The Last of Us Episode 6’s Cliffhanger Ending Explained: Why Did [SPOILERS] Come Back?
The massive episode spanned three months and covered just as much ground.
The Last of Us is finally turning up the heat and pushing the characters into the cold. After leaving Kansas City in search of Joel’s brother Tommy, their journey now takes them on foot to Wyoming without much of a clue where they’re headed. Not only did Episode 6 cover the end of that journey, but it also forces Joel to reconsider just what he’s doing with Ellie and whether or not he can see her through to the end.
But what happened at the end of this incredibly plot-dense episode? It’s shocking to new viewers, but fans of the game will know exactly what happens — and when to look away. Here’s everything you need to know.
Episode 6 begins with a flashback of Henry’s tragic death at the end of Episode 5, and then flashes forward three months later, where winter has firmly taken hold in whatever part of Wyoming Joel and Ellie find themselves. They hold an Indigenous couple at gunpoint looking for information where they’re told the terrain only gets worse from here — anything west of a certain river may as well be dead.
As they keep wandering, they find themselves surrounded by some survivors on horseback. Their sniffing dog reads Ellie and Joel as clean, but they’re still hesitant to let them in until a woman asks Joel what his name is. Only then is it revealed they’re from Tommy’s commune and the brothers are reunited. The mysterious woman is Maria, whom Tommy settled down with after he left the Fireflies.
The flourishing town of Jackson is full of life, but it reminds Joel of what he lost. Over drinks, he tells Tommy that he’s afraid of failing to protect someone dear to him once again. First he lost Sarah, then Tess; he’s not willing to risk losing Ellie as well. He asks Tommy to take her to the Fireflies’ base at a university in Colorado, but Tommy refuses. He too has someone to protect — Maria’s pregnant.
Ellie sneaks out of a community showing of The Goodbye Girl and eavesdrops on Joel’s conversation. To her, it looks like Joel is abandoning her, but a last-minute change of mind allows Joel to give Ellie a choice. It’s clear what she wants: she’s going the rest of the way with Joel.
On a horse taken from the community, the pair reach the university only to find it abandoned and overrun with escaped lab monkeys. They find a map pointing to Salt Lake City, but before they can head on their way, they’re attacked by raiders. One manages to get a grip on Joel, but Joel manages to snap his neck. Unfortunately, he doesn’t get out scot-free: he manages to get impaled without even noticing. Ellie throws him on their horse and gets out of dodge, but later Joel falls off, unconscious, leaving Ellie with no idea where to go or what to do.
It’s a harsh and shocking ending, but it’s what Ellie needs: after admitting to herself that she needs Joel, she’s suddenly lost him. Hopefully next week we’ll see her take care of Joel further and find a way to their new goal: Salt Lake City.
The Last of Us is now streaming on HBO Max.