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HBO's The Last Of Us: Biggest Season 1 Questions (That The Last Of Us Part 2 Has Already Answered)

Major spoilers ahead for "The Last of Us" TV series and games.

Thanks to HBO's phenomenal adaptation, a huge swath of new fans have just discovered the polarizing ending of "The Last of Us." Like the game, the show's first finale closes on a morally ambiguous note. Joel kills the Fireflies to save Ellie's life, and in the process he destroys humanity's best shot at finding a vaccine for the cordyceps plague. Then he lies to Ellie about the whole thing, potentially ruining their relationship in a somewhat misguided effort to protect her and keep the two of them together.

"The Last of Us" is at its best when it's exploring complicated moral questions and putting an emphasis on human relationships. The ending of the first game, and of the first season, leaves plenty of room for debate and speculation. While new fans of the show are just getting into the discussion, gamers know that plenty of the biggest unanswered questions at the end of season 1 are addressed in Naughty Dog's 2019 release "The Last of Us Part 2." Whether you need a refresher on the tragic events of "Part 2" or you're looking to skip a playthrough of the game entirely (you really shouldn't), take a look at what Naughty Dog's sequel has to say about where the show is probably going next.

Which characters are coming back?

Joel and Ellie are the stars of "The Last of Us," but they're far from the only characters the show follows. Season 1 seemingly introduced an interesting new side character or two every single episode, but very few of them survived to the end. Fans who want to know which characters they'll get to spend time with in Season 2 mainly just need to look at the pile of bodies that lie behind Joel and Ellie and see who's left standing.

For the most part, the only side characters left alive all reside in Jackson, Wyoming. When Season 2 rolls around, expect to see more of Maria, Tommy, and the town that they've been helping run. The first several hours of "The Last of Us Part 2" take place in Jackson, and Tommy in particular has a large role to play once the game's story gets underway.

Aside from those two, there aren't many characters who are likely to show up in the next season. Most are dead, and the few that are still alive – like the cabin life couple Joel and Ellie met in 6 – didn't make an appearance in either video game. But even some of the dead characters could return. At most, Marlene is likely to make an appearance in a flashback scene, as is one of the surgeons from the finale. 

Season 2 will have to do some heavy lifting in terms of character introductions, but the show's already proven that it can handle tons of character work, even when it needs to deviate from the game to be successful.

Why were the Fireflies so quick to sacrifice Ellie?

The season finale of "The Last of Us" left many questioning the Fireflies' motives. Throughout the first season, it was easy to imagine the Fireflies as freedom fighters who deeply care about all of humanity. Viewers repeatedly saw them fighting against the militarized FEDRA teams that control the Quarantine Zones, and even if their violent methods weren't ideal, the Fireflies seemed to have their hearts in the right place. Their search for a cordyceps cure, at the very least, seemed inarguably good. Until it wasn't.

The Fireflies made a hard left turn when they decided that sacrificing Ellie was completely necessary to make a cure. As soon as Joel and Ellie arrived at their hospital, the Fireflies sprung into action and got Ellie on her way to surgery. The group didn't seem to hesitate over their decision to kill a 14 year old, and that made it much easier to sympathize with Joel as he pressed his attack.

A scene in "The Last of Us Part 2" retroactively shows that the Fireflies were more conflicted over their decision to kill Ellie. In the scene, Marlene and Ellie's surgeon argue over whether cutting into Ellie's brain is the right choice, and even though they eventually agree it is, neither feel good about the decision. Should the Fireflies have taken a slower approach and kept Ellie for testing, instead of essentially tricking her into a deadly operation? Probably, but hindsight is always 20/20.

What will happen to the Fireflies?

As important as the Fireflies are in the larger world of "The Last of Us," they didn't have a huge role to play in season 1. Marlene, the group's commander, sets Joel on his cross country journey with Ellie, but then the Fireflies basically disappear until the season finale. At that point, Joel decimates their forces at the hospital in Salt Lake City and finishes his rampage by shooting Marlene.

