The Last of Us Confirms Why They Waited to Reveal Ellie's Mom

Sunday night's Season 1 finale of The Last of Us introduced one last key series character by taking viewers back to Ellie's birth and revealing her mother, Anna. Played by Ashley Johnson (who plays Ellie in The Last of Us game) the episode spends very little time with Anna, who is heavily pregnant. As the episode's opening plays out, we see Anne on the verge of giving birth as she runs from infected, taking refuge in a farmhouse. Anna is unfortunately bitten by an infected she struggles with in said farmhouse just before she gives birth to Ellie and tragically gets to spend only a few hours with her child before Marlene (Merle Dandridge) arrives and takes the infant, promising to keep her safe before reluctantly ending Anna's life.

It's a devastating moment to watch and it's even more devastating to watch as the first season comes to a close, but showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann explained on the official The Last of Us podcast that that was exactly why they waited until the end.

"Hurts more. It hurts more," Mazin said.

Druckmann said that it was never a question that the cold open for the episode had to be Ellie's back story, and Mazin confirmed that it was always the plan, even from the start.

"Has to be that. Always from the start. Because we need time to meet Ellie ourselves, and we identify with Joel from the start. Joel is clearly the… he feels like the main character, the protagonist," Mazin said. "We see him prior to all this with his own daughter. And then there's this kid. He has to take her somewhere. We are discovering her through him. And it was important, I think, to not short-circuit that by showing us stuff about her that he didn't know and to give her unnecessary context. It's better to watch her becoming who she is with him and let that relationship be its own thing and then, when nobody is expecting it, to throw this heavy right hook."

He continued, "t does two things. First, it contextualizes Ellie in a moment where we are the most concerned about her because when we came off of the episode prior, she had just killed a man in the most brutal way and had clearly been traumatized by her experience with him. And the other thing it does is it connects her birth to the choice that Joel has to make at the end of this episode. Marlene is there. So, we now understand okay, all the way back in episode one. Marlene said I put you there, Ellie, are you my mom or something? was a joke then. But here we kind of answered the question of who the mom is. And in a way Marlene was her mom because from basically two hours after she's born, Marlene becomes the woman who looks after her. And it also cuts to the nature of her immunity. So, when we get to the end, there's Marlene saying I was there when she was born, and Marlene leaves out this fact and I was the one who killed your mother. It all makes sense here at the end it could not have been done anywhere else."

Druckmann went on to explain later in the podcast that waiting to bring that moment into the finale also allowed for the series to tee up some major parallels between the obvious lie that Anna tells Marlene about when she cut the umbilical cord with Ellie — Anna tells her friend she cut the cord before becoming infected when she in fact did not and Marlene ultimately goes along with it — and the lie Joel tells Ellie about what happened.

"The common thread is they both lie," he said.

The Last of Us Season 1 is now streaming on HBO Max.