The latest episode of The Last of Us added a completely new dimension to Joel’s personality. While in the games he was physically fearless, the show adds the frailty of being a human to his character. Over the last few episodes we have seen Joel and Ellie get close thanks to the latter’s jokes, and their instinct to survive. But as their bond strengthens so do Joel’s fears. In a new behind-the-scenes featurette, the cast and crew talk about bringing these fears to life.
“Trying to save somebody and then failing is a terrible feeling and it is in fact the feeling that Joel finds himself soaking in every day because he’s panicked that it’s going to happen to him again,” explained co-creator Craig Mazin. Right from the start, we see Joel incapable of bearing the loss of his daughter Sarah which hardens him in the post-apocalyptic world, Mazin adds, “He can handle being shot at, punched, kicked, what he cannot possibly fathom is going through the experience of losing his child again and that’s what Ellie is becoming to him.” Bella Ramsey adds, “Ellie doesn’t make relationships easily mainly because the relationships she has built have been cruelly taken away from her that’s where Joel and she are the same.”
“What’s incredible was to be able to explore things that I think are very much a part of the experience of the game but you can expand on. One of those things is the internal life of these characters, says Pedro Pascal of his character’s evolution. While we have seen Joel going from a hardened man who reluctantly agrees to take a girl across the US to a man who is panicked at the thought that he won’t be able to protect her. As Neil Druckmann explains, “With the show, there was this addition of like he’s having a physical reaction to that. He can’t breathe, his chest hurts.” Adding, “It’s a combination of his age but also all the events that have just happened and his connection to Ellie. He’s just so scared and Ellie doesn’t quite understand what’s happening with him.” He elaborates on Joel’s need to save everyone around him “Joel has this goal where he thinks he needs to go save his brother and then he arrives in Jackson. Not does he not need to save his brother, his brother is thriving.”
“There’s this beautiful moment where Joel stumbles outside, and he thinks he sees his daughter. We love the idea that for a moment he would think, just for a moment and then he would see her with her daughter, and he would think ‘that’s what I would have,’” says Mazin of the moment when Joel is having a partial panic attack after his first conversation with Tommy. Gabriel Luna adds, “We always try to keep her spirit in the scene, I think it’s always a ghost in the room between Joel and Tommy.”
Speaking of recreating the iconic argument between Joel and Ellie from the first game, Mazin states, “That scene is perhaps the most famous scene from the game. We did it almost exactly, we changed a few things here and there, but the general execution of it was something that I thought was important we stick exactly.” Both Pascal and Ramsey shine in the scene as they confess their fears to each other, Ramsey reveals, “I and Pedro both of us really felt the pressure of that and when you feel too pressured in something, when you’ve created that for yourself it can be hard to perform how you want to. I had sleepless nights over that scene.” Mazin then adds,
“Ellie admits she’s afraid and he makes her less afraid, and what Joel doesn’t know how to tell her is she makes him more afraid that when you care about something or someone, that’s when the fear happens.”
The Last of Us episode 7 drops on February 26. You can check out the new featurette below: