Joel and Ellie’s relationship goes through a wild rollercoaster ride throughout The Last of Us. A few would describe it as insubstantial at worst and dependable at best, with a plethora of ups and downs between them.
Over the journey from Boston to Jacksonville, Joel undergoes several epiphanies as a man. Additionally, Ellie’s trust exhausts and replenishes as they make their way across the United States. Although their relationship reaches its best stage before they arrive at the Fireflies in Utah, towards the end of The Last of Us Part 2, it’s severely strained.
The constant change in the strength of Joel and Ellie’s relationship makes it difficult for gamers to keep a check over the period they’re together.
In the collective franchise of The Last of Us, Joel and Ellie have been together for over five years. They had known each other since the summer of 2033 when Joel smuggled her from Boston. Including patches of disconnection, their relationship lasts until Joel takes his last breath in 2038.
Here’s a more detailed explanation of their relationship in chronological order.
A Relationship Borne Out of Necessity – Phase #1
During the summer of 2033, Joel and Ellie meet at the beginning of The Last of Us. The latter being the driving force behind their cross-country adventure. While Joel has turned into a stone-cold smuggler who’s resorted to terrible acts in the name of survival, Ellie is not his polar opposite.
This fact is based on the premise that she also suffered great loss during the pandemic. However, throughout the journey, both of them constantly challenge each other’s values while coming closer and growing apart with each tenuous moment.
However, things transform drastically when they reach the Firefly lab, where the medical team intends to use Ellie to cure the infection. Things don’t go as planned; Joel ends up killing the whole medical team and breaking out with an unconscious Ellie, who was seconds away from surgery.
When Ellie gains consciousness and questions what went down, Joel lies and hides the fact that he saved her life. As a result, the first instance of her doubting Joel’s intentions comes to light.
Unravelling of the Truth – Phase #2
Joel and Ellie reach Jackson, Wyoming, where his sibling, Tommy, has set up a settlement of survivors. In the time gap between The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part 2, the duo’s bond strengthens to a vast extent.
Since both of them are not constantly on the road together and spend time away from each other, Joel and Billie truly relish each other’s company. This newfound love can be seen in the flashbacks before the beginning of The Last of Us when they explore the region near Jackson.
However, the events before The Last of Us Part 2 indicate a disturbance.
It begins with a time-lapse, four years after Joel and Ellie arrive at the settlement. Although their relationship is still strong, Ellie learns the truth behind Joel breaking out of the hospital with her, which causes an inevitable loss of trust. The rift between them becomes clearer before Joel’s last patrol when he intervenes in a fight between Ellie and Seth, a community member.
Revenge Fuelled by Regret – Phase #3
Joel and Ellie’s relationship comes to a physical end due to Joel’s gruesome death during his last patrol in 2038. After a while, Ellie learns about Abby and the hunters chasing Joel for murdering the Firefly medical team and rescuing her.
At this point, gamers realise the depth of the duo’s relationship.
Even though Ellie had isolated herself from Joel because he had lied, their bond was most potent when he passed away. In addition, flashbacks of instances indicating Ellie’s regret for not being able to mend her relationship with Joel further support the case.
Naturally, Ellie sets out on a bloodthirsty quest to avenge Joel. This mission for revenge is fuelled by her aforementioned regret more than her exclusive hatred for Abby and the hunters. Simply put, the only way she can gain closure for not being able to express love for her father figure is by bringing an end to his killers.
About The Last of Us Part 1
The Last of Us is a 2013 action-adventure game developed by Naughty Dog and published by Sony Computer Entertainment. The Remake of the title was developed for the PlayStation 5.
Players control Joel, tasked with caring for Ellie and delivering her to a group called The Fireflies. In a world overrun by the cordyceps fungus, which has infected humanity, Joel must fight off those who have become a host to the fungus and survivors looking to harm them.
The Last of Us received overwhelming praise from both players and critics alike. A remaster was released in 2014 for the PlayStation 4.