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I struggled for a long time with survivin', and no matter what, you keep finding something to fight for.

Joel Miller is the playable protagonist of The Last of Us Part I, a supporting character in The Last of Us: Left Behind and The Last of Us Part II, the latter of which he is briefly playable in, and a playable character in the No Return mode.[4]

Joel was a survivor in post-apocalyptic America that had been ravaged by the Cordyceps brain infection.[5] After losing his only daughter Sarah in the early stages of the outbreak,[6] Joel became a ruthless and cynical smuggler eventually tasked with smuggling and protecting Ellie Williams, a young girl who was the key to mankind's survival.[7] Joel eventually formed a strong bond with her.[8]


A brutal survivor with few moral lines left to cross. Joel, now in his late 40s,[fn 2] has been hardened by the ravages of the fungal pandemic that has devastated civilization as we know it. He’s lost friends, family, and everything he valued in life. Living in one of few remaining military-controlled quarantine zones, he operates as a black market smuggler, dealing in contraband, taking numerous de-humanizing jobs over the years to survive in this new post-pandemic world. Joel’s conscience slowly dwindles away as he shuts down his emotions to cope to his new life.
―Official description[9]

Background and early life[]

Joel was born on September 26,[10] 1981, in Arlington, Texas,[1] and grew up in the state alongside his younger brother Tommy.[11]

As a child, Joel developed a passion for music, learning to play acoustic guitar and once even aspired to become a singer. Joel had a daughter named Sarah, and was married to her mother for a short period of time. Saddled early in life with the responsibilities of parenthood at a young age, he never had the opportunity to attend college.[12]

Regarding his ex-wife, whatever occurred between them is painful for Joel to talk about.[12] Shortly after Sarah was born, Joel's wife left him.[13] As a result, he raised their only daughter as a single father for the majority of his life.[12] The two lived together in a two-story single-family home somewhere in or around Austin, Texas, located in Travis County through Texas State Highway 71.[5]

As an adult, Joel worked as a carpenter, alongside Tommy. He kept a revolver locked in a safe box in his office and owned a pick-up truck outside his house. Building plans laid on his bedside table along with several copies of a book called Construction Regionalism on top of his bookshelf. He had ambitions of starting his own business, with a copy of Everything You Need to Know About Creating a Startup also on a table next to his bed. His job kept him fit, and he owned a treadmill in his bedroom. He mentioned in a phone call that he was struggling to keep his job with a contractor.[5]

Despite his long, hard-working hours, he still managed to spend quality time with Sarah, as seen in photographs displayed throughout their home showing the two on a cruise, at a carnival with Tommy, and one of Sarah's soccer matches. Additionally, the two often went on several hikes together.[14] Sarah also made him take her to every museum in Texas.[8]

On his 32nd birthday—just hours leading up to the outbreak—Sarah gave him a new watch as a gift to replace the one he had broken months before.[15] This became a cherished memento he manages to keep in the turbulent years ahead.[6]

Events of The Last of Us Part I[]

Losing Sarah[]


Joel with his daughter Sarah, facing a military soldier.

On September 26, 2013, Joel arrived home late from work and put Sarah to bed after watching television together.[15] During the early hours of September 27, Joel was attacked by his neighbor and forced to shoot him dead with his revolver in self-defense. After calming Sarah, Tommy arrived to evacuate them in his truck.

After driving towards the highway and trying to make sense of the situation, the group found the road blocked so took another route, only for their car to collide with an oncoming vehicle. Once he came to, Joel kicked the windshield out so the three could run on foot. He had to carry Sarah as her leg was injured in the crash. After running through the city, Tommy stayed to hold off the infected so Joel and Sarah could flee.[5]

The pair reached the highway but encountered a soldier. The soldier's commanding officer ordered him over the radio to kill the two, so he opened fire. Collapsing to the ground, the soldier moved to execute Joel but Tommy arrived, gunning down the soldier. However, Sarah was fatally hit. Despite Joel's efforts, she died in his arms.[6]


Shortly after Sarah's death, Joel found himself in a triage clinic after making it to the highway. He witnessed how families had been torn apart and how much chaos had erupted in the world.[16] While there, he considered taking his own life but was unable to, finding something to fight for. However, what he found was worth fighting for was something his brother, Tommy, greatly disliked.[17]

Over the years, the pair survived by descending into a sinister way of life. Joel tortured, deceived, and killed countless innocent people, becoming a hunter. He adopted tactics such as tricking passersby into thinking he was hurt so he could ambush them when they let their guard down.[17]

Joel and Tommy eventually reached the city of Boston, smuggling themselves into the city. Tommy finally had enough of Joel's philosophy on how to survive, abandoning his brother to join a growing militia group known as the Fireflies after being persuaded by the leader, Marlene. The two argued furiously over this, Tommy finishing with "I don't ever wanna see your goddamned face again!" Tommy eventually left the Fireflies as well but did not return to Joel, leaving Boston to go to Wyoming.[11]

Joel spent a considerable period of time alone, eventually meeting a woman named Tess Servopoulos. The pair grew close, teaming up to act as smugglers in the quarantine zone. They worked with several people, namely Robert (whom they grew to heavily distrust), Bill (who owed Joel some favors),[18] and Donovan.[19] It is unknown if the pair ever had a romantic relationship, though dialogue heavily implies they both care deeply for one another.[7]

Confronting Robert[]


Joel interrogates Robert with Tess.

In the summer of 2033, Robert betrayed Joel and Tess, hiring two men to attack Tess. The pair decided to confront him.[6]

While crossing to his hideout, they were forced outside the wall when the soldiers locked down the area to contain a Firefly platoon that attacked the checkpoint, causing the soldiers to lock it down. While traversing to their hideout, the pair learned that Marlene, the "queen" Firefly, was also looking for Robert. The pair reached the slums, bribing their way in with ration cards. Joel almost attacked one smuggler that tried to block his path but the man let him through upon seeing Tess.[7]

When the two finally reached Robert, Joel restrained him, kicked his face and broke his arm. Giving in, Robert revealed he sold their guns to the Fireflies. Tess kills him in retaliation and Joel decides they need to reason with the Fireflies to get their weapons back. Marlene, the Fireflies' leader arrived, albeit wounded, and struck a deal. She arranged for them to transport something to a group of Fireflies waiting at the Capitol Building. In exchange, they would regain their weapons and extra supplies. Joel and Tess are reluctant but go with Marlene anyway to avoid a military patrol.[20] On the way, the three are confronted by a small group of soldiers, successfully killing them but not before the soldiers kill the Fireflies they captured. Seeing her dead companions saddened Marlene but Joel convinced her that they needed to move on.

Smuggling Ellie[]

Ellie - first encounter

Joel and Tess meet Ellie for the first time.

Marlene takes them to a kitchen, Joel picking her up when she falls because of her wound. To his surprise, a teenage girl tries to attack him with a switchblade, though Tess stops her. Marlene reveals the "cargo" is the girl, Ellie, surprising Joel. After a discussion, Joel reluctantly agreed to take the girl to an apartment near the outside wall and wait for Tess to return from verifying the weapons with Marlene.[21]

While escorting the girl, Joel asked her where her parents were and why the Fireflies are so interested in her. Ellie revealed that her parents died "a long time ago" but refused to reveal why Marlene wanted Joel to smuggle her. Joel remarked that is the best thing about his job; "I don't gotta know".[7]

Once at the apartment, Joel lay down on a couch, telling Ellie to "figure out... what to do", while he slept. Ellie remarked how his watch is broken, but Joel did not reply. By nightfall, Tess arrived, Joel agreeing to take the job upon learning the payment was plentiful.[22] As they left, he asked Tess why Marlene was relying on them, learning that they weren't Marlene's "first choice or the second".



On their way to the checkpoint, they were captured by a military patrol. While they are being checked for infection, Ellie panicked and attacked one of the soldiers. The soldier tried to shoot her, but Joel defended her, killing the soldier while Tess shoots the other. Ther pair were then surprised when the other soldier's scanner revealed Ellie was infected. Panicked, Ellie claimed she wasn't infected and revealed a bite mark she claimed was three weeks old. Before Joel and Tess could decide what to do about Ellie, another patrol soon arrived so the trio fled to the outskirts.[23] There, Joel tried to convince Tess that they should abandon the mission, but his partner believed Ellie.

Finding their path blocked, they detoured through a derelict skyscraper and a subway, both filled with infected. The trio then went through an old museum, where Joel was separated from Ellie and Tess. After making his way through a room full of clickers, Joel found Tess and Ellie fighting off a horde of runners. Defeating the infected, Ellie remarked how skilled the pair were but Joel put it down to "luck, and it will run out".[24]

Eventually, despite encountering several infected and learning a small group of soldiers had died in one of the buildings, the trio came insight of the Capitol building. After crossing a building via a plank, Joel asked Ellie if "[the view] is everything [she] hoped for". After Ellie responds, Joel briefly glances at his watch, reminded by his daughter Sarah. However, Tess snapped him out of his daydreaming.[25]


"It is over Tess!"

