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

Joel Miller was a major character and the playable protagonist of The Last of Us, and a supporting character in The Last of Us: Left Behind and The Last of Us Part IIin which he is briefly playable. Joel was a survivor in post-apocalyptic America that has been ravaged by the cordyceps brain infection, which has decimated 60% of mankind globally.[4]

After losing his only daughter Sarah in the early stages of the outbreak, Joel becomes a ruthless and cynical smuggler eventually tasked with smuggling and protecting Ellie, a young girl who is the key to mankind's survival. Joel eventually comes to form a strong bond with her. He is voiced and motion-captured by Troy Baker.[5][6]


A brutal survivor with few moral lines left to cross. Joel, now in his late 40s, 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[1]

Background and early life

Joel was born on September 26, in the early 1980s, and grew up in Texas alongside his younger brother Tommy. In the absence of their parents, Joel raised Tommy throughout their childhood, to which the pair came to heavily rely upon each other.[7]

As a child, he developed a passion for music and once even aspired to become a singer. Later, however, in his mid-teens, Joel had a daughter named Sarah and he was married to her mother for a short period of time. Saddled early in life with the responsibilities of parenthood, he never had the opportunity to attend college.[8]

No mention is made as to the fate or whereabouts of Joel's ex-wife. However, it is clear, through a conversation between him and Ellie, that the subject of whatever happened is very painful for Joel to talk about. As a result, he raised their only daughter as a single father for the majority of his life.[8] The two lived together in a typical two-story single-family home somewhere in or around Austin, Texas located in Travis County through Texas State Highway 71.[9]

As an adult, Joel worked in construction as a carpenter. He 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" were seen on top of his bookshelf.[9] He appeared to possess 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 also owned a treadmill (seen in his bedroom).[9] He worked alongside his brother where during a phone conversation with Tommy, he mentioned desperately needing to keep his job with a contractor.

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.[10] Sarah also made him take her to every museum in Texas.[11] 

In the hours leading up to the outbreak, Sarah gave him a new watch as a birthday gift to replace the one he had broken months before. This becomes a cherished memento he manages to keep in the turbulent years ahead.

Events of The Last of Us


Joel with his daughter Sarah, facing military soldier.

In the beginning of The Last of Us, Joel arrives home late from work, putting Sarah to bed after watching television together.[12] During the early hours of September 27th, 2013, Joel's struggle to raise a child on his own is interrupted when the infection breaks out and Joel is forced to take his daughter out of town, just hours after his birthday. He is forced to shoot his neighbor dead in self-defense. After calming Sarah, he is joined by his brother Tommy in the evacuation.

After driving towards the highway and trying to make sense of the situation, the group finds the road blocked and is forced to take another route, only for their car to collide with an oncoming vehicle. Once he comes to, Joel kicks the windshield out so he and Sarah can continue on foot. After running through the city, Tommy stays to hold off the infected so Joel and Sarah can flee.

The pair make it to the highway but encounter a soldier. The soldier is ordered by his commanding officer over the radio to kill the two, reluctantly opening fire. Joel tries to shield Sarah from the shots, but she still takes a fatal hit. Just before the soldier can execute Joel, Tommy arrives, gunning down the soldier, but he and Joel cannot do anything to stop Sarah's bleeding. The opening ends with Joel sobbing over his daughter's body, his world torn from under him.[13]


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.[14] While there, he considered committing suicide[15] but was unable to, finding something to fight for. However, what he found was worth fighting for was something his brother, Tommy, greatly disliked.

Over the years, the pair survived by descending into a sinister way of life, hurting innocent people; going so far as killing them; all to survive. 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, Tommy, and likely others could ambush them when they let their guard down.

The pair 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.[7]

Joel spent a considerable period of time alone, eventually meeting a woman named Tess. 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), and Donovan. It is unknown if the pair ever had a romantic relationship, though dialogue heavily implies they both care deeply for one another.



Joel interrogates Robert with Tess.

Twenty years after the outbreak, 2033, which claims the lives of millions across the United States, Joel and Tess are betrayed by Robert, when he hires two men to attack Tess causing the pair to confront him, the man having earned their wrath.[16]

While crossing to his hideout, they are forced outside the wall when a group of Fireflies attacks the checkpoint, causing the soldiers to lock it down. While traversing to their hideout, the pair learn that Marlene, the "queen" Firefly, is also looking for Robert. The pair reach the slums, bribing their way in with ration cards. Joel almost attacks one smuggler that tries to block his path but the man complies upon seeing Tess.[17]

The two finally reach Robert, proceeding to torture him; Joel kicking his face and breaking his arm. Robert reveals he sold their guns to the Fireflies, so they kill him, deciding they need to reason with the Fireflies to get their weapons back. Marlene, the Fireflies' "queen" unexpectedly shows up, albeit wounded, and strikes a deal: they will transport something to a group of Fireflies waiting at the Capitol Building. In exchange, they can regain their weapons and receive even more. Joel and Tess are reluctant but go with Marlene anyway.[18]

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. Marlene is greatly saddened by the loss of her men, but Joel convinces her that they need to move on.

Joel and Tess meet Ellie for the first time.

Marlene takes them to a kitchen, Joel picking her up when she falls due to her wound. To his surprise, a girl (revealed to be called Ellie) tries to attack him with a switchblade, though it is stopped by Tess. Marlene reveals the "cargo" is Ellie, surprising Joel, who avoids looking at the girl. After a discussion, Joel reluctantly agrees to take the girl to an apartment near the outside wall and wait for Tess to return from verifying the weapons with Marlene.[19]

While escorting the girl, Joel asks her where her parents are and why the Fireflies are so interested in her. Ellie reveals that her parents died "a long time ago" but refuses to reveal why Marlene wants her to be smuggled. Joel remarks that that's the best thing about his job; "I don't gotta know".

