‘The Last Of Us’ Ellie’s Immunity, Explained: Would She Have Sacrificed Herself If Joel Had Told Her The Truth?


Bella Ramsey, who plays Ellie in the HBO original series “The Last of Us,” has done a fabulous job of bringing the character to life and living up to the expectations of all those who have played the game and become fans of it. After the season finale, the question that stuck in our minds was: if Ellie had been given an option, would she have let the doctors carry on with their surgery, fully knowing that it would have led to her death? So, let’s first analyze what could be the reason behind her immunity from the Cordyceps brain infection and whether she would have given her life for the greater good.

Spoilers Ahead

How Did Ellie Become Immune?

In the season finale of “The Last of Us,” we are shown how Ellie’s mother, Anna, died while fighting the infected and trying to bring her daughter into this world. Anna was running from an Infected, and she didn’t know how long she would be able to keep up as she was pregnant and was on the verge of delivering the baby. She went and hid inside a house when an “infected” attacked her. She took out a switchblade and stabbed the infected multiple times. Though she was able to kill the infected, she got bit, and the Cordyceps brain infection started taking over her body rapidly. Anna didn’t even realize that she had given birth to her daughter while she was fighting because she was infected. Marlene, the head of the Fireflies, arrived soon after, searching for her friend, and she was devastated when she found out that she had been bitten. Anna asked Marlene to take her child with her to Boston and find a family to raise her. She begged Marlene to kill her, as she didn’t want to see herself transform into one of those beasts because of whom she could never cherish the pure bliss of raising her daughter. Marlene said she couldn’t do that, but then she had a change of heart and delivered her from her misery.

Nobody knew at that moment that Ellie had become immune to the widespread fungal infection. Marlene got Ellie admitted to the FEDRA training school, where she met her best friend, Riley. Years later, Ellie and Riley went to an abandoned mall, where they were bitten by an infected. With not many options left, they had planned to spend their last moments together until they completely turned into zombies. But something strange happened that day that changed Ellie’s life forever. The infection didn’t spread inside her body, and somehow her immune system was able to tackle it successfully. Riley, on the other hand, got infected, and Ellie had to kill her best friend, which traumatized her for life.

It was rather shocking for even the doctors how the undeveloped immune response of Ellie that was still relying on the mother was able to defend itself against the fungal infection when the mother herself wasn’t immune to it. It could be possible that Anna would have passed certain life-saving antibodies through the placenta to Ellie, which, though they weren’t able to save her, miraculously worked for Ellie. Generally, a newborn is vulnerable to infections, but in the case of Ellie, it happened the other way around. The doctors were of the opinion that the Cordyceps had grown in her since the very beginning, and it produced a kind of chemical messenger that made the real fungal infection think that she was one of them. There is no scientific theory that explains why all this happened only with Ellie and not anyone else, and that is why we call it a miracle. Maybe the willpower of her mother to fight back and save her child made some life-saving biological changes inside the newborn, as what happens with the mother often impacts the holistic health of a newborn. Ellie became the chosen one, and finding a cure for the Cordyceps brain infection and saving humanity became the purpose of her life.

Would Ellie Have Sacrificed Her Life If Joel Had Told Her The Truth?

Ellie, from the very first episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” was this inquisitive kid who wanted to know about everything that was happening outside the Boston quarantine zone. Eventually, we realized that she derived a great deal of sadistic pleasure from violence. She didn’t get traumatized after killing people or watching them die; instead, there was this gleam in her eyes as if she were an explorer who had discovered the dark depths of human behavior. Ellie trusted Joel, even when he told her constantly that she was nothing more than cargo for him that needed to be delivered to the Fireflies’ laboratory. Ellie was so full of life that Joel couldn’t keep her at bay much longer, and he, too, let her inside. Facing FEDRA, Kathleen’s rebellion group, the infected time and again, and all the other problems that they encountered while on their journey didn’t shake her as much as what happened to her in the eighth episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” in David’s commune did. It was probably the first time that Ellie unleashed the beast that resided inside her. That inclination towards violence came out in the form of her actions, and she ripped David apart single-handedly. Even days after that incident, Ellie couldn’t forget how David had tried to molest her while she was profusely fidgeting in order to throw him off. That touch still gave her nightmares, and she wasn’t able to get over the trauma.

Joel and Ellie were taken into custody by the Fireflies, and that’s when we realized that in order to create a vaccine, the doctors would have to kill Ellie. Marleen and Joel both thought that, if left to Ellie, she would gladly give her life, and that is why Joel didn’t tell her the truth and changed the entire narrative so that she never came to know that she had the chance of saving humanity. Being immune to the Cordyceps brain infection and being the key to creating a vaccine gave Ellie’s life a sense of purpose. It was ingrained in her mind that she was the only one who could save the world, and in turn, it made her feel a bit different than the rest. Ellie knew that she had a gift that no one else did, and somewhere she had started feeling that it was her responsibility to bring back normalcy to the world.

Ellie even asks Joel towards the finale of “The Last of Us” if he was actually speaking the truth about what had happened with Marlene and the others, as she doubted his intentions. She knew that Joel felt attached to her, and to save her, he could burn the entire world down. We believe that had it been left to Ellie, she would have given her life to give humanity a chance. To be clear here, Ellie wasn’t delusional enough to feel like a messiah, but she did feel that she could save the lives of innocent people. Her whole life, since the time her friend died, had been about finding a cure and she had waited for the day when she would finally reach the Fireflies laboratory and give the good news to everybody. Ellie felt that there was no point in going through all that she had if she wasn’t able to fulfill her destiny. She felt that their struggle and the entire journey wouldn’t amount to anything if they gave up when they were so close to their goal. 

Joel swore in front of Ellie that whatever he had told her was the truth, but her expressions said that for her, it was still a very convenient story that was too good to be true. Maybe in “The Last of Us” Season 2, Ellie would find out about what exactly happened in the Fireflies holdout and what Joel’s motives were behind saving her. Until then, she had to make do with whatever she was told and try to live her life without getting affected by what had happened in the past.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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