Well, it’s finally here; the final episode of HBO’s hit TV series The Last of Us – season one, at least – has dropped. If you’re someone who has played Naughty Dog’s 2013 action-adventure game of the same name, you’ll know all too well what this finale entails. You’ll know the weight these final scenes hold in the narrative and the intensity of this epic conclusion. However, you will also know that co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann haven’t been following the video game play-by-play. In fact, the two have been using the TLOU show to expand upon the universe presented in the video game in a wonderful way – showing us more of Sarah and Frank in the earlier episodes and more about how the Cordyceps infection has affected the life of other survivors throughout the remainder of the series.
Before we continue about that in detail, though, this is your spoiler warning for episode nine of The Last of Us – and the ninth episode of The Last of Us Podcast.
Now that we have that out of the way, though, let’s talk about the latest instance of expansive storytelling included in The Last of Us: the whole section on Ellie’s mum – played by Ellie voice actress Ashley Johnson.
We’re not going to go into too much detail about Anna Williams – as we don’t want to spoil it too much – but, in this final episode of The Last of Us season one, we get quite a good look at the woman behind the indomitable Ellie and some insight into not only her character, but maybe even how Ellie became immune.
In the aforementioned ninth episode of The Last of Us Podcast, which you can watch for yourself below, Troy Baker (Joel in TLOU games and James in the series) asks Druckmann “where did Anna come from” – a rather open question when it comes to the character, but one aimed at the more metaphorical origins of Anna. You know, as opposed to her physical origins.
To this, interestingly, Druckmann responds that the team behind TLOU were trying to “figure out who [Ellie’s] mom was” while working on the first game in the series in 2013 – roughly ten years go. When you consider that, as Druckmann points out, “so much of the story is about parents and children”, it makes a lot of sense to want to explore this character further.
However, while this part of his comments on Anna is understandable, what we didn’t know is that Anna was originally going to be featured in “an animated short” that was going to release after the launch of TLOU in 2013.
“Once we finished production on the game, there was an opportunity to do an animated short… So, I had written a short story about Ellie’s mom and the day she gave birth to Ellie”, Druckmann says. “Things fell through, and that story had to get shelved… I loved that story so much, I wanted to shoot it as a live-action short… And that fell through again”.
Druckmann goes on to say that during the production of The Last of Us Part 2, when he started working with Mazin, he found himself bringing the short story back up and… We suppose the rest is history.
If you’re wondering how Mazin responded to that idea, he says he said “holy f**k – we’re doing that”.
We know Bella Ramsey said HBO’s The Last of Us finale would “divide” viewers, as did the end of the game, but this is one part of the finale that desrved to be included – we’re pretty certain everyone will agree. Johnson does a fantastic job bringing this character to life. You have to wonder though, would this have changed the impact of the game – and the finale you’re faced with as Joel? The Last of Us with tendrils would be an entirely different game, but what about with Ellie’s mother? We might never know.