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Troy Baker, the actor who played Joel in The Last of Us and The Last of Us 2, has condemned the character's actions in the ending of the first game as "the most selfish act ever."
With her immunity, Ellie might have provided humanity with a new hope to overcome the Cordyceps infection. The outbreak, which led to the destruction of the modern world, causes its victims to succumb to a putrefying fungus which grows from the inside of their bodies and out. However, the fungus begins its hold on the infected by growing all over the brain. As a result, if the Fireflies extracted it from Ellie, it would have killed her. Joel's choice to stop the procedure and lie to the girl about what happened in that hospital is one of the most controversial in gaming.
Whether you believe Joel was wrong to deprive humanity of its chance at a cure, or whether you believe Joel's actions are understandable given his own trauma, the man who plays the character has now weighed in on the debate. "I feel like everyone says Joel could have saved the world, that he had the opportunity to save the world, and in my opinion - he did save the world. Because that girl was his world - and if he couldn't save her, there was no world worth saving," explained Baker in an interview with Stealth Optional.
He elaborated that what Joel did was the most "honest" representation of the character and the world that made him. "Was it selfish? Absolutely, it was the most selfish act ever. But that doesn't mean that it wasn't beautiful... that it wasn't honest," he explained. Though he secured Ellie's survival, Joel's actions inside the hospital had significant consequences, and formed the foundation for the story of The Last of Us Part 2. Abby's father was a doctor for the Fireflies, and he was killed by Joel in his mission to save Ellie.
Abby enacts her revenge upon Joel in the second game, and thereby sparks Ellie's own blood-soaked retaliation. The Last of Us Part 2 is an examination of the cycles of violence that drive the world of these survivors, and it simply would not exist had Joel accepted that Ellie would die.
"The fact that seven years on, we are still having this debate about whether or not it was the right decision... we are still asking, 'Is Joel a good guy, is Joel a bad guy? What was 'Ellie feeling when Joel tells her that lie? What does her 'OK' mean?'" continued Baker. "It's something that people seemingly never stop debating, and to me, that is the true mark of an amazing story."
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