However, once they entered the building, they found the Firefly extraction team dead and the military surrounded the exterior. When Joel tried to convince Tess they should "just go home" and that such a thing was "not us", she revealed that she too had been infected. She compared her bite to Ellie, proving Ellie's immunity by how Tess's bite was swollen and throbbing while Ellie's was clear and healed. Tess insisted Ellie and Joel continue on their own and find Tommy, who would guide them to another Firefly group. She decided to fight the military to buy them time to run.[26] Reluctantly, Ellie and Joel fled the area while Tess was killed. The pair reached a subway, avoiding soldiers and a Humvee. They crossed through a dark, flooded, subway; seeing that Ellie can breathe in the spores without any sign of her infection worsening solidified Joel's belief that she was immune.[24]

Finding a car[]

Bill's lamp

Joel in Bill's safehouse.

Once outside in safety, Ellie said she felt guilty about Tess' sacrifice, but Joel firmly said to never talk about Tess. Joel planned to go to a town to meet Bill, the mechanic who owed him a favor. They spent the morning heading there, soon coming to a woods which separated the road from the town. To save time, Joel led Ellie through the woods and was astounded that Ellie has never walked in the woods or seen real fireflies before.[18]

They managed to get inside, finding the place filled with infected and booby-traps. Joel revealed he had never visited Bill personally at the town, preferring to rendezvous at various checkpoints nearer Boston; he claimed Bill was the only person living there. They made it past Bill's barricades, but one trap snagged Joel's foot, causing him to dangle from the ceiling upside down. The trap attracted infected, forcing Joel he to fight them off with his revolver while Ellie got him down. Once down, a runner attempted to bite him, but Bill arrived and decapitated the infected with his machete. They then fled to a safe room.[18]

Once safe, Bill restrained Ellie and knocked Joel to the ground, annoyed that Joel and Ellie destroyed many of his traps to find him. After making peace, Bill devised a plan to retrieve a battery from a crashed military truck, stating that if they, his debts to Joel were repaid.[27]

Joel and Ellie were taken by Bill to a church, Bill's personal armory. While Bill loaded two shotguns, he tried to convince him to give up on the mission, citing that Tess would dislike his "worst job on record... a suicide mission." Bill lectured Joel about "caring for someone". Not desiring to hear Bill's complaints, he asked if they can just "get on with it", irritating Bill.[28] Just before they left, Bill gave him a nail bomb and taught him how to make one. Outside, Joel tried to stop Ellie from staring at burnt corpses but the teenager claimed she had "seen worse".[18]

Despite encountering numerous infected, including a bloater at an old high school, they found the car battery they needed was missing.[18] Taking refuge in a house, Joel to asked Bill what their next plan was only for it to results in the pair arguing, Bill insulting Tess in the process, infuriating Joel. Just as he went to fire back, Bill froze in place, staring at a hung corpse. Joel spitefully asked who the person was, quickly changing his tone to one of remorse when he learned it was Bill's former partner; Frank. Joel tried to console Bill but the sound of an engine reminded them of the need to press on: they can't dwell on the past.[29]

Before dying, Frank had acquired the battery for himself, having fitted it in a truck Ellie found. Watching Bill assess the vehicle, Joel learned they needed to push the truck to recharge the battery via the alternator. Ellie asked him what he wanted her to do; Joel trusted Ellie enough to let her drive the vehicle while he and Bill pushed it.[29] After several attempts, and holding off infected as they did so, they started the truck and drove off, returning to Bill's armory.

You drive we push

"You drive, we push".

Joel left Ellie to keep the motor running as he bid Bill farewell. The pair remarked how Ellie "held her own back there" though Bill believed he and Ellie wouldn't last long on the road. Bill gifted Joel a siphon hose. Joel awkwardly attempted to offer his condolences regarding the loss of Frank; Bill just scrubbed it off, asking if they were "square". Joel confirmed they were: Bill no longer owed him anything. With that, Joel returned to the truck, taking off with Ellie for Pittsburgh.

Facing hunters in Pittsburgh[]

Joel spent much of the journey driving, leaving Ellie to sleep. By morning, Joel came to a blocked entrance at the city of Pittsburgh. Although he was wary about entering the city, he did so anyway. The pair drove deep into the city before Joel slammed the brakes at the sight of a man stumbling in the road, pleading for assistance. Although Ellie wanted to help the man, Joel put his seatbelt on, telling her to do the same. Joel, recognizing a tactic he had used when he was a hunter, knew the ruse. The man dropped the act and shot at them. Joel accelerated into the man as his comrades attacked the truck. Eventually, the pair crashed into a bookstore. Joel fought off the oncoming hunters then fled away from the highway on foot with Ellie.[30]

They then battled through the city, fighting numerous hunters on the way. Joel spotted the hunters using a Humvee to kill "tourists", their word for outsiders. The two bonded as Joel answered Ellie's questions regarding life before the disease destroyed the world. One question in particular, regarding a Dawn of the Wolf poster, reminded Joel about Sarah because had seen it shortly before the outbreak. When Ellie asked why Joel would have watched such a "dumb teen movie", he lied saying he doesn't remember, wanting to avoid telling Ellie about his daughter. To "lighten the mood", Ellie revealed a joke book she owned, quoting several jokes from it as they walked to take their minds off of the dangers in the world.[17]

Joel became separated from Ellie when the pair climbed an elevator shaft, the elevator giving way, sending Joel plummeting to the bottom. Ellie, safe on the ledge, tried to climb down to Joel but he demanded that she stay put, wanting to make his own way to her. Joel, despite facing infected, made it out of the basement. As he tried to return to Ellie, a hunter ambushed him and pinned him underwater. Joel desperately reached for his handgun but couldn't reach it, the hunter grappling his arm to prevent his escape. Luckily, Ellie appeared at the last second, shooting the hunter dead and saving Joel's life.[17]

Despite the fact that Ellie was initially in shock from having killed a person for the first time, Joel scolded her for disobeying his orders. Ellie argued back, telling Joel that, though it wasn't easy for her, it was either "[Joel] or him", and he could at least thank her for "saving [his] ass." Joel brushed off the remarks and avoided thanking her as the two continue on.[31] However (seeing hunters in the distance) Joel trusted Ellie with a hunting rifle, testing to see if she could "handle that". Although disappointed Ellie had only ever shot a BB gun at rats, he taught her how to use it regardless. He also thanked her for saving him, making Ellie happier that Joel was starting to trust her.[32] After they killed the group, Joel finally felt Ellie has earned the right to carry a pistol, though he declared it was "for emergencies only".[33]

Meeting Henry and Sam[]

Soon after, The pair encountered the Humvee in person when traversing through the streets, managing to outrun it despite its heavy firepower. The two decided to enter a building via the balcony in order to get off the streets.[17]


A confrontation results in new allies.

While doing so, Joel was grabbed from behind by what he presumed was another hunter. Joel eventually overpowered him and began beating him. However, Ellie shouted for him to stop as a teenage boy was pointing a gun at him. Joel backed off, making peace with the two. Upon learning their names, Henry and Sam, Joel cautiously agreed to follow them to a hideout; "it will be safer if we chat there".[34]

Once there, Henry offered Joel some blueberries having found "a whole stash of them". Joel politely refused, wanting to learn why they had not left yet. As Ellie and Sam conversed in the background, Henry explained that the bridge (the only real exit) was heavily guarded by day but was reduced to just a skeleton crew at night. After Joel revealed he was looking for the Fireflies as well, Henry explained his plan to go to a radio station just out of the city to reunite with survivors from his group. Joel agreed to join him, shortly going to sleep to "rest up".[35]

The four escaped the hunter area through the sewers and suburbs.[36] The pair slowly bonded with the brothers; Joel personally discussed his love of motorbike riding with Henry, who was envious for Joel riding one yet not going into detail about the story. When Ellie left them, Henry confessed his animosity to telling Sam about their friends' deaths, which Joel somberly nodded to. By morning, Joel was up early, looking out the window as Henry made breakfast. However, they were disturbed by Ellie's screams, who came crashing into the room, tackled by an infected Sam. Joel raced to his gun but Henry shot at him, not wanting to see Sam die. Regardless, Joel went for his gun again. Henry fired, killing Sam. Overcome with grief, Henry shot himself in the head despite Joel's efforts to dissuade the distraught man.[37]

Reuniting with Tommy[]

Joel Tommy

Brotherly reunion.

Following the events in Pittsburgh, the duo continued westward to reach the Fireflies. Fall arrived as Joel and Ellie reached Jackson County, Wyoming, where Joel believed his younger brother Tommy could tell them the Fireflies' location. They reached a dam blocked by a large gate. While opening the gate, a woman and two men held them at gunpoint. As Joel tried to convince the group to let them pass through, someone on the inside began opening the door - Tommy. To Joel's surprise, his brother hugged him and they briefly remarked to each other about their age. Tommy introduced him to Maria, the settlement's leader. The woman said she was sorry and commented that Joel was her brother in law, surprising Joel at the prospect of Tommy having married. Maria took note of Ellie, who had remained quiet and invited them to eat.[38]

The group entered the settlement, amazed to find such a place. They saw horses, Joel learning that Ellie also knew how to ride one. They learned the group was trying to restore the electricity. As they approached the cafeteria, Maria received a call on her radio to check out the newly repaired generator. Tommy and Joel went while the girls ate. While walking there, Tommy gave Joel a picture he found back when he returned to Texas. Joel looked at the photo but, after a long pause, gave it back; he was too pained by the memories of his lost daughter to take it. Tommy accepted this, taking him to see the generator be activated. As they crossed through, one worker jokingly bets "a million bucks it works" to which Tommy remarked "make it two". The two watched as the generator successfully started. Joel joked that Tommy was out two million dollars, Tommy laughed him off as they entered a room to talk privately.

Once inside, Joel and Tommy began discussing why Joel had left Boston. Joel confessed Ellie's immunity to his brother. Although doubtful, Tommy believed him when Joel proposed he could show him. Joel admitted he came there to pass Ellie on to his brother as the Fireflies were his "crusade", thus his responsibility. Tommy promised Joel gear but refused to take Ellie from him. Joel was angered, stating that Tommy owed him this, only for Tommy to say that surviving "wasn't worth it". Enraged, Joel shoved him against a locker, preparing to get even more physical. As he went to do so Tommy warned him; "you lay your hands on me again and it won't end well for you". Before they argued further, bandits attacked the dam.[39]

Joel helped fend off the attackers and rescue Maria and Ellie. He checked to see if Ellie was hurt, relieved she wasn't. As the group recovered after the attack, Tommy reluctantly agreed to take Ellie to the Fireflies. While he informed a heartbroken Maria, Joel was harsh to Ellie, avoiding the fact that the two were arguing. Maria confronted Joel, threatening his life if Tommy died. As Joel tearfully went to retrieve Ellie, Tommy was radioed by a comrade that Ellie had stolen a horse and fled into the woods.[40] Joel and Tommy gave chase, tracking her to a ranch house.

Joel found Ellie alone in an abandoned bedroom reading a diary. He tried to make her leave but she refused. Joel reprimanded her for running off, causing Ellie to bring up Sarah, having been told of Joel's deceased daughter by Maria. Joel warned Ellie that she was "treading on some mighty thin ice." The two argued heavily about the losses in their lives, Ellie pushing Joel while doing so. Joel remained cold, asserting he wasn't her dad. Tommy interrupted them, as bandits had reached the ranch.[41]

Once the trio dispatched them, they departed to Tommy's. While riding, Joel thought back on his time with Ellie, concluding he didn't want to abandon her and leave her scared. He asked Tommy for the Firefly lab's location, the University of Eastern Colorado. He had Ellie return her horse and get on his. Tommy tried to convince him to come to the town so they could discuss it but Joel's mind was made up. With the promise of a home at Tommy's, if they should return, Joel and Ellie departed for the University.[42]

Searching for Fireflies[]

Several weeks pass before they reach the University. While traveling they decided to name the horse Callus, though Joel doesn't approve of it. They search through the university for traces of Fireflies, finding a sniper's nest, Firefly symbols, and the mirror-like science building Tommy mentioned. Joel briefly encounters infected, including a bloater - a former Firefly. Joel tries to assure Ellie that the infected were there as a form of defense. While searching, Joel confesses his desire to be a singer and that he was in sports. Ellie also remarks that she wants to be an astronaut. When closing in on the abandoned and barricaded science lab, Ellie asks if Joel went to college. He confesses he didn't since he had Sarah quite young, but is reluctant to talk about his ex-spouse.

They reach the building but find that the Fireflies are gone. They do find monkeys (Ellie saying she had never seen them before) and evidence of the abandoned research. They search through the building, breaking in through the side gates due to how fortified the main entrance is with barbed wire. While searching, they manage to reach a blocked door.[12]

Once inside, Joel finds a Firefly skeleton with a recording. As Ellie searches through some files, Joel plays the recording and learns the Fireflies have relocated to Salt Lake City. Knowing where to go, the pair go to leave, but notice a flash on a lower floor, narrowly avoiding being shot.

Joel Cannibal

Joel being tackled by a cannibal.

The two waste no time fleeing the building, killing several hostile survivors in the process. They make it to the lower levels but Joel is surprised by one attacker, tackled off a ledge, and crashes through a piece of rebar, mortally wounding him. Luckily, his attacker breaks his neck in the fall. Ellie frantically climbs down to Joel, unsure of what to do. Joel picks up his revolver. Grunting in pain as he orders her to move, shooting two more bandits as they charged through the doors in front of the pair. Joel fidgets, unable to get up. No other choice, Ellie pulls Joel up, the man screaming in pain from the effort.

Joel is up but his torso is punctured, causing him to lose a great amount of blood. Ellie checks the corridor as Joel limps behind her, insisting he doesn't need her assistance. They climb through a smashed window, Joel falling to the ground only for Ellie to pull him behind a desk; another bandit forced his way into the room, not hesitating to fire at the pair. Joel tries to return fire but is pinned down. Ellie decides to flank him, Joel wearily telling her not to. She does so regardless, distracting the man long enough for Joel to shoot him dead. Ellie returns to Joel, picking him up.

They carry on through the building, approaching the exit. Joel stumbles, almost falling, on the way out. Ellie once more tries to help but he pushes her off, causing her to shout that he's "not okay". They proceed through to the main hall, Joel's body giving in as he falls to the ground, attempting to shoot oncoming bandits. Ellie manages to kill them, forcing Joel to his feet once more but this time, he allows her to assist him.[12]

They make it outside, Joel falling down the steps. They secure their horse and ride out of the university. Once a safe distance away, Ellie remarks that they are safe, only for Joel to lose consciousness, falling from Callus. Ellie tries to pick him up but can't, begging him to tell her what to do.[43]

Recovering from wound sepsis[]

Ellie managed to drag the dying Joel to an abandoned mall. Ellie covered his wound with her summer shirt, using duct tape to keep it in place. She left him in the yogurt bar with Callus while she searched for medical supplies. Ellie returned with a first aid kit, after fighting through cannibals and infected to get back. She stitched up Joel's wound and strapped him to a sled to pull him through the snow.[44] They left, eventually reaching Silver Lake. Ellie secured Joel in an abandoned house near a lake. As the weeks passed, Ellie hunted for food while Joel contracted septicemia.

Taking care of Joel

Joel in Ellie's care.

Weeks later, Joel remained feverish because of his wound sepsis. Ellie returned after hunting one day with a bottle of penicillin she obtained from two survivors named David and James. The next morning, David's group tracked Ellie and Joel's location to capture them. To protect Joel, Ellie fled the area on Callus but they caught up, shot Callus dead and David captured her. Joel was not found by the group.[45]

The next day, Joel startled awake, now cured of his illness, albeit weakened. He left the house to search for Ellie only to encounter stragglers from David's group. He chased and killed all but two. He tortured and interrogated them for information about Ellie's location. He then murdered them in revenge for the group capturing Ellie.[46]

Later, Joel reached David settlement and learned they were cannibals as he fought and slaughtered those he met through the town. He eventually reached a burning restaurant to find Ellie brutally hacking at David with his own machete. He pulled her away from the corpse to calm and embrace her, the first time he had done so with her. He also called her "baby girl," the same endearing term he used for Sarah. Ellie now safe, the pair fled the town.[47]

Reaching St. Mary's[]

Salt Lake City

Joel and Ellie overlook Salt Lake City.

By Spring, Joel and Ellie reached Salt Lake City, their intended final destination. Joel tried to fill the silence in order to cheer up an estranged and traumatized Ellie, who warmed up after seeing a herd of giraffes.[16] Knowing what Ellie had experienced, he suggested they leave and return to Tommy's settlement, but she declined his offer, remarking that she wanted to go through with this after all they have been through.[48]

In the city, they encountered a horde of infected while crossing a flooded street via the roofs of vehicles and construction scaffolding, they reach a big gap. Ellie was scared that she would not make it, but Joel reassured her that he would catch her. She jumped but made it without his help, something Joel congratulated her for.[16]

While crossing the last bus to reach the end of the sewers, it gave way on Joel, sending him crashing to the front side as water proceeded to fill it. Ellie jumped on the bus and kicked open the door to open it. However, the bus sinks beneath the water. Joel forced his way out to reach an unconscious and submerged Ellie. He carried her to the surface but found she was not breathing. Panicking, he gave her CPR to save her life. While doing so, two Fireflies found them, who knocked him out.

Saving Ellie[]

When Joel awoke, he was with Marlene and what remained of the Boston Fireflies at St. Mary's Hospital. Ellie was successfully revived but was immediately taken for surgery on Marlene's order to create a vaccine for the infection. Marlene also told Joel that, in order to fully reverse engineer the fungus for a vaccine, the doctors were about to remove the fungus from Ellie's brain, which would result in certain death. Upon hearing this, Joel began to protest for her. Marlene disregarded him, saying that it was not his choice and that her decision to sacrifice Ellie would save millions before leaving him with the Firefly guard Ethan. Joel, determined not to lose his new "daughter" like he lost Sarah, tortured Ethan to learn the location of the operating room.[49] He then battled his way through the facility, killed the head surgeon and brought Ellie out.[50]

Marlene cornered Joel at the hospital parking garage by threatening him with a pistol. She tried to persuade him that running was futile; Ellie would eventually die a pointless death, whether to clickers or savaged survivors. Joel grew weary as he considered the possibility as Marlene moved closer to him to reach for Ellie. Despite this offer, Joel shot Marlene in the abdomen, firmly deciding he would rather save Ellie than save humanity. Joel secured Ellie in a car then returned to a dying Marlene. She begged for her life, but Joel coldly refused, fearing that she would pursue them if she survived. He then shot her point-blank in the head before fleeing with Ellie back to Jackson.[51]

Joel's Lie

"I swear".