What happens to the Fireflies now that their leader is dead and their search for a cordyceps cure has met an untimely end? "The Last of Us Part 2" has some answers, and a few questions of its own, to offer fans of the show. The game reveals that Joel didn't actually kill everyone with ties to the Fireflies in Salt Lake City. The surviving members include one of the nurses from Ellie's surgery and the daughter of the surgeon Joel killed, but they aren't a large enough group to reform the Fireflies in full force.

Those surviving members make their way to other quarantine zones. Some members end up in Seattle, where they begin building new lives without giving up their desire for revenge. The ending of "The Last of Us Part 2" hints that the rebel group may actually find a way to come back in force, with some of them setting up at a new home on Catalina Island. 

Does Ellie know the truth about what Joel did?

The ending of the original "The Last of Us" offered few hints about the future of Joel and Ellie's relationship. Joel lies to Ellie point blank about everything that happened at the hospital, and Ashley Johnson's performance in the game's final moments left her belief in his story ambiguous at best.

Bella Ramsey brought a new approach to Ellie in HBO's "The Last of Us," and even though the season 1 finale recreates the game's ending line for line, Ramsey's performance clearly makes Ellie seem even more skeptical of Joel than she was a decade ago. It's obvious at the end of the show that Ellie doesn't fully trust what Joel has to say, even if part of her wants to believe him.

Anyone who's played "Part 2" knows that Ellie can never quite get past her suspicions about Joel's story. Eventually she travels back to Salt Lake City on her own to try and discover the truth for herself. At the hospital-turned-graveyard Ellie finds an audio recording from one of the few survivors of Joel's rampage, which explains what really happened. 

After the initial visit to the hospital, Ellie and Joel had a rocky relationship at best — but once Ellie learns the truth, their relationship is completely torn apart.

Will Ellie and Joel stay in Jackson?

"The Last of Us" season 1 arguably spent more time in Jackson than the original game did. Joel's brother Tommy lives in the community, helping to run it with his partner Maria, and Jackson is like a little piece of utopia nestled in the ruins of Wyoming. The town is a safe place where hundreds of people live, and everyone contributes to keep things running smoothly. In the show, Joel scoffs at the idea of his brother living a so-called communist dream life, but it's obvious that he's also envisioning a life for himself and Ellie within the town.

As the first season of the show comes to a close, Joel and Ellie have just returned to Jackson. After everything they've been through, settling in a relatively safe community probably sounds ideal, but after Joel lies to Ellie, viewers are probably left wondering if the two of them will really stay together in the town. Happily, we can say that they do.

"The Last of Us Part 2" takes a four year jump forward in time. Joel and Ellie are still working through the complications of their relationship, but they're doing it all in Jackson. Both of them have found friends and family worth fighting for in the town, and it's clear that neither of them have any intention of leaving Jackson behind for good (initially, at least).

Will Joel face any consequences for his actions?

"The Last of Us" has one of the most morally complicated endings of all time. Joel is given the choice of sacrificing Ellie or potentially dooming all of humanity, and he doesn't even need a minute to consider the decision.

Gamers have been arguing about whether or not Joel made the right decision for over a decade. Now a new legion of "The Last of Us" fans can get in on the debate, and regardless of which side they land on, they're all wondering if Joel's choice will come back to bite him. "Part 2" lays out just how far-reaching the consequences of Joel's action are.

The few Fireflies who survived Joel's arrival at the hospital spend years searching for revenge. In the early hours of "Part 2," they get their opportunity, and Abby – the daughter of Ellie's would-be surgeon – smashes Joel's head in with a golf club. Unfortunately, that's not where things end. Ellie is so distraught from both Joel's initial lie and his death that she goes on a blood-soaked revenge quest of her own. Joel's decision to save her life ends up leading to the deaths of dozens more, including himself.

Are there more kinds of infected?

At first glance "The Last of Us" looks like a zombie apocalypse story, but fans know that the cordyceps fungus which brings about the end of the world in the game and the show is much scarier than your average undead virus. Cordyceps infects the brains of humans and transforms them into mushroom-encrusted creatures that only want to spread their infection further. Some infected humans are quick and violent, others use echolocation to track down their quivering prey, and still others become giant monstrosities covered in fungus so thick it acts like armor. At the beginning of the season, Ellie insinuates that the clicker infected type are something of an urban legend among kids in the QZ.

