn't just a show about exploring how far people will go to protect the ones they love; it's also about what people are willing to tell themselves to hold onto the relationships they have. Just as Joel's willing to go on a brutal murder rampage to save Ellie, Ellie's willing to believe in an obvious lie if it means she gets to still think of Joel as her loving, trustworthy surrogate dad. For now at least, their relationship is in a good place, and that's all that matters.

"In the end, the only thing we can be sure of is that we understand why he did it, and we understand that Ellie would not have wanted him to do it," showrunner Craig Mazin explained. "That complexity is why 'The Last of Us,' as a narrative, is so gorgeous. [...] It's why [game creator] Neil [Druckmann] is a genius, and it's why I wanted to make this show in the first place."

The entirety of "The Last of Us" season 1 is now streaming on HBO Max.