On the way, to spare Ellie from feeling survivor's guilt, he lied to her that her immunity meant nothing because the Fireflies gave up their efforts to find a cure, which depressed Ellie. When the two reached Tommy's, they were unable to cross through the main road because the truck broke down. Detouring through the woods, he told Ellie that he used to hike with Sarah, believing the pair would have "been good friends" and remarked that they could live a normal life now.[14] Eventually, Ellie confronted Joel about whether what he told her was true. Joel replied, "I swear", leaving a doubting Ellie to her own belief.[3]

Events of The Last of Us Part II[]

Telling Tommy the truth[]

Joel guitar1

Joel cleaning a guitar.

After spending a few weeks at Tommy's and having been accepted by the Jackson community, Tommy questioned Joel about his experience with Ellie during a patrol inside a vacant house. Joel, sitting down on a chair while cleaning an acoustic guitar, began to tell Tommy all about what happened from smuggling Ellie to the Fireflies, their journey halfway across the country, and the eventual revelation that Ellie will be used for the cure, albeit at the cost of her life.

The dumbstruck Tommy questioned Joel about what Ellie knew about the incident, to which Joel said that he lied to Ellie that there was no cure in order to protect her. Tommy, having heard enough, told Joel that they should head back to Jackson. Joel agreed and returned to Jackson with Tommy. Once they arrived, Tommy stopped Joel and stated that he understood the reasoning on why he lied to Ellie and that he "wouldn't have done it differently" and that he would "take it to the grave, if [he] have to." Joel then waved Tommy goodbye and walked to his newfound home with his new acoustic guitar.[52]

Gifting Ellie a guitar[]

During the night, Joel finished his work and searches for Ellie. He found her listening to her Walkman in her room, drawing something at her desk. He knocked on the door, calling Ellie's name but she could not hear him. After a few attempts, he entered the room to tap her shoulder, startling her.

Ellie asked Joel why he was visiting, and Joel says he was just checking in. He mentioned that people in Jackson were impressed with how Ellie had been helping out. Joel started to tell Ellie about a joke Tommy told him that he thought she would like, but Ellie interrupted him, noting that it was late and she needed to get up early. Joel agreed to leave her alone after he showed her something.

He stepped outside and returned soon with the guitar he found on patrol. He asked Ellie if she would like to hear something, and she agreed. Joel made her agree not laugh before singing "Future Days" by Pearl Jam for her. The lyrics, which included lines of seeing "future days/Days of you and me" resonated with Ellie as softened while listening to Joel sing.

Joel guitar3

Joel sings for Ellie.

When Joel finished the song, he then offered Ellie the guitar as a gift. Ellie tried to refuse, saying that she did not know how to play it, but Joel reminded her about his promise to teach her. Touched he remembered, Ellie accepted the guitar. Joel then said their first lesson was tomorrow night, which Ellie agreed to.

As Joel moved to leave, Ellie asked him to finish the joke. Joel smiled and asked "What is the downside to eating a clock? It's time consuming." Ellie smiled and says that is dumb. Joel chuckled then wished her goodnight as he shut the door, leaving Ellie to sleep.[52][53]

Life in Jackson[]

A couple of years after integrating into Jackson, Joel became well-known and respected within the community. He would often go out on scouting and patrol missions with Tommy in order to keep the surrounding area clear of infected.[52] The brothers mainly patrolled the Mountain View lodge the most because the pair could play guitar together in peace high up in the ski lodge by the mountain. The pair even wrote their own personal comments in to the log books when patrolling this area, even though fellow patrolman Mike noted this was forbidden. However, the brothers carried on doing it, a decision that amused other patrolmen like Eugene Linden, Bonnie and Greg.[54]

The brothers were skilled when on patrol, able to comfortably handle infected they encountered and rescue survivors from hordes. Their proficiency meant that Maria would personally assign the brothers to handle reports of large infected hordes approaching the community.[52] Joel and Tommy were up to the task, succeeding in killing numerous infected. Their actions in winter of 2034 served as their greatest evidence of this, when they killed over twenty infected from a forty-strong horde that was predominantly made up of clickers and bloaters.[54]

As mentioned by Ellie and even himself, Joel would often trade many of his belongings with trading caravans in order to obtain coffee.[55] He seemed to have picked up carpentry again, as an entire room in his house was turned into a makeshift workshop where he handcrafted guitars and numerous objects for the residents of Jackson.[52]

Joel continued to care for Ellie as the two settled into Jackson, allowing her personal living space in a large shed in his backyard. During this time, Joel taught Ellie how to swim, as well as teaching her to play guitar. For Ellie's sixteenth birthday, Joel took her to a nearby museum. Along the way, Joel pushed her into the water to help teach her how to swim. In turn, Ellie pushed him in soon after.

At the museum, despite his pleas, Ellie climbed a Tyrannosaurus Rex statue and jumped from it. Inside the museum, the pair looked at various dinosaur statues, with Joel offering his knowledge about them from what he learned through watching action films.

Joel happy with Ellie

Joel is happy Ellie is enjoying her birthday.

Upstairs, Ellie displayed delight in finding the space exhibit and, putting on an astronaut helmet, entered a model space shuttle. Joel followed through, staring in wonder at all the buttons. Ellie sighed, saying she wished she could go into space with it. Joel then took out a tape recorder and gave it Ellie, telling her to close her eyes and play it in her Walkman. It was a recording of the Apollo 11 launch. He watched as Ellie listened to it, imagining flying into space. When its over, Ellie confirmed Joel had given her an amazing birthday present. He then gifted her a Space pendant to certify her as an official astronaut.

Content, the pair continue exploring the museum. At Ellie's insistence, he helped her enter the barricaded nature exhibit but, upon hearing her cry out, forced his way through the other side. He found her staring at a Firefly insignia on the wall with the word "liars" beneath it. Sensing Ellie's guilt, he coaxed her to leave, citing they needed to make a fire before it was dark.[8]

Joel's lie is out

Joel tells Ellie the truth at last.

A year later, Joel, Ellie, and Tommy went out on a patrol mission together. He cleared out a few runners and then waited for them at a ski lodge, playing Ellie's guitar. He saw the strings on it were worn. When Tommy and Ellie got back from their sniping hunt, he revealed such. Tommy suggested the pair head to a nearby music store while he kept watch. The pair then did so.

However, they find the path blocked, deciding to go through a nearby hotel instead. Inside, Joel and Ellie encountered numerous infected, including a bloater. When the bloater grappled Ellie, Joel saved Ellie by hacking the infected to death with a machete. After this, in the hotel's restaurant the pair found the remains of two teenagers that had tried to leave Jackson several months earlier. This caused Ellie to question what had happened at the hospital, though Joel dismissed her, claiming that he wished things could be different, but they weren't. He then insisted they not speak further on it and left to fetch Tommy to help bring the dead bodies back to Jackson for burial.[54]

Joel sad at party

Joel hears Ellie doesn't need his help.

However, the moment was not enough for Ellie. Sometime after this, she ran away to St. Mary's hospital to learn the truth. Joel, finding Ellie's note about doing so in the night, chased after her and caught up a day later. However, he found her outside the hospital, already having confirmed he did indeed lie to her for several years. Despite much hesitation, he confessed the Fireflies did indeed see hopes of a cure in Ellie but he stopped them to save her life. Ellie broke down, rejecting Joel and declaring that she would return to Jackson but never have anything to do with Joel again.[54]

This led the duo's relationship to fracture. Ellie would ignore Joel, though he would continue to look out for and attempt to talk to her. This continued for a couple of years. In March of 2038 at the community's winter dance, Joel saw Seth insult Ellie and Dina for kissing on the dance floor. Angered, he ran over and shoved the man, ordering him to leave. However, Maria quickly split them up. Joel moved to make sure Ellie was all right but she only berated him further, stating he should stay out of her way. Dejected, Joel left the party.[56]

Joel affirms saving Ellie

"If the Lord somehow gave me a second chance at that moment...I would do it all over again."

Later that night, while he was sat on his porch playing guitar, Ellie confronted Joel again about what had happened. Joel mentioned he got coffee from nearby travelers and asked if Ellie and Dina were dating, expressing support if they were. Ellie, however, became angry, cursing him for having stolen her chance to redeem humanity through sacrificing herself. To this, Joel stood up and affirmed that, if God gave him a second chance, he would do the same thing again. Despite her anger, Ellie finally admitted she would be willing to forgive Joel. Just as tears began to roll down his face, Ellie left and mentioned that they may try to rebuild their relationship.[55]


On March 2, 2038, Joel and Tommy were out on patrol when a blizzard swept over Jackson. The two sought refuge in a building complex, where they found and saved Abby Anderson from a horde of infected. Abby took Joel and Tommy back to a hideout at the Baldwin mansion where her group were staying. Tommy and Joel introduced themselves; then, the group became silent. Suspicious, Joel noted they seemed to know the brothers, which Abby confirmed before shooting Joel's leg with a shotgun.

Abby over Joel

Joel, near-death, as Abby stands over him.

After the group knocked out Tommy, they dragged Joel to a wall and restrained him. Abby told him to guess who she was, but Joel growled for her to say her speech and finish him. Having Joel's leg wrapped in a makeshift tourniquet to ensure he didn't die of blood loss, Abby took out a golf club and began to beat him with it.

When Ellie found Abby beating Joel, she tried to interfere but was quickly restrained by Abby's team. With Ellie pinned down, she begged Joel to get up as he weakly opened his eyes to look at her, unable to move. Seconds later, deaf to Ellie's pleas, Abby bashed Joel's skull in with the golf club, killing him. He was 56 years old.[52]


Joel's body, along with the unconscious Tommy and Ellie, were found soon after by Dina and Jesse. His body was later buried in Jackson's cemetery, with many members of the community leaving condolences outside his house.[52]

Both Ellie and Tommy went after the group to avenge Joel, with Ellie receiving help from Dina and later Jesse. Ellie learned Abby had killed Joel because she and her group were ex-Fireflies from St. Mary's Hospital intent on exacting revenge for Joel's actions.[54] Joel's death was especially traumatic for Ellie, whose complicated feelings towards her foster father were never resolved.[55]

During Ellie's final confrontation with Abby, Ellie had a chance to kill her. However, she recalled her final conversation with Joel, causing Ellie to spare the broken Abby instead.[56] On her way back home, Ellie forgave Joel's decision to save her life and left his guitar behind at her farm house.[55]

Personality and traits[]

Described as being in his late 40's in the first game, Joel knew what the world looked like before it was devastated.[6] As time passed, Joel became less bound by morality and more driven by doing whatever is necessary to survive. "What he wouldn't do in the past is almost a daily occurrence at this point," Bruce Straley, the game's director, notes.[57]

Prior to the apocalypse, Joel was a caring father who worked hard to raise Sarah by himself.[5] After the death of his beloved daughter Sarah, Joel's personality became more broody, damaged, apathetic and ruthless.[8][6][20][36][46] These dark traits led others to describe him as a "violent thug, a brutal killer, and a torturer."[58] He was shown to be able to kill his enemies with noteworthy brutality, earning him an infamous reputation to those he encountered.[12][17][7] David called him a "crazy man."[45]

During the aftermath of the epidemic that struck the country, Joel had initially become a hunter, stealing from and killing innocent people in order to get by.[17] His time as a hunter darkened him, the man torturing individuals in a way that gave his brother "nightmares."[39][8] This continued for several years, before he resorted to working in black-market dealings and smuggling items or people of interest through quarantine zones or other designated areas.[59] Because of this, he accumulated valuable knowledge in regards to surviving the post-apocalyptic environment. Joel rarely showed signs of happiness and was often cynical.[6][7] Ellie notes that Joel had stained his hands with innocent blood when he revealed to her that he had been "on both sides", thus having the knowledge about a hunters' ambush and anticipating it.[17] This dark past contributed to his experience as a hardened survivalist.[8][7]

Upon meeting Ellie, he initially had a rocky relationship with her.[22] However, Joel later grew to trust her and found her reliable at most times, such as Ellie spotting for Joel or providing support.[32][33] As time passed, Joel established a father-daughter relationship with Ellie, who reminded him of his beloved daughter, Sarah.[12][14]

Over the course of their journey, Joel became extremely dedicated to Ellie, using any means possible to save her and keep her safe. He tortured two cannibals to find out Ellie's location and then killed the other prisoner after he had gained information about Ellie's location.[46] Ellie also cared greatly for Joel, spending an entire winter feeding and protecting him when he was injured,[45] just as Joel cared for her and protected her throughout their journey. The two would go on to form a close father-daughter bond.[12][42]

Whether being selfish or not wanting to lose another 'daughter' to the whim of another again, he chose to save Ellie and try and start some semblance of a normal life again. His decision to kill Marlene inside the Fireflies facility in Salt Lake City was to ensure that no one will have the knowledge of Ellie and thus no one will go after her in the future. In this sense, he was the opposite of Marlene, who intended to sacrifice Ellie for a chance to save the rest of humanity.[49] Joel's choice also reflects on the hardships that he and Ellie have suffered at the hands of humanity itself during their journey to find a cure, particularly David,[47] which led Joel to decide that what is left of humanity might not be worth saving after all, especially at the cost of Ellie's life.[48][49]

After spending years in Jackson with Ellie, Joel's humanity was restored, with him even having a more optimistic and carefree attitude than ever before. This was visible when Joel took Ellie to a Wyoming museum for her birthday and displayed his sense of humor and kindness.[8] Despite this, he still felt guilty for lying to Ellie.[54] Moreover, his new sense of compassion would later prove to be his fatal flaw, as it caused him to let his guard down in the presence of strangers, allowing Abby Anderson and her group to capture and torture him.[52]

However, his bond with Ellie came to an end when she realized that Joel was lying the entire time, leading Joel to become depressed. He hoped Ellie would forgive him one day. He was overjoyed and even tearful when Ellie expressed that she would like to reconcile her relationship with him.[55] However, that did not occur because of his demise.[52]

It was strongly hinted that Joel suffered from PTSD due to losing his daughter and committing acts necessary for his survival.[6][16][39] He was reluctant or simply refused to speak about people he had lost along the way, namely Sarah, Tess, Sam and Henry.[37] He had frequent nightmares and refused to speak about his time as a hunter.[17][22]

While in Pittsburgh, Joel implied he or someone he knew struggled with suicide because of losing Sarah. After Ellie commented about the "easy way out" when finding the corpses of two suicide victims, Joel responded "Trust me, it ain't easy", indicating he struggled with suicidal thoughts after Sarah's death.[17] Indeed, while not initially up to openly talking about losing Sarah, he still wore the watch she gifted him on his birthday in 2013,[5] despite the lens on it now cracked, mirroring his own struggles and damage he endured in the post-apocalyptic years.[22][25] Furthermore, the watch and his memory of Sarah became a source of strength for Joel, with him clutching it whenever he talked about the need to live and fight for something despite the horrors of the world pushing him to commit immoral acts.[14] This belief led him to dedicate himself to protecting Ellie in Sarah's place.[49] He also justified that he would give his life to keep her safe and would save her from the Fireflies all over again despite the consequences that choice placed upon him.[55]

Regarding his hobbies, Joel was never fond of video games. He did own a PlayStation 3 but this was for Sarah.[5] He was fond of coffee, regularly going to coffee shops prior to the apocalypse,[17] and trading supplies to obtain some from travelers while living in Jackson.[55] He also followed American Football, knowing Eastern Colorado's "Big Horns" team, an interest he shared with Tommy.[11][12] Before the outbreak, Joel enjoyed hunting as a hobby, owning a framed painting of a deer above his bed.[5] This fondness for hunting stuck with him, with Joel collecting more pictures of deers to put up in his new house in Jackson.[52]

While living in Jackson, Joel took up woodworking as a hobby. He amassed a collection of hand-carved statues, such as animals and an uncompleted cowboy on horseback. He also became an accomplished luthier, and built several guitars. He also owned a copy of Basics of Wood Carving and Woodworking by Paolo Cobr on his living room table. He also owned a copy of Moby Dick and An Idiots Guide to Space, hinting that Joel was learning about astronomy, Ellie's key interest.[52]

Further, Joel was a guitarist before the outbreak, owning one that he would regularly play on his porch in sunny days.[16] While living in Jackson, he gathered a collection of vinyl records including Exceptional, Sentiments by Axel Diggs, Emerald Drive, Galactic Nebular by Star Cluster Love, alongside Hours to Adore by Sally Young and Bluegrass. He could also play and sing "Future Days" by Pearl Jam and "Farmer in the Dell".[52][54] In fact, Joel dreamed of becoming a singer as a child, though he didn't think he had a good voice.[12]

Skills and abilities[]

As a hardened survivalist, Joel displayed terrifying intensity, strength, cunning, and fierce fist-fighting prowess; he could perform fatal chokeholds, string combinations of hard punches, and other miscellaneous attacks with little fatigue or hesitance, and became adept to the point where he can out-brawl and overwhelm opponents half his age quite quickly.[34][49] Joel was able to use these attributes very efficiently and this often struck fear into the hearts of human enemies, as evidenced by the fact that after Joel physically overwhelmed survivors, they would beg Joel not to kill them.[12][17][20][46]


Joel choking a cannibal.

He could also hold his own against competent combatants. Despite Henry surprising him, Joel successfully overpowered and badly beat him[34] and later easily parried his gun from him while shoving him to the ground.[36] He could pin Robert and break his arm,[20] shove his brother Tommy against a locker,[39] tackle a soldier,[23] and overpower the Firefly Ethan despite the man holding him at gunpoint.[49] He could even overpower two cannibals, despite not having fully recovered from his life-threatening wound.[46] Undeterred after a car crash, Joel was also able to overpower a hunter and impale him on a shard of broken glass.[17][7]


Joel restraining Robert.

However, Joel's strength occasionally lapses. Having been dazed due to falling from a great height, he was tackled by a runner, unable to force it off without assistance.[18] He was subdued by Bill,[27] almost bitten by a clicker when tackled by it (having to be saved by Tess),[24] and was nearly killed by a hunter who held him underwater, needing Ellie to intervene.[17][31] A cannibal also managed to wrestle him off a ledge, leading to him being critically wounded by a piece of rebar.[12] Ethan also knocked him to the ground with a blow to his thigh.[49]

Joel was also an expert at wielding a wide range of weapons, from handguns[7][24][33] to rifles[24][50] and bows,[18] which he could use with great proficiency. His personal weapons of choice were the Revolver[52][5][8] and the Shotgun.[28][42][54] He could also capably use several melee weapons,[46] though favored using a Machete if one was available.[52][54]

He was shown to be an expert tactician, able to use both covert and overt means to overcome overwhelming odds. He was also adept at crafting improvised weapons and tools and possessed an acute sense of hearing that allowed him to pinpoint the relative location of those around him when focused.[7] Joel was also a strong swimmer and could also hold his breath for a relatively long period of time.[16][49] He could also ride a horse.[52][12][54]

Joel was still human, however, and was just as vulnerable to death and injury as other survivors. Unlike Ellie, he was not immune to the Cordyceps infection therefore could not survive in a spore-filled environment without a gas mask.[12][7][54] When he was mortally wounded, he was unable to move faster than a walk and struggled to climb over obstacles or stay on Callus.[12] The wound also caused him to contract sepsis, leaving him bed-ridden for several weeks, needing antibiotics to cure him.[45]

Joel slays a Bloater

Joel slays a bloater to save Ellie.

By 2038, Joel remained a veteran in combat. He was able to single-handedly kill a bloater that had grabbed Ellie using only a machete and cleared an entire hotel floor of infected with her help. Despite his age, he was one of Jackson's most effective patrolmen, pairing with Tommy to regularly patrol Jackson's surrounding area. Over the years, the two were a skilled team, with Maria making them her first choice to scout out infected areas and allow the pair to confront the hordes, which the pair successfully fought and killed.[54] On March 2, 2038, Joel displayed one of his most impressive feats in how he and Tommy fought their way through a horde of infected to save Abby Anderson. However, his years in safety caused him to become less cautious with strangers. While this led to him saving numerous survivors from infected attacks, this kindness to strangers led him to also save Abby, a choice that led to his demise.[52]

When not in combat, Joel displayed proficiency in several hobbies. Notably he was an excellent guitarist, able to play several songs and knew numerous riffs and chord sequences. He taught most of what he learned to Ellie. Further, he was a skilled craftsman, able to not only make his own guitars but also carve statues, notably a cowboy riding a horse. He had an entire craftsman room for the activity.[52] However, he was not good at playing darts, unable to even hit the dartboard when throwing a dart at it.[17]

Design and appearance[]

Joel's appearance indicated that he was in his early 50s.[7] He had a heavy, muscular build, with dark, graying hair and a beard.[6][54] He was 5 feet 11 inches (182 cm) tall[2] and weighed 200 lbs.[fn 1] Joel had many cuts and scars on his face and arms.[fn 3] After spending a few years living in Jackson, Joel's hair and beard grew slightly longer, while his hair became deep gray.[52]

During the design development of Joel's physical appearance, the developers worked to make him look "flexible enough" to appear as both a "ruthless operator in the underground of a quarantined city" as well as a "caring father figure to Ellie". His appearance was intended to evoke "rural American", referencing values of self-reliance and ingenuity when facing hardship and deprivation.

Joel wore a watch that was gifted to him by Sarah for his birthday the day before the outbreak.[5] Twenty years later, its face was cracked and the mechanism was broken. He kept the watch in remembrance of Sarah.[22] Joel would occasionally look at the watch.[25] He would also slightly rub it when accepting Sarah's death and sympathizing with Ellie's survivor's guilt.[3] He was most notably shown in a green checkered collared shirt, which he rolled up to his elbows, and jeans.[fn 4] He carried an old, worn canvas backpack that held a gas mask and a flashlight attached to the strap.[60]

Throughout the game, Joel collected Firefly pendants, letters and comic books for Ellie. The player can have Joel craft health kits, Molotov cocktails, etc. which are stowed in his pack. Like Ellie, he also changed his appearance slightly in accordance with the seasons.[fn 5]



Sniper training

Joel training Ellie.

Joel's relationship with Ellie started off on sour terms. Both Joel and Ellie were against Marlene's idea for Joel to watch over Ellie. Joel didn't even look at her in the eye until much later after their initial meeting.[21] Joel viewed himself as someone who had to escort her rather than develop a relationship with her.[7][22][23] Their relationship grew even more unstable after Tess' death, who made Joel promise to get Ellie to Tommy for his assistance on finding the Fireflies. He now viewed Ellie as someone he had to protect but still keep himself detached from to save his spirit, not wanting to lose someone close to him again.[26] Joel's dedication as her protector was high, the man even attempting to reach his gun to defend Ellie despite the high possibility of Henry shooting him in Sam's defense.[37]

While Joel was willing to give Ellie small portions of responsibility like driving the truck at Bill's,[18] he was reluctant to let her use a gun and refused to admit that she saved his life.[31] However, he eventually admitted he needed her when he taught her how to snipe the hunters and gave her one of their guns.[32][33]

Months later, after seeing Henry's devotion to Sam drive him to suicide, Joel desired to be rid of Ellie. He pushed to pass her on to Tommy. When Ellie overheard Joel wanted to pass her on to Tommy, she stole one of the settlement's horses and ran away. Before Tommy informed Joel that Ellie took one of his horses, Joel shed a tear.[40] Joel by this point, believed that parting with Ellie was for the best because he did not trust himself enough to go along with the journey, and doesn't want to be held responsible for another person's death, especially Ellie, who reminded him of Sarah. However, he asserted she was not his daughter.[41]


Joel holding Ellie in his arms.

Eventually, their bond grew stronger later in the game. Joel, having had time to think about what Ellie said,[41] realized that abandoning Ellie was worse than staying with her, harming any relationships she would form in the future. Therefore, he went with Ellie to the University.[42] Their relationship peaked there, evident in how Ellie no longer feared Joel would leave her; she stays with Callus as Joel wanders around,[12] whereas before she would try to find him like in Pittsburgh.[17] Joel even opened up about his life with Sarah and was polite about letting her know when the topic got too personal rather than brushing her off entirely as before.[12]

When Joel was wounded and on the verge of death during the winter, Ellie tended his wound during the winter, becoming the protector he was to her.[45] Though their bond remained strong for Joel, he noticed that Ellie was distant because of the incident with David,[47] signifying that she was no longer as close as he was.[16]

Joel gives Ellie Apollo

"Happy birthday kiddo."

In the spring, Joel told her he would teach her to play the guitar after meeting with the Fireflies and says he would not leave without her.[16] At this point, he saw Ellie as a surrogate daughter as he would now do anything to save her and keep her safe, believing she was like Sarah and speculated that they would have been good friends and liked each other.[14] A structural parallel of Joel running away from the Fireflies and holding her in his arms as he did with Sarah demonstrates their strengthened bond, but this time, Joel would save his "baby girl" from dying.[50] This expressed Joel's philosophy of doing anything for himself, rather than the world around him; he saved Ellie to save himself, not her or humanity. Furthermore, it displayed how Joel believed that sacrificing Ellie was not worth saving humanity, many of which were ruthless killers and cannibals.[51]

Joel, in an attempt to alleviate Ellie's survivor's guilt, lied to her.[3] He also shared his own struggle with survivor's guilt, opening up to Ellie in a way he hadn't done before, though it revealed his relationship with Ellie acted as a replacement for his daughter Sarah, rather than actually forming a unique bond with her.[14]

Joel and Ellie stand apart

Joel and Ellie are apart.

Over the next few years, their relationship remained strong. The two would go on to visit a ruined museum for Ellie's birthday, have movie nights, and sometimes go on patrol together.[52][54] Joel also taught Ellie how to swim and play guitar.[8] Ellie eventually wanted answers to what really happened at the hospital and discovered that Joel did in fact lie to her. When she confronted him, Joel confessed to her the truth. This shattered their relationship, with Ellie treating Joel more as a stranger than a father figure afterward.[54]

Their relationship remained broken for the next couple of years, though Joel tried to talk to and protect Ellie during this time, despite knowing that it was futile. Ellie eventually decided that she would try to forgive Joel.[55] However, the two never got the chance repair their relationship before Abby captured and tortured him. Joel managed to open his eyes and gaze at Ellie one last time before he was murdered.[52]


Joel and Tommy

Joel embracing Tommy.

Joel and his younger brother Tommy are close, despite their different views on life. Tommy cared about Joel enough that he covered him and Joel's daughter Sarah with his revolver during the initial outbreak and spent the majority of the post-apocalyptic years together, looking out for one another.[5] In fact, given Joel's remark that "[Tommy] survived because of [him]" and the fact that Joel gave him commands when the pair were fleeing infected, the older brother established himself as the leader of the two, guiding and protecting Tommy throughout the majority of the post-apocalyptic years.[39]

However, their different views of the world led to conflict between them, and when Tommy joins the Fireflies, the brothers lost contact with each other,[21] their relationship completely breaking down; the last thing Tommy said to Joel was that he did not want to see him again. Tommy even claims during their argument that he still has nightmares over what Joel and he did in order to survive.[39]

Despite this, when the brothers meet up again in Jackson County, Tommy was very glad to see Joel, embracing him and joking about his age despite Joel's doubts Tommy would forgive him.[38] Regardless, the two soon argue about Ellie's custody, Joel greatly angered that Tommy is playing "the pissy little brother".[39] Despite Joel shoving him and insulting his community, Tommy still accepts to take Ellie from him to save him from suffering the loss of another "daughter" and to avoid the turmoil that losing Sarah caused him.[40] Even after all their years apart, Joel still holds him in high regard, stating to Ellie that he trusts Tommy more than he trusts himself.[41]

Joel Tommy horses

Joel thanks Tommy for understanding his choice.

After the Fireflies incident, Tommy questioned him about what happened there and what Ellie knew of it, to which Joel told Tommy that he lied to Ellie in order to protect her. Later, Tommy understood his intentions and decided to keep it a secret saying that he "wouldn't have done different."[52]

As the years went by, their relationship had improved significantly. The pair now shared their trauma in the post-apocalyptic years, becoming practically inseparable.[61] Joel and Tommy now shared jokes with each other and helped each other on patrol.[52] Tommy even helped Joel and Ellie reconnect when they had a falling out, reflecting how Tommy valued their connection as much as he valued his with Joel.[54]

After Joel's death, Tommy was overcome with anger and a drive for vengeance, causing him travel to Seattle in order to hunt down those responsible for killing his brother.[8]


Tess' bite

Tess shows Joel her bite mark.

Tess and Joel had a strong trust with each other by the events of the game. Both share the same philosophy and the same ruthlessness, earning a fearsome reputation in the Boston Quarantine Zone. Joel cared about her a great deal but this caused him to doubt her; he instantly presumed the deal "went south" when Tess comes back injured, expressing that he views Tess as vulnerable without him present to provide the muscle, even though Tess could clearly take care of herself.[6] It is implied that at one point they were in a romantic relationship,[7] but the bond between the pair was strong regardless; so much that Joel decided to honor Tess' final request to deliver Ellie to Tommy after she became infected.[26] Even Bill remarked the two were inseparable.[18] Afterward, Joel avoided talking about Tess, being angered by Ellie, and even by Bill if she was mentioned.[29] After a year though, he didn't mind Ellie talking about her, showing that he had moved on from losing her.[14]


J&S Photo Crop

Joel with Sarah after winning a soccer tournament.

Sarah was Joel's 12-year-old daughter who died early in the morning, the day after his birthday at the start of the initial Cordyceps outbreak, having been shot by a soldier following orders. The two had a very close relationship, going on hikes, playing football, and going to museums together.[5][14][54] They were so close that Sarah gave him a watch for his birthday that he still wears 20 years later, though it is cracked, to remind him of his losses.[15][25] Sarah's death hurt Joel greatly, turning him cynical enough that he became a hunter, murdering many innocent people and even lost touch with his brother Tommy because of this. He even at one point considered suicide but managed to find something to fight for.[17]

Joel was very sensitive about her, angered when Ellie brought her up and attempted to compare her loss to Joel's. He even denied the picture of the two at Sarah's soccer game from Tommy.[11] However, he accepted the picture from Ellie after she stole it from Maria, showing that he had finally come to terms with her death, saying himself that "[he] can't escape [his] past".[16] While living as a resident of Jackson, Joel would warmly reminisce about Sarah with Ellie, recounting on taking his late daughter to various museums in Texas.[54] He kept Sarah's soccer tournament picture in a frame at his new home.[52]


Joel and Bill

Joel arguing with Bill.

Bill had a smuggling arrangement with Joel and Tess, and before Joel met Ellie, they were both on good terms, claiming he was a "good guy, just needs some warming up to." During this time he, Tess, and Bill did various jobs smuggling items into the Boston Quarantine Zone.[7]

Even though Bill was angry about Joel setting off his traps and having to rescue them from the infected, he was still willing to help Joel to get a car since he owed Joel "some favors." However, Bill didn't respect him for his decision to look after Ellie, claiming that "having someone you care about in your life is good for only one thing, which is getting you killed", implying that he was talking about his personal experience with his partner, Frank. When Joel found Frank's suicide note, he gave it to Bill. Bill still angry about his partner's death, crumpled it up, and dropped it.[18] When they obtained a pickup truck he gave Joel the siphon hose, saying they were now even, and then proceeded to tell him to "Get the fuck out of [his] town."[30]

The impact of Bill on Joel is an eye-opening one. Joel saw that trying to detach himself from anyone and everyone he meets will likely result in him ending up paranoid and alone. The only good thing about such a situation would be that he would survive no matter what. His relationship with Bill, therefore, strengthened his bond with Ellie, with Joel deciding it's better to bond with someone and lose them than to never have had that bond at all.[32]


Joel and Henry

Joel with Henry.

Henry was a minor acquaintance of Joel and Ellie who they met in Pittsburgh. When they first met, Henry mistook Joel for a Hunter, and attempted to kill him, Joel doing likewise. Even when their fighting stopped, Joel didn't trust Henry initially, refusing to join up with him and being cautious of his true intentions.[34] However, he later complied upon learning how similar they were; both searching for the Fireflies and each trying to care for someone.[35]

Even with this hostility buried, it arose again when Henry abandoned Joel during their escape from the city. Although saved by the man, Joel turned violent, shoving him down and prepared to kill him in cold blood; inadvertently revealing the hunter side of himself. He quickly regretted doing so, dropping the gun. Henry didn't fear him either, having the confidence to stand up to Joel despite the man having been on the verge of killing him.[36]

Their friendship only grew stronger; Henry revealed his desire to ride a motorcycle, leading Joel to share a story about the time he and Tommy rented a pair of Harley Davidson bikes and taking a cross country road trip; Joel is considerably less distant with Henry than before.


Joel and Henry watch Sam and Ellie.

However, their fragile rapport abruptly comes to an end when Sam, who had been scratched by a clicker the day before, turns overnight. With Sam attacking and clawing at Ellie, Joel reaches for his pistol, but Henry fires a warning shot. Joel showed no fear though and reached for his bag again, but Henry shoots his brother and cries with grief. He blames himself for his brother's death, before shooting himself.[37] It is implied that Joel and Ellie, had buried the two brothers in a nondescript area, Joel preventing Ellie from mentioning them, clearly damaged by the loss.[11]

Henry had a significant impact on Joel as they effectively mirrored each other, both being protectors of their respective child. This initially made Joel feel like the relationship between Henry and Sam was something he should aspire to have with Ellie. However, this is ruined when he realizes the repercussions of being close to someone as Henry was to Sam, being reminded that he may no longer survive if he had no one to protect as Henry did when he had to kill Sam. It is likely this is why he tried to transfer Ellie to Tommy, fearful he would meet the same fate, as Bill had foreshadowed earlier.[40]


Like Henry, Sam was a minor acquaintance of Joel and Ellie, and another survivor the two had met during their travels.[34] Joel did not interact with Sam much but he did care for the boy's safety — as evidenced when the two had been separated from Henry and Ellie by a safety door in the sewers compound.

Unlike Joel and Henry's relationship, Joel's camaraderie with Sam never cultivated to fruition. He arguably knows next to nothing about the boy, unlike Ellie who had become close friends with Sam.[35] Despite this gap in their relatively short companionship, he actively kept him safe.

When Sam became infected and attacked Ellie, Joel attempted to reach his bag for a gun, only to be stopped by Henry. Sam and Henry died soon after when Sam was shot and Henry took his own life.[37] Joel, along with Ellie, deal with the shock of the abrupt stop to their short relationship. Early in the Fall chapter, it is implied that Joel and Ellie had buried the two brothers in a nondescript area.[11]



Marlene berates Joel.

Joel knew Marlene as the leader of the Fireflies, ever since his brother Tommy joined the militia group. Before leaving, Tommy told her that if she was ever in a jam she could rely on Joel for help.[20] Joel is quite cynical of the Fireflies' promises of hope, which was flowed on to Marlene.[21]

When Joel does finally delivered Ellie to the Fireflies, Marlene compared his bond with Ellie to her own and understands that as Ellie's surrogate parents, the decision to kill her to develop a vaccine was hard on Marlene and Joel. However, Marlene reluctantly made the decision to kill her while Joel attempts to save Ellie from that fate.[49] Because of their juxtaposed philosophies on life, Joel killed Marlene in fear that she would come after him and Ellie.[51]


Joel and Maria

Maria threatens Joel.

Maria was Tommy's wife and Joel's sister-in-law. They met at the settlement, Maria acting hostile to him before Tommy calmed her when informing her Joel was his brother.[38]

While she was kind because he was Tommy's brother,[11] her fierce opposition to Tommy taking Ellie to the Fireflies caused a rift between them. She angrily shouted at him, demonstrating a deep distrust of him. A solemn Joel calmly lets her shout at him, avoiding looking in the eyes. Maria also implied she would harm him should Tommy suffer any sort of harm from taking over for Joel.[40] This threat had Joel jokingly state to Tommy that she "scares" him, and it contributed to his reasoning to stay with Ellie.[42]

By 2038, the pair got on well, with Joel serving as a reliable patrolman in Maria's community. Maria even once told Ellie to try and talk to and forgive Joel, having become aware of their strained relationship.[52] However, his death generated heightened aggression in Tommy, whose rage at Joel's demise caused his relationship with Maria to break down.[62]


Despite knowing her for a short time, Joel's relationship with Abby Anderson was one of false alliance and deep animosity. Despite saving her life at the lodge, Abby soon turned hostile towards him once at the Baldwin lodge. Even though Joel did not know her name or who she was, he gathered that his actions had created a deep urge for revenge in Abby. Accepting such a fact, he goaded her to proceed with carrying out her revenge, deciding to face the punishment with a stern acceptance rather than plead for his life.[52]

Behind the scenes[]