Once at the apartment, Joel quickly lays down on a couch and goes to sleep, telling Ellie to "figure out... what to do". The girl remarks how his watch is broken, but Joel doesn't reply. By nightfall, Tess arrives, Joel agreeing to take the job upon learning the payment is high.[20] As they are leaving, he asks Tess why Marlene is having them do the smuggling, learning that they weren't Marlene's "first choice or the second".


On their way to the checkpoint, they are captured by a military patrol. While they are being checked for infection, Ellie panics and attacks one of the soldiers. The soldier tries to shoot her, but Joel defends her, killing the soldier while Tess shoots the other. The pair are, however, surprised when Ellie is revealed to be infected. Before they act, another patrol soon shows up and the three are forced to flee.[21]

They manage to avoid the soldiers, making it to the outskirts. There, Joel tries to convince Tess that they should abandon the mission, but his partner believes Ellie. With Tess and Ellie marching off, Joel stands in sadness before following.

Deciding that their path is blocked, they take a detour through a derelict skyscraper and a subway, both filled with Infected. The trio then go through an old museum, where Joel briefly gets separated from Ellie and Tess. After making his way through a room full of Clickers, Joel finds Tess and Ellie fighting off a horde of Runners.

Eventually, the three manage to reach make it through the outskirts, despite encountering several Infected and learning a small group of soldiers had died in one of the buildings. During the journey, Ellie remarks how skilled the pair are at dealing with Infected but Joel puts it down to "luck, and it will run out". After crossing a building via a plank, Joel asks 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 snaps him out of his daydreaming.[22]

"It is over Tess!"

They finally reach the rendezvous point in the Capitol Building, only to find the Firefly extraction team dead (something Joel had begun to expect after finding several notes left by them) and the military closes in. When Joel tries to convince Tess they should "just go home" and that such a thing is "not us", she reveals that she too had been infected (most likely from the struggle with a Runner in the museum). She compares her bite to Ellie, proving Ellie's immunity by how Tess's bite is swollen and throbbing while Ellie's is clear and healed. Tess insists Ellie and Joel continue on their own and find Tommy, who will guide them to another Firefly group. The military outside the Capitol building. She says that she can buy them some time by fighting the military, fully knowing that she will die in the conflict.[23] Reluctantly, Ellie and Joel flee the area while Tess is killed. Ellie feels guilty about Tess' sacrifice, but Joel firmly says to never bring it up.

The pair make it to a subway, avoiding soldiers and a Humvee. They cross through a dark, flooded, subway; seeing that Ellie can breathe in the spores without any sign of her infection worsening solidifies Joel's belief that she is immune.

Joel in Bill's safehouse.

Joel plans to go to a town where he believes they can meet Bill, the mechanic who owes him a favor. They spend the morning heading there, soon coming to a woods which separates the road from the town. Determining it to be quicker than the road, Joel leads Ellie through the woods. Joel is astounded that Ellie has never walked in the woods or seen real fireflies before.

They manage to get inside, finding the place full of Infected and booby-traps. Joel reveals he has never visited Bill personally at the town, preferring to rendezvous at various checkpoints nearer Boston; he claims Bill is the only person living there, "as far as [he] knows." They manage to make it past Bill's barricades, but one trap snags Joel's foot, causing him to dangle from the ceiling upside down. The trap having attracted Infected, he is forced to fight off Infected with just his revolver while Ellie attempts to get him down. Once down, a Runner attempts to bite him, but he is saved by a masked man (revealed to be Bill) who decapitates the Infected with his machete.

Once safe, the meeting does not go well. Bill is annoyed that Joel and Ellie destroyed many of his traps to find him. After making peace, Bill devises a plan to retrieve a battery from a crashed military truck, stating that if he does this, he owes Joel nothing from then on.[24]

Joel and Ellie are taken by Bill to a church, Bill's personal armory. While Bill loads two shotguns, he tries to convince him to give up on the mission, citing that Tess can't be happy with his "worst job on record... a suicide mission." Bill lectures Joel about "caring for someone". Not desiring to hear Bill's complaints, he asks if they can just "get on with it", irritating Bill.[25] Just before they leave, Bill gives him a nail bomb and teaches him how to make one. As they do leave, Joel tries to stop Ellie from staring at burnt corpses but the teenager just states she had "seen worse".

Despite encountering numerous Infected and even a Bloater at an old high school, it seemed all for nothing when the car battery they needed was not where it should be. Joel begins to ask Bill what their next plan is only for it to results in the pair arguing, Bill insulting Tess in the process, greatly infuriating Joel. Just as he goes to fire back, Bill freezes in place, staring at a hung corpse. Joel spitefully asks who the person is, quickly changing his tone to one of remorse when he learns it is Bill's former partner; Frank. Joel tries to console Bill but the sound of an engine distracts them, reminding them of the need to press on: they can't dwell on the past.

It turns out Frank had acquired the battery for himself, having fitted it in a truck Ellie has just started. Watching Bill assess the vehicle, he learns they need to push the truck to recharge the battery via the alternator. Ellie asks him what he wants her to do; Joel trusts Ellie enough that he lets her drive the vehicle.[26] After several attempts (and holding off Infected as they do so) they manage to start the truck and take off, returning to Bill's armory.

"You drive, we push".

Joel leaves Ellie to keep the motor running as he bids Bill farewell. The pair briefly remark how Ellie "held her own back there" though Bill believes he and Ellie "ain't gonna make it". Joel is gifted a siphon hose by Bill and awkwardly attempts to offer his condolences regarding the loss of Frank; Bill just scrubs it off, asking if they're "square". Joel confirms they are: Bill no longer owes him anything. With that, he returns to the truck, taking off with Ellie for Pittsburgh.

Joel spends much of the journey driving, leaving Ellie to sleep. As the morning arrives, Joel comes to a blocked entrance at the city of Pittsburgh. Although he is wary about entering the city, he does so anyway. The pair drive deep into the city before Joel slams the brakes at the sight of a man stumbling in the road, pleading for assistance. Although Ellie wants to help the man, Joel frantically puts his seatbelt on, telling her to do the same. Joel, recognizing a tactic he had used when he was a hunter, knows the ruse. He accelerates into the man, almost being shot as the man drops the act and orders his comrades to attack the truck. Eventually, the pair crash into a bookstore. Joel and Ellie manage to escape, almost being killed in the process, fleeing away from the highway.[27]

They then battle through the city, fighting numerous hunters on the way. Joel spies a Humvee being used by the hunters to kill "tourists", their word for outsiders. The two bond as Joel answers Ellie's questions regarding life before the disease destroyed the world. One question in particular, regarding a Dawn of the Wolf poster, reminds Joel of Sarah; that pair had seen it shortly before the outbreak. When Ellie asks why Joel would have watched such a "dumb teen movie" he lies saying he doesn't remember, wanting to avoid telling Ellie about his daughter. To "lighten the mood", Ellie reveals a joke book she possesses, quoting several jokes from it as they go to take their minds off of the dangers in the world if all too briefly.

Joel becomes separated from Ellie when the pair climb an elevator shaft, the elevator giving way, sending Joel plummeting to the bottom. Ellie, safe on the ledge, tries to climb down to Joel but he demands that she stay put, wanting to make his own way to her. Joel manages to make it out of the basement, facing Infected as he does so. As he tries to return to Ellie, he is ambushed by a hunter, speedily being detained underwater. He desperately reaches for his handgun but can't reach it, the hunter grappling his arm to prevent his escape. Luckily, Ellie appears at the last second, shooting the hunter dead; saving Joel's life.

Despite the fact that Ellie is initially in shock from having killed a person for the first time, Joel scolds her for disobeying his orders. Ellie argues 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 brushes off the remarks and avoids thanking her as the two continue on.[28] However (seeing hunters in the distance) Joel eventually comes to trust Ellie with a hunting rifle, testing to see if she "can handle that". Although disappointed Ellie has only ever shot a BB gun at rats, he teaches her how to use it regardless. He also vaguely thanks her for saving him, making Ellie happier that Joel is starting to trust her, and that the two are beginning to bond.[29] After they kill the group, Joel finally feels Ellie has earned the right to carry a pistol, though he declares it is "for emergencies only".[30]

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

A confrontation results in new allies.

While doing so, Joel is grabbed from behind by what he presumes is another hunter. Joel eventually overpowers him, however, Ellie shouts for him to stop; a teenage boy is pointing a gun at him. Joel backs off, making peace with the two. Upon learning their names, Henry and Sam, Joel cautiously agrees to follow them to a hideout; "it will be safer if we chat there".[31]

Once there, Henry offers Joel some blueberries having found "a whole stash of them". Joel politely refuses, wanting to learn why they haven't left yet. As Ellie and Sam converse in the background, Henry explains that the bridge (the only real exit) is heavily guarded by day but is reduced to just a skeleton crew at night. After Joel reveals he is looking for the Fireflies as well, Henry tells him his plan to go to a radio station just out of the city to reunite with the survivors of his group. Joel agrees to join him, shortly going to sleep to "rest up".[32]

The four decide to team up to escape the hunter area through the sewers and suburbs. 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 regret at having to tell Sam about the loss of their friends, which Joel somberly nods 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, Henry shot Sam dead as Joel went for his gun again. Overcome with grief, Henry shoots himself in the head despite Joel's efforts to dissuade the distraught man.[33]


Brotherly reunion.

Following the events in Pittsburgh, the duo continues westward to reach the Fireflies. Fall arrives as Joel and Ellie reach Jackson County in Wyoming, where Joel believes his younger brother Tommy can show them the Firefly's location. They reach a dam and try to cross through. While opening the gate, a woman and two men hold them at gunpoint. As Joel tries to get the group to let them pass through, someone on the inside begins opening the door - the man is revealed to be Tommy. To Joel's surprise, his brother hugs him and they briefly remark to each other about their age. Tommy introduces him to Maria, the settlement's leader. The woman says she is sorry and comments that Joel is her brother in law, surprising Joel at the prospect of Tommy having gotten married. Maria takes note of Ellie, who has remained quiet and invites them to eat.[34]

The group enters the settlement, amazed to find such a place. They see horses, Joel learning that Ellie also knows how to ride one. They learn the group is trying to restore the electricity. As they approach the cafeteria, Maria receives a call on her radio to check out the newly repaired generator. Tommy and Joel go while the girls eat. Before they do, Tommy gives Joel a picture he found back when he returned to Texas. Joel looks at the photo but, after a long pause, gives it back; he is too pained by the memories of his lost daughter to take it. Tommy accepts this, taking him to see the generator be activated. As they cross through, one worker jokingly bets "a million bucks it works" to which Tommy remarks "make it two". The two watch as the generator successfully starts. Joel jokes that Tommy is out two million dollars, Tommy laughs him off as they enter a room to talk privately.

Once inside, Joel and Tommy begin discussing why Joel has come so far. Joel confesses Ellie's immunity to his brother. Although doubtful, Tommy "bites" when Joel proposes he can show him. Joel admits he came here to pass Ellie on to his brother as the Fireflies were his "crusade", thus his responsibility. Tommy promises Joel gear but refuses to "take that girl off [his] hands". Joel is greatly angered, angrily stating that Tommy owes him this, only for Tommy to say that surviving "wasn't worth it". Greatly enraged, Joel shoves him against a locker, preparing to get even more physical. As he goes to do so Tommy warns him; "you lay your hands on me again and it won't end well for you". Before they argue further, the two are interrupted when bandits attack the dam.[35]

Joel helps fend off the attackers and rescue Maria and Ellie. He checks to see if Ellie is hurt, relieved she isn't. As the group recovers after the attack, Tommy reluctantly agrees to take Ellie to the Fireflies. While he informs a heartbroken Maria, Joel is harsh to Ellie, avoiding the fact that the two are arguing. Maria confronts Joel, threatening his life if Tommy dies. As Joel tearfully goes to retrieve Ellie, Tommy is radioed by a comrade that Ellie has stolen a horse and fled into the woods.[36] Joel and Tommy give chase, tracking her to a ranch house.

Joel finds Ellie alone in an abandoned bedroom reading a diary. He tries to make her leave but she refuses. Joel reprimands her for running off, causing Ellie to bring up Sarah; having been told of Joel's deceased daughter by Maria. Joel is greatly angered, warning Ellie that she is "treading on some mighty thin ice." The two argue heavily about the losses in their lives, Ellie pushing Joel while doing so. Joel remains cold, asserting he isn't her dad. Tommy interrupts them, as bandits have reached the ranch.[37]

Once the trio dispatches them they depart back to Tommy's. While riding, Joel thinks back on his time with Ellie, concluding he doesn't want to abandon her and leave her scared. He asks Tommy for the Firefly lab's location, the University of Eastern Colorado. He has Ellie return her horse and get on his. Tommy tries to convince him to come to the town so they can discuss it but Joel's mind is made up. With the promise of a home at Tommy's, if they should return, Joel and Ellie depart for the University.[38]

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.

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 being tackled by a Cannibal.

The two waste no time fleeing the building, killing several bandits 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.

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.[39]

Events of Left Behind

Joel appears briefly in the Left Behind DLC. Carrying on from the Fall arc, Ellie has managed to drag Joel to an abandoned mall. He is severely injured because of the last major event in the fall, and only appears in the beginning and towards the end of the DLC.

Ellie briefly covers his wound with her summer shirt, using duct tape to keep it in place. She leaves him in the yogurt bar with Callus while she searches the Colorado Mountain Plaza for medical supplies. Ellie returns with a first aid kit, after having to fight through cannibals and Infected to get back. She stitches up Joel's wound and straps him to a sled to pull him through the snow. They leave, eventually reaching Silver Lake. Ellie manages to secure him and takes him to an abandoned house near a lake. As the weeks pass, Ellie hunts for food while Joel recovers and contracts septicemia.


Joel in Ellie's care.

A few weeks have passed, and Joel is unconscious and feverish due to wound sepsis. Ellie has been doing her best to keep him alive and recover. She returns one day with a bottle of penicillin she obtained from two survivors named David and James, but he is still weak and can't move.

The next morning, Ellie looks out the window to find the same people trying to find her. Fleeing the area by horse to protect Joel, she is eventually captured by them; Joel is left alone but isn't found by the group.[40]

Joel awakens, startled. The medicine brings him back to his feet, albeit weakened, but he is surprised to find Ellie missing. Upon leaving the hideout, he encounters the same group of survivors who seem to know her whereabouts. He chases after them, killing all but two. He tortures and interrogates them to learn of Ellie's location. Joel fears for her safety, enacting revenge upon the pair, brutally beating one to death and ruthlessly breaking the others' neck in cold blood.[41]

Joel arrives in the survivors' settlement and discovers, to his horror, that they are cannibals. He dispatches the rest of them before finding Ellie, who had managed to escape before falling victim to their cannibalistic ways, brutally hacking at David with his own machete. He pulls her away from the corpse and holds her to calm her down. As a traumatized Ellie begins to break down, Joel holds her in his arms to comfort her; the first time he had ever embraced her. He calls her "baby girl," the same term of endearment he used for Sarah.[42]


Joel and Ellie overlook Salt Lake City.

Spring arrives as Joel and Ellie reach Salt Lake City, their intended final destination. Joel tries to fill the silence in order to cheer up an estranged and traumatized Ellie, who warms up after seeing a herd of giraffes. Realizing what Ellie has been through, he tells her that they can leave and return to Tommy's settlement, but she declines his offer, remarking that she wants to go through with this after all they have been through.[43]

In the city, they encounter a horde of Infected, miraculously managing to fight through all of them. While crossing a flooded street via the roofs of vehicles and construction scaffolding, they reach a big gap. Ellie is scared that she won't make it, but Joel reassures her that he will catch her. She jumps but makes it without his help, something Joel congratulates her for.

While crossing the last bus to reach the end of the sewers, it gives way as Joel tries to climb it, forcing him to the front of the bus despite his efforts. He notices the door above him and proceeds to pull it. Ellie jumps on the bus too, kicking the door to open it. They succeed, but the bus sinks beneath the waves. Joel forces his way out, finding Ellie unconscious in the water. He reaches her and proceeds to carry her to the surface. However, she is not breathing. Panicking, he gives her CPR to save her life. While doing so, two Fireflies find them. Despite trying to convince them he needs to give her CPR, they knock him out.

When Joel wakes up, he finds Marlene and what remains of the Boston Fireflies at the hospital. Ellie was successfully revived but was immediately taken for research on Marlene's order, which will possibly create a vaccine for the infection, as Joel finds out at Marlene's disclosure. Marlene also tells Joel that in order to fully reverse engineer the fungus for a vaccine, the doctors must remove the fungus from Ellie's brain, which will result in certain death. Upon hearing this, Joel begins to protest for her. Marlene disregards him, however, saying that he is not in a position to make decisions and that her decision to sacrifice Ellie will save millions.

She spares Joel's life, but Joel, determined not to lose his new "daughter" like he lost Sarah, escapes and tortures his Firefly guard Ethan to find out the location of the operating room.[44] He battles his way through the facility and brings Ellie out.

At the hospital parking garage, Marlene corners Joel, who threatens him with a pistol. She tries to persuade him that it's pointless to run; Ellie will die anyway as he can't protect her. She lets her guard down as Joel considers this, willingly letting him decide Ellie's fate. She moves closer to him and reaches for Ellie. Despite this offer, Joel shoots Marlene in the abdomen, leaving her on the floor grievously wounded, firmly deciding he'd rather save Ellie than save humanity. Before killing Marlene, Joel secures Ellie in a car. Marlene begs for her life, but Joel coldly refuses, fearing that she will only pursue them if she survives. He shoots her point-blank in the head, leaving her behind as he flees with Ellie.[45]

"I swear".

Joel delivers Ellie out of the city, heading for "home" at Tommy's. To spare her from feeling survivor's guilt he lies to her by telling her immunity meant nothing. Ellie is greatly dismayed when she hears this. The two finally reach Tommy's Dam, where Joel remarks that they can return to their normal life. Unable to cross through the main road due to the truck breaking down, they detour into the woods. Walking through the woods, he tells her that he used to hike with Sarah, believing the pair would have "been good friends". Eventually, Ellie confronts Joel and questions him whether what he tells her is true. Joel replies, "I swear", leaving a doubting Ellie to her own belief.[46]

Events of The Last of Us Part II

Telling Tommy the truth

Joel cleaning a guitar.

After spending a few weeks at Tommy's and having been accepted by the 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.

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 stood up, pulling off her headphones as Joel claimed he "didn't mean to scare [her]". After a pause, he asked "What's up?" There was then some tension in the air.

Joel sings for Ellie.

Joel started off slowly, saying that they haven't talked for a little while and he wanted to check in on her. He told her that some kids found some water guns and were playing with them outside that day. He had hoped to have seen Ellie out there playing too. Ellie quickly responded that she's more needed repairing the outer wall with Maria and that she doesn't have time for that. Sitting down on the corner of the bed, Joel told her that everyone has been really impressed with Ellie but that it's okay to take a break from work every once in a while. Joel realized he wasn't getting anywhere and decided to change the subject.

He talked about how Tommy made him a town guard and that things have "calmed down out there somewhat." Tommy apparently has paired Joel up with a woman named Esther, with Joel confessing that he thinks Tommy wants to see them "hitched", remarking she has a "great sense of humor" and that she told him a joke.

While Joel starts mumbling to himself, trying to remember the joke, Ellie interrupted. She mentioned that it was late and that she needed to get going with the additional repairs needed for the outer wall. Joel was discouraged but quickly recovered, leaving and quickly returned with a guitar in hand.

"What's that supposed to be?" Ellie said, sarcastically.

"Well I done hear that some people call this a gee-tar." Joel replied, pouring on his Texan accent, getting a quiet chuckle out of Ellie.

"I know that," Ellie said and asked him again what it was for. Joel sat down on Ellie's bed and confessed that he has been working on a song for some time, though "started working on it sometime ago", hinting that he may have originally begun writing it for Sarah. Ellie sat in her swivel chair, drawing up one of her legs to her chest as Joel began to play and sing select verses from Future Days by Pearl Jam.

The musical performance was tender as Joel sang about the pain that the pair have gone through and how much it meant to him that they still have each other — "you and I." As Joel performed, Ellie silently shed a few tears, wiping them away slowly. As the guitar and Joel fell silent, an emotional Ellie quietly responded "That was beautiful, Joel." The tension and distance between Joel and Ellie was gone now, replaced with genuine fatherly-daughterly love.

Joel thanked Ellie, stood, and offered the guitar to her. Even though she said that she doesn't know how to play, Joel reminded her of his promise to "teach [her] how to play the guitar" gifting it to her.

Ellie touched that Joel remembered, reached out and took it saying, "You did." A warm silence fell and Joel excused himself. "It's getting late and we both need our rest." Joel headed for the door as Ellie fell back into her swivel chair.

"What was the joke you heard the other day?" Ellie said, breaking the silence and bringing Joel to a full stop before exiting through the door.

Joel turned around, and with a soft smile on his face asked, "What's the hardest part about eating clocks?" Ellie shook her head and put up her hands, giving up.

Joel smirked and said, "It's time consuming."

They both share a little laugh. "That is pretty bad," a smiling Ellie responded. "Yeah, it's one of the worst I've heard," said Joel. "Well, goodnight, Ellie." Joel walked out the door, a little slow to remove his hand from the door frame, leaving Ellie to play the guitar a bit.[47]

Life in Jackson County

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. As mentioned by Ellie and even himself, Joel would often trade many of his belongings with trading caravans in order to obtain coffee. 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.

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 anf 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 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.

Joel tells Ellie the truth at last.

Sometime after this, 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, the two found across the remains of two teenagers that had tried to leave Jackson in a diner. 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.

Joel hears Ellie doesn't need his help.

However, the moment was not enough for Ellie. A year later, she ran away to the 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.

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 2038, at Seth's party, Joel saw the man verbally insult Ellie for her kissing Dina on the dance floor. Angered, he ran over and shoved the man, ordering he leave. However, Maria quickly split them up. Joel moved to make sure Ellie was alright but she only berated him further, stating he should stay out of her way. Dejected, Joel left the party. At home, he sat on the porch playing his guitar.

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

Later that night, 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. However, Ellie shouted back, cursing him for having stolen her chance to redeem humanity through dying. 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 they made try to rebuild their relationship.


Abby convinces Joel and Tommy to flee Infected with her.

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 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 brother, which Abby confirmed before shooting Joel's leg with a shotgun.

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.

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

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.


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.

Both Ellie and Tommy went after the group to avenge Joel, with Ellie receiving help from Dina and later Jesse. Joel's death was especially traumatic for Ellie, whose complicated feelings towards her foster father were never resolved.

During Ellie's final confrontation with Abby, Ellie has a chance to kill her. However, she recalls her final conversation with Joel, causing Ellie to spare the broken Abby instead. On her way back home, Ellie forgives Joel's decision to save her life and leaves his guitar behind in the farm.

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. Over time, he had begun to become 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.[48]

Joel has been described as a "violent thug, a brutal killer, and a torturer."[49] He was shown to be able to kill his enemies with noteworthy brutality, earning his infamous reputation to those he encountered. David called him a "crazy man." 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. 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.[50] Because of this, he accumulated valuable knowledge in regards to surviving the post-apocalyptic environment. After the death of his beloved daughter Sarah, Joel became more broody and damaged. His personality became darker and apathetic. Joel rarely showed signs of happiness and was often cynical. 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. This dark past likely contributed to his experience as a hardened survivalist.

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. Ellie also cared greatly for Joel, spending an entire winter feeding and protecting him when he was injured, just as Joel cared for her and protected her throughout their journey. The two would go on to form a close father-daughter bond.

It was strongly hinted that Joel suffered from PTSD due to losing his daughter and committing acts necessary for his survival. He was reluctant or simply refused to speak about people he had lost along the way (Sarah, Tess, Sam, Henry). He had frequent nightmares and refused to speak about his time as a Hunter.

However, Joel's other side was also portrayed. Prior to the apocalypse, he worked hard to raise his daughter by himself. The outbreak and Sarah's death changed him into an apathetic, ruthless, and estranged man. He wore the watch that Sarah gave him the day before the initial outbreak as a reminder. Upon meeting Ellie, he initially had a rocky relationship with her. However, Joel later grew to trust her and found her reliable at most times, such as Ellie spotting for Joel or providing support. As time passed, Joel established a father-daughter relationship with Ellie, who reminded him of his beloved daughter, Sarah.

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. 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, which lead Joel to decide that what is left of humanity might not be worth saving after all, especially at the cost of Ellie's life.

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. Despite this, he still felt guilty for lying to Ellie. 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.

Unfortunately, his bond with Ellie came to an end when she realized that Joel was lying the entire time. This led Joel to becoming depressed, hoping that one day Ellie would forgive him, he was overjoyed and even tearful when Ellie expressed that she would like to reconcile her relationship with him. However, that did not occur because of his unfortunate demise.

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. 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.

Joel choking a cannibal.

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

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. He was subdued by Bill, almost bitten by a Clicker when tackled by it (having to be saved by Tess), and was nearly killed by a Hunter who held him underwater, needing Ellie to intervene. A cannibal also managed to wrestle him off a ledge, leading to him being critically wounded by a piece of rebar. Ethan also knocked him to the ground with a blow to his thigh.

Joel was also an expert at wielding a wide range of weapons, from handguns to rifles and bows, which he could use with great proficiency. He was shown to be an expert tactician, able to use both stealthy and overt means to overcome overwhelming odds. He was also adept at crafting improvised weapons and tools (possibly due to his background in construction) and possessed an acute sense of hearing that allowed him to pinpoint the relative location of those around him when focused. Joel was also a strong swimmer and could also hold his breath for a relatively long period of time.

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 and thus could not survive in a spore-filled environment without a gas mask. When he was mortally wounded, he was unable to move faster than a walk and struggled to climb over obstacles or stay on Callus. The wound also caused him to contract sepsis, leaving him bed-ridden for several weeks, needing antibiotics to cure him.

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, his most impressive feat being when 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, a trait that led to his demise.

When not in combat, Joel displayed proficiency in several hobbies. Notably he was an excellent guitarist, able to play several songs and knew numerous rifts 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.

Design and appearance

Joel's appearance indicates that he was in his late 40s. He had a heavy, muscular build, with dark, graying hair and a beard. According to sewage's water level ruler, he appears to be 5 feet 11 inches (182cm) tall.[3] Joel has many cuts and scars, which can be seen on his face and arms if the player equips Joel with a t-shirt. After spending a few years living in Jackson, Joel's hair and beard grew slightly longer, and became significantly grayer.

Joel wore a watch that was a gifted to him by Sarah for his birthday the day before the outbreak; twenty years later, it had broken, likely from two decades of surviving in a post-outbreak world. He kept the watch in remembrance of Sarah. Joel seemed to sigh sadly when Ellie mentioned that it is broken in the early chapters of The Last of Us.

Joel also looked down at the watch when Ellie was mentioning how beautiful the view of Boston was to Joel as they were about to leave. The ending scene also showed Joel slightly rubbing his watch after he said he "struggled for a long time with survivin'" as he encountered major difficulties in accepting Sarah's death and sympathizes with Ellie's survivor's guilt.

He is most notably shown in a green checkered collared shirt, which is rolled up to his elbows, and jeans. He carried an old, worn canvas backpack that holds a gas mask and a flashlight attached to the strap. He was given this look by creative director Neil Druckmann due to him and his team wanting Joel to appear "as both a father figure to Ellie and a hardened survivor" at the same time, the costume brings almost "neutral" for such a setting.

Throughout the game, Joel picks up different items (pendants, letters, etc.) and 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 (e.g. in the winter, Joel is seen in a different shirt and a coat). At the end of the game (or as a pre-order bonus), different clothing options for Joel can be unlocked.



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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, while she and Tess went to check out the weapons that their former associate, Robert, sold to Marlene. Joel couldn't even look at her in the eye until much later after their initial meeting. Joel viewed himself as someone who had to escort her rather than develop a relationship with her. Their relationship grew even more unstable after the death of Tess, 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. 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.

He was reluctant to let her use a gun and refused to admit that she saved his life. However, he opened up to her eventually, the first time when he had her snipe the Hunters, and gave her one of their guns; seeing her as an equal after slowly giving her small portions of responsibility like driving the truck at Bill's.

When Ellie overhears Joel and Tommy argue over her fate, she steals one of the settlement's horses and runs away. Before Tommy informs Joel that Ellie took one of his horses, Joel appears to shed a tear and wipes it away just before Tommy tells Joel of the incident. Joel by this point seems to have a hard time parting with Ellie, but at the time he believes that this will be best for her because he doesn't seem to 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 reminds him strongly of his daughter. After being found at a ranch house nearby, Joel has a change of heart about keeping Ellie with him when she confronts him about Sarah, stating that she is not like his daughter, and is more than capable of taking care of herself.

Joel holding Ellie in his arms.

Eventually, their bond grows stronger later in the game. Joel, having had time to think about what Ellie said, realizes that abandoning Ellie is worse than staying with her, possibly harming any relationships she may try to form in the future. He, therefore, stays with Ellie and goes with her to the University. Their time there is arguably when their relationship is at its strongest, Ellie is no longer fearful that Joel will leave her; she stays with Callus as Joel wanders around, whereas before she would try to find him like in Pittsburgh. Joel even opens up about his past, even about Sarah; he is even polite about letting her know when the topic gets too personal rather than brushing her off entirely as before.

When Joel is wounded and on the verge of death, Ellie tends his wound during the stages of winter, becoming the protector he was to her. Though their bond remains strong for Joel though he notices that Ellie is distant, likely due to the incident with David, signifying that she is no longer as close as he is.

In the spring, Joel tells her he will teach her to play the guitar after meeting with the Fireflies and says he would not leave without her. At this point, he sees Ellie as a surrogate daughter as he would now do anything to save her and keep her safe, Joel willingly takes anyone's life in order to keep Ellie with him, who he views as similar to Sarah, even speculating that they would have been good friends and liked each other. Ellie, not just being the cure, becomes a very important symbol to reverting Joel back to how he was before the outbreak. A structural parallel of Joel trying to run away from the enemies and holding her in his arms as he did with Sarah demonstrates this, but this time, Joel would save his "baby girl" from dying. This helps express Joel's philosophy of doing anything for himself, rather than the world around him; he saves Ellie to save himself, not her or humanity. Furthermore, it displays how Joel believes that sacrificing Ellie is not worth saving humanity, many of which are ruthless killers and cannibals.

Joel, in an attempt to alleviate Ellie's survivor's guilt, lies to her. He also shares his own struggle with survivors guilt, opening up to Ellie in a way he hadn't done before, though he arguably is at his weakest now, as his relationship with Ellie is him acts as a replacement for his daughter Sarah, rather than actually forming a unique bond with her. 

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. Joel also taught Ellie how to swim and play guitar. 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.

Their relationship remained broken for the next couple of years, though Joel actively 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, though the two would never get the chance to truly repair their relationship.

During the last moments of his life, Joel, on the brink of death after being brutally beaten on the head by Abby, managed to open his eyes and gaze at Ellie one last time before having his skull bashed in.


Joel and Tommy.png

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. 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.

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, 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.

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. Regardless, the two soon argue about Ellie's custody, Joel greatly angered that Tommy is playing "the pissy little brother". 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. 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.

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."

As years go by, their relationships have improved significantly as Joel and Tommy now share jokes with each other and help each other on patrol. 

After Joel's death, Tommy traveled to Seattle in order to hunt down those responsible for killing his brother.


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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 of 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). It is implied that at one point they were in a romantic relationship, 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. Even Bill remarked the two were inseparable. Afterward, Joel avoided talking about Tess, being angered by Ellie, and even by Bill if she was mentioned. After a year though, he didn't mind Ellie talking about her, showing that he had moved on from losing her.


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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, being that Joel was a single parent. 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. The loss of Sarah 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.

Joel is very sensitive about her, angered when Ellie brings her up and attempts to compare her loss to Joel's; something that further enrages him. He even denied the picture of the two at Sarah's soccer game from Tommy. However, He accepts the picture from Ellie after she steals it from Maria, showing that he has finally come to terms with her death, saying himself that "[he] can't escape [his] past".


Joel and Bill.png

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.

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. 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."

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.


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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. However, he later complied upon learning how similar they were; both searching for the Fireflies and each trying to care for someone.

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.

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.


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. It is implied that Joel, and possibly Ellie, had buried the two brothers in a nondescript area, Joel preventing Ellie from mentioning them, clearly damaged by the loss.

Henry had a great 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 (and likely would) 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.


Sam 01.png

Like Henry, Sam was a minor acquaintance of Joel and Ellie, and another survivor the two had met during their travels. 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. 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 committed suicide. 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.



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. Joel is quite cynical of the Fireflies' promises of hope, which was flowed on to Marlene.

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. Because of their juxtaposed philosophies on life, Joel killed Marlene in fear that she would come after him and Ellie.


Joel and Maria.png

Maria is Tommy's wife and Joel's sister-in-law. They meet at the settlement, Maria being extremely hostile to him. Tommy manages to calm her when informing her Joel is his brother.

While she is kind due to the fact that he is Tommy's brother, her fierce opposition to Tommy taking Ellie to the Fireflies shakes her faith in him. She angrily shouts at him, demonstrating a deep distrust of him, and implies she would harm him should Tommy suffer any sort of harm from taking over for Joel. This threat has Joel jokingly state to Tommy that she "scares" him, and it contributes to his reasoning to stay with Ellie.

Joel, however, isn't as angry, being sympathetic and calmly letting her shout at him; he couldn't even look her in the eyes. 

Weapons used



Large firearms


Melee weapons



The Last of Us

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

Concept art

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Official stills

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Ellie with Joel.jpg
Tess and Joel.jpg
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Joel comforts Ellie.jpg
Joel asks Ellie.jpg
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University campus.jpg
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Meat locker.jpg
Clicker tackles Joel.jpg
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Choke Stalker.jpg
Runner hits Joel.jpg
Joel chokes Runner.jpg
Fireflies miss Joel.jpg
Ellie stabs Hunter.jpg
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Death for Freedom.jpg
The Dam.jpg
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Joel surprises Fireflies.jpg
Joel pets Buckley.jpg
Joel hides from Fireflies.jpg
Joel chokes Firefly.jpg
Joel Shiving Clicker.jpg
Stab Runner.jpg
Joel fights smuggler.jpg
Joel falling.jpg
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The Last of Us Part II

Official stills

Joel TLOU2.png
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TLOU2 - Joel finds Ellie.png
Joel Jackson.jpg
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Joel and Ellie enter museum.jpg
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Joel gives Ellie Apollo.jpg
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Joel and Tommy on horses.jpg
Joel speaks to Mel.jpg
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Joel and Sarah frame.jpg
Ellie at Joel's grave.jpg
Joel's guitar stands alone.jpg


  • The Japanese version of The Last of Us manual lists Joel's last name as "Miller".
    • In Sarah's room above her computer is a certificate. The last name is blocked by an award, however the first letter was identified as "M". Since the release of The Last of Us Remastered and its Photo Mode, the whole award can now be seen and displays the last name of "Miller" as well, further confirming the name listing. His last name was removed by Naughty Dog early in development and previously wasn't considered canon, until The Last of Us Part II revealed that "Miller" is indeed his family name.
  • Joel is the third protagonist to die in a PlayStation exclusive game after Cole MacGrath from Sucker Punch's Infamous series and Nathan Hale from the Insomniac's Resistance series.
  • 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.
  • Upon 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". 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; initially, Joel is willing to sacrifice himself, 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.'[51]
  • During an optional conversation with Ellie, when a banner about the football team Bighorns is examined, she'll ask if people were like idol worshipers. Joel replies, "when it comes to sports? Hell yeah."
    • He also may or may not have been a fan of the UEC football team, as he somewhat dryly remarked "Go Bighorns." at Tommy's mention of the campus.
  • It is suggested that either Joel or someone he knew has struggled with suicide. After Ellie comments about the "easy way out" when finding the corpses of two suicide victims, Joel heavily says "Trust me, it ain't easy." Based on the loss of his daughter and him saying that he struggled with staying alive, it is quite possible that Joel considered suicide after Sarah's death.
  • Joel says that he was never fond of video games before the outbreak, although his house had a PlayStation 3 in the family room. This suggests that this PS3 belonged to Sarah and she used to play with Joel.
  • Joel is a fan of music, and stated that as a kid he wanted to become a singer. He owned a six string guitar as well as an extensive music collection (including CD & Vinyl). Additionally he personally intended to teach Ellie to play after their journey was over.
    • Joel stating he wanted to be a singer as a kid and his ability to play the guitar are likely a reference to his voice actor, Troy Baker, who is a singer and guitar player in real life.
    • By The Last of Us Part II, Ellie can play the guitar and sings in the reveal trailer.
  • Joel appears to have been very fond of coffee before the infection left the world in ruins, as he mentions to Ellie that he always went to coffee shops and purchased coffee.
    • He even laments on the lack of the beverage while in Pittsburgh.
  • Before the outbreak, Joel possibly enjoyed hunting as a hobby, seeing that there was a framed painting or photograph of a deer above his bed.
    • It also foreshadows Ellie's encounter with one in the winter chapter.
  • Joel's birth date was first speculated to be September 26, as it was the date seen in the Texas Herald newspaper at the beginning of the game.
    • A tweet by Naughty Dog developer Mark Richard Davies confirms this date.[52]
  • Joel's weapon of choice seems to be a revolver. He is seen holding it in both promotional pictures, and trailers. He also kept one in his house, before the outbreak.
    • He also uses one again in the reveal trailer for The Last of Us II.
  • Though it is never explained where Joel was born, he was most likely born in Austin, Texas or somewhere in Travis County. This is also hinted at when Tommy says that he "went to Texas, back home" shortly before he attempts to give Joel a picture of him and Sarah.
  • Joel was named after Joel Coen, who directed No Country for Old Men and True Grit.
  • The Winter chapter is the only section of The Last of Us in which Joel never encounters any Infected.
    • He also doesn't meet the primary antagonist of that section, David.
  • Joel is officially ranked as the sixth sexiest male video game character of all time.[53]
  • Joel was possibly a Bandit or Hunter before he became a smuggler, since he told Ellie he has "been on both sides". An audio file unused in the game also has Joel blatantly state he was a Hunter.[54]
    • Further evidence to this would be when Joel reminded Tommy of the things he did to keep them alive, and how Tommy said the years after the outbreak gave him nightmares.
    • Bill also makes a remark that suggests Joel was once a Hunter, saying "It's the normal people that scare me. You of all people should understand that."
    • Expanding on this, Joel demonstrated knowledge of the Hunters' tactics, knowing beforehand that a Hunter was feigning injury when he remarked "He ain't even hurt!" shortly before running him over. He was also experienced in interrogating and torturing people, such as Robert, the Cannibals he captured, and the Firefly Ethan.
  • After settling in Jackson, Joel (a former carpenter) took up woodworking as a hobby. He amassed an impressive 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 owned a copy of Basics of Wood Carving and Woodworking by Paolo Cobr on his living room table. 
  • Joel owned a mug inscribed with the image of an owl which is symbolic of wisdom and femininity
  • Joel owned a copy of Moby Dick on his bookshelf.
  • Joel is the only male playable character in the series so far.  


  1. 1.0 1.1 PlayStation Bio
  2. as noted by Ellie's patrol sign-in sheet
  3. 3.0 3.1 According to Game Designer Rodney Reece on Twitter (Accessed 13th of September, 2020)
  4. Newspaper Clipping
  5. Last of Us Voice Actors, Connection to Enslaved
  6. The Last of Us - Actor Q&A Part 1
  7. 7.0 7.1 Tommy's Dam
  8. 8.0 8.1 The University
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Hometown
  10. Jackson
  11. Seattle Day 1 (Ellie)
  12. Goodnight, baby girl
  13. Twenty Years Later
  14. Conversation with Ellie in Salt Lake City
  15. optional conversation with Ellie
  16. Twenty Years Later
  17. The Quarantine Zone
  18. Queen Firefly
  19. We're smuggling her?
  20. Killing Time
  21. I'm not infected
  22. You can't deny that view
  23. Just go
  24. I need a car
  25. Let's get on with it
  26. He was my partner
  27. He ain't even hurt
  28. I feel sick
  29. You're welcome
  30. How'd I do?
  31. I'm Henry...this is Sam
  32. Welcome to my Office
  33. What are you scared of?
  34. How you doing, baby brother?
  35. Why bring her here?
  36. It's best this way
  37. I'm not her
  38. Adios
  39. Tell me what to do
  40. You're Going to Make It
  41. I Believe Him
  42. It's Me
  43. It Can't be for Nothing
  44. Find Someone Else
  45. You Can't Save Her
  46. I Swear
  47. IGN Blog - One Night Live Epilogue and Jackson (Part II