In the official podcast discussion for the latest episode, Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann told host Troy Baker about survivors who stayed alive by simply carving out a quiet corner in the middle of nowhere, like the couple at the beginning of the episode. Completely isolated from the fate of the world, these people were able to survive “reducing their world” down to the space they made for themselves while staying out of harm’s way. Druckmann addressed this in detail:
“For fans of the game, especially ‘Part II,’ it shows you can survive if you find, like, a quiet corner. There are still safe areas. It’s not just all doom, gloom, and danger, like, around every corner. It does exist, but you can survive there on your own.”
Moreover, Mazin credited episode director Jasmila Žbanić for bringing her own experiences as someone who grew up in the middle of war in Sarajevo to the episode. Instead of being interested in depicting war-torn landscapes, Žbanić was more interested in depicting a “society that actually functioned” in a world ravaged by calamity. The Jackson commune offered the perfect opportunity for Žbanić to do so, as it allowed her to flesh out characters like Maria, who relied on methods of survival that did not involve violence at all.
The conversation between Joel and Tommy (Gabriel Luna) touches upon this — although they did what they had to for survival, there are other ways to exist without having to kill innocent people. Sometimes, circumstances leave people like Joel with no choice, but these non-violent methods, although more difficult to embody and live by in such a world, exist. Žbanić utilizes this philosophy to etch a beautiful, moving episode about human goodness, where hope exists even in the bleakest of times.
“The Last of Us” airs Sundays on HBO.