  • When writing Joel's character, Druckmann initially took inspiration from Josh Brolin's portrayal of Llewelyn Moss in No Country for Old Men (2007), whom he noted for being "very quiet, very cool under pressure". Subsequently, Joel was named after Joel Coen, who directed No Country for Old Men and True Grit. However Troy Baker's interpretation of Joel as a more emotional person who evolved the character in a different way. Ultimately, the narrative became an exploration of how willing a father is to save a child.[63]
  • Key to Joel's journey was displaying the character's descent into the darkest depths of human capability, notably his survivalist life style both in the Boston quarantine zone and through implicit details of Joel's actions during the twenty-year interim between the game's opening chapter and his new life with Tess.[60] As such, dialogue in the game avoids explicitly stating Joel was a hunter, preferring to use terms such as saying he had "been on both sides". Despite this ambiguity, an audio file unused in the game revealed Druckmann and the creative team did consider having Joel blatantly state he was a hunter.[64]
  • Joel's journey out of his own darkness reached its turning point in the winter chapter when he is split from Ellie, who is captured and tormented by David, actor Nolan North's character. North remarked that David served as a foil to Joel, acting as a man who had only descended further into darkness, representing a "warped father" in contrast to Joel's more western, rugged humane self.[65] In fitting with this contrast, Joel and David's characters never share any scenes together, with Joel instead only appearing to take Ellie away from his "warped" counterpart.[66]
  • By the game's ending, players are able to witness Joel's character arc; initially, Joel was willing to sacrifice himself to protect Sarah, before evolving to where he is willing to sacrifice his friends, until finally feeling that he would sacrifice all of humanity in order to save Ellie. Remarking on Joel's decision to save Ellie, Baker remarked that in doing so he robbed Ellie of her meaningful sacrifice to save the wider world from the infection and so robbed her life of a wider meaning because he believed Joel thought 'if we can't save one little world then it's not a world worth saving.'[63]


The Last of Us Part I[]

Joel: "Lyin' on the couch watchin' Sunday football. That… greasy smell of a downtown hot dog. 4th of July, family barbeques. The sound of a plane flying overhead. Just one peaceful night; a clean conscience–all gone…"

Joel: "Where'd you get the money for this?"
Sarah: "Drugs. I sell hardcore drugs."
Joel: "Oh good. You can start helpin' out with the mortgage, then."

Joel: "Sarah… Baby… Don't do this to me, baby. Don't do this to me, baby girl. Come on… No, no… Oh no, no, no… Please."

Joel: "Well, is that everything you hoped for?"
Ellie: "Jury's still out. But, man… you can't deny that view."

Tess: "We're shitty people, Joel. It's been that way for a long time."
Joel: "No, we are survivors!"
Tess: "This is our chance–"
Joel: "It is over Tess! Now we tried. Let's just go home."

Ellie: "Hey, look, um… about Tess. I don't even know what to–"
Joel: "Here's how this thing's gonna play out. You don't bring up Tess – ever. Matter of fact, we can just keep our histories to ourselves."

Joel: "This is how you gonna repay me… huh?"
Tommy: "Repay you?"
Joel: "For all those goddamn years I took care of us."
Tommy: "Took care? That's what you call it? I got nothing but nightmares from those years."
Joel: "You survived because of me."

Ellie: "I'm sorry about your daughter, Joel, but I have lost people too."
Joel: "You have no idea what loss is."

Hunter: "Fuck you, man. He told you what you wanted. I ain't tellin' you shit."
Joel: "That's alright. I believe him."

Joel: "I guess no matter how hard you try, you can't escape your past."

Joel: "I struggled for a long time with survivin'. And you—… No matter what, you keep finding something to fight for."

Ellie: "Swear to me. Swear to me that everything that you said about the Fireflies is true.:
Joel: "I swear."

The Last of Us Part II[]

Joel: "We found the Fireflies. And because of her… they were actually going to make a cure. The only catch… it would kill her."

Joel: "Why don't you say whatever speech you've got rehearsed and get it over with."

Joel: "Making a vaccine… would have killed you. So I stopped them."

Joel: "If somehow the Lord gave a second chance at that moment… I would do it all over again."


The Last of Us (2013)[]

Concept art[]

Official stills[]

The Last of Us Part II[]

Official stills[]


  1. 1.0 1.1 As displayed on numerous weighing scales the player can have Joel stand on while in Pittsburgh during The Last of Us Part I.
  2. This age was later retconned in The Last of Us Part I. Joel's birthdate is visible on his FEDRA-issued ID, making him 51-52 during the events of The Last of Us.
  3. Revealed when players equip Joel with a t-shirt.
  4. As seen in the Summer months of the game.
  5. See the list of Skins.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Heaton, Andrew Paul (September 5, 2022). "The Last of Us Remake Reveals Joel's Age Thanks to High-Def Texture". Game Rant. Retrieved September 13, 2022.
  2. 2.0 2.1 According to Game Designer Rodney Reece on Twitter (Accessed 13th of September, 2020)
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 I swear
  4. Dornbush, Jonathon (December 5, 2023). "The Last of Us Part II Remastered: Exploring the Roguelike Survival Mode, No Return". Naughty Dog. Retrieved December 6, 2023.
  5. 5.00 5.01 5.02 5.03 5.04 5.05 5.06 5.07 5.08 5.09 5.10 5.11 "Hometown"
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 6.9 Twenty Years Later
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 7.14 "The Quarantine Zone"
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 8.9 "Seattle Day 1"
  9. PlayStation Bio
  10. Naughty Dog's Mark Richard Davies Tweet confirms Joel's birthday Twitter]
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 "Tommy's Dam"
  12. 12.00 12.01 12.02 12.03 12.04 12.05 12.06 12.07 12.08 12.09 12.10 12.11 12.12 12.13 12.14 12.15 12.16 "The University"
  13. Druckmann confirms fan theory about Joel's wife, Reddit, (Accessed 29 November, 2021)
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 14.3 14.4 14.5 14.6 14.7 "Jackson"
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Goodnight, baby girl
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 16.6 16.7 16.8 "Bus Depot"
  17. 17.00 17.01 17.02 17.03 17.04 17.05 17.06 17.07 17.08 17.09 17.10 17.11 17.12 17.13 17.14 17.15 17.16 "Pittsburgh"
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 18.6 18.7 18.8 18.9 "Bill's Town"
  19. Boston Q.Z. map
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 20.4 Queen Firefly
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 21.3 We're smuggling her?
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 22.4 22.5 Killing Time
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 I'm not infected
  24. 24.0 24.1 24.2 24.3 24.4 "The Outskirts"
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 You can't deny that view
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Just go
  27. 27.0 27.1 I need a car
  28. 28.0 28.1 Let's get on with it
  29. 29.0 29.1 29.2 He was my partner
  30. 30.0 30.1 He ain't even hurt
  31. 31.0 31.1 31.2 I feel sick
  32. 32.0 32.1 32.2 32.3 You're welcome
  33. 33.0 33.1 33.2 33.3 How'd I do
  34. 34.0 34.1 34.2 34.3 34.4 I'm Henry... this is Sam
  35. 35.0 35.1 35.2 Welcome to my office
  36. 36.0 36.1 36.2 36.3 I saved you
  37. 37.0 37.1 37.2 37.3 37.4 What are you scared of?
  38. 38.0 38.1 38.2 How you doing, baby brother?
  39. 39.0 39.1 39.2 39.3 39.4 39.5 39.6 Why bring her here?
  40. 40.0 40.1 40.2 40.3 40.4 It's best this way
  41. 41.0 41.1 41.2 41.3 I'm not her
  42. 42.0 42.1 42.2 42.3 42.4 Adios
  43. Tell me what to do
  44. Left Behind
  45. 45.0 45.1 45.2 45.3 45.4 You're gonna make it
  46. 46.0 46.1 46.2 46.3 46.4 46.5 I believe him
  47. 47.0 47.1 47.2 It's me
  48. 48.0 48.1 It can't be for nothing
  49. 49.0 49.1 49.2 49.3 49.4 49.5 49.6 49.7 49.8 Find someone else
  50. 50.0 50.1 50.2 "The Firefly Lab"
  51. 51.0 51.1 51.2 You can't save her
  52. 52.00 52.01 52.02 52.03 52.04 52.05 52.06 52.07 52.08 52.09 52.10 52.11 52.12 52.13 52.14 52.15 52.16 52.17 52.18 52.19 52.20 52.21 52.22 52.23 52.24 "Jackson"
  53. IGN Blog - One Night Live Epilogue
  54. 54.00 54.01 54.02 54.03 54.04 54.05 54.06 54.07 54.08 54.09 54.10 54.11 54.12 54.13 54.14 54.15 54.16 54.17 "Seattle Day 2"
  55. 55.0 55.1 55.2 55.3 55.4 55.5 55.6 55.7 "The Farm"
  56. 56.0 56.1 "Santa Barbara"
  57. The Last of Us Storyline Explained in Detail
  58. The Last of Us - Presentation by Naughty Dog
  59. The Story and Environment of The Last of Us
  60. 60.0 60.1 The Last of Us Remastered commentary
  61. Naughty Dog, The Art of The Last of Us Part II, (Oregon: Dark Horse Books, 2020), p.17
  62. "The Farm"
  63. 63.0 63.1 The Last of Us - The Definitive Playthrough (Accessed May 6, 2020)
  64. - Annie Marie found such
  65. The Last of Us - The Definitive Playthrough - Part 12 (Accessed May 11, 2020)
  66. "Lakeside Resort"