Image via HBO
WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for HBO’s The Last of UsEpisode 9: “Find the Light.”
HBO’s first season The last of us has come to an end and we’re not quite sure what to make of ourselves until the second season drops. After devoting our entire lives to this show for the past few months, it’s a bittersweet feeling to finally come to a satisfying conclusion. It seems like just yesterday that we were introduced to Joel and Ellie in “When You’re Lost in the Darkness” on January 15, but now we’ve come full circle as HBO airs the corresponding finale, “Look for the Light,” on March 12 .For those who don’t understand the clever play on words, “When you’re lost in the darkness, look for the light,” the recruitment motto of Firefly.
Although Pedro Pascal’s Joel and Bella Ramsey’s Ellie are the shining stars of the cast, there are some hidden gems in the group — one of them. Merle DandridgeMarlene, the leader of the Fireflies. We don’t see him except in the debut episode and then the finale, which is pretty significant in the way his story unfolds. Marlene drives Joel and Ellie on their quest to reach a Firefly base across the country and use Ellie’s immunity to develop a cure for the cordyceps fungal infection. The next time we see Marlene, she’s pleading with Joel to reconsider his change of heart and allow Ellie to sacrifice her life to save millions of people. Naturally, having bonded with Ellie during their journey, Joel begins to view the teenager as a surrogate daughter, therefore his parental instincts kick in and urge him to save her.
Interestingly, for those who don’t know, Merle Dandridge provided the motion capture performance for Marlene in Naughty Dog’s The last of us also, along with Ashley Johnson (Ellie) and Troy Baker (Joel), she is one of three returning cast members. Unfortunately for her, that meant Dandridge was forced to relive her fate as Marlene.
Towards the finale’s final moments, Joel invades the hospital run by the Fireflies, where a surgeon is preparing to operate on Ellie to extract the necessary substances from her body to make a cure. Joel, who has since had a change of heart with Ellie, chooses to intervene and attack the hospital, taking out all the Fireflies who dare stand in his way. That included Marlene, whom he met inside. He urges Joel to reconsider, telling him to think of all the lives Ellie will save by sacrificing her. Joel is firm in his beliefs, however, and shoots Marlene in the stomach shortly after, eventually killing her when she is bleeding.
That’s pretty accurate to how it goes in the game, except Joel is a little more brutal in his execution. He first shoots Marlene in the side, then when she begs him to let her live, Joel says that doing so will only put himself and Ellie in danger, so he shoots her point blank in the head.
Looks like no more Merle Dandridge for The last of us‘ see into the future, but maybe not? Only those who played The Last of Us: Part II will know for sure.