In the game, the infected are always the biggest, scariest threat around. Season 1 of HBO's adaptation put much less emphasis on the infected. In fact, it barely showed off the original game's variety of enemy, and it only focused on Joel and Ellie fighting the infected on a handful of occasions.

Because it will be adapting the story from "Part 2," the next season will also have the opportunity to show off some new and improved infected. The sequel game actually introduces two new and utterly terrifying enemy types. Shamblers wander and wheeze, occasionally spitting out a cloud of noxious gas and infectious spores. The Rat King, as the other creature is loving called, is a mashup of fungus and human bodies that will absolutely haunt your nightmares after you encounter it. 

With any luck, Season 2 will lean more heavily into the most unique threats the world of "The Last of Us" has to offer.

Does Joel tell anyone about what happened to the FIreflies?

Cordyceps has already leveled civilization as we know it, but the Fireflies' vaccine could have saved countless lives and put humanity on a path toward restoration. Joel didn't have a second thought about saving Ellie and killing the Fireflies, but is his secret something that he can really live with?

Well, he can live with it, but not as a complete secret. The opening scene of "The Last of Us Part 2" shows that Joel almost immediately confesses what he did upon arriving in Jackson. He tells his brother Tommy the whole story, making him promise not to tell Ellie about what happened. Tommy not only takes Joel's side in the moral argument about what he did, but he also agrees to keep Ellie in the dark for as long as possible.

In the game, Tommy's choice to side with Joel is just a matter of fact. The story needs the two of them to keep the secret, and so they do. The first season of the show, on the other hand, has already set Tommy up with a real reason to keep Joel's secret to himself. In episode 6, Tommy tells Joel that he's going to be a father. With firsthand knowledge of what it's like to be a parent, the show's version of Tommy stands to understand why someone would choose their child over the entire human race.

Does Ellie have a violent heart?

In episode 8 of "The Last of Us," Joel and Ellie stumble into an ill-fated meeting with a group of survivors who've all seen better days. The group has been starving through the winter, and their leader David has started to secretly feed them all human meat from their dead friends. When David meets Ellie, he immediately wants her to join the group, and when she resists his proposition he tells her that she has a violent heart.

Fans of "Part 2" no doubt perked up when they heard that line from David. In the second game, Ellie goes on a revenge hunt, and she's ruthless in her approach. Ellie doesn't just kill scores of people, she also tears apart her own life as she relentless pursues the woman who killed Joel.

Showrunners Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin know exactly where they're taking Ellie in future seasons, and they've already started to set up her dark twist in ways that the first "Last of Us" game couldn't. In an "Inside the Episode" segment about episode 1, Mazin talked about how Joel's assault on a FEDRA officer outside of the Boston QZ should help clue viewers in to her violent nature. Mazin explains, "The most remarkable thing about that moment is that when Ellie watches him beating a man to death she's activated ... she likes the idea of somebody defending her like that, and she likes the idea of that guy being punished."

Will Ellie forgive Joel?

Fans of the show will leave season 1 wondering whether or not Ellie realizes that Joel is lying to her about what happened in Salt Lake City. But even if Ellie doesn't know about Joel's lie, it's hard to imagine that she could stay in the dark forever. What happens when Ellie inevitably figures out what Joel did?

He saved her life, but in the process Joel also stole Ellie's opportunity to save the world. At the end of season 1, Ellie tells Joel about everyone who has died after meeting her. In her mind, making a cordyceps vaccine could grant more meaning to those deaths. It would also mean that her life has a greater purpose.

In "The Last of Us Part 2," Ellie is primarily seeking revenge for Joel's death, but she's also searching for a way to forgive him. Ellie discovers the truth about Salt Lake City long before Joel dies, but the game hides the fallout of her discovery until the very end. The final cutscene is a flashback to shortly before Joel died. He and Ellie have a conversation on his porch where she tells him that she doesn't know if she'll ever be able to forgive him for taking her choice – not to mention her one real opportunity to save the world – but also that she wants to try. 

Ellie never gets the opportunity to forgive him while he's alive, but if she can find that forgiveness on her own, she might be able to find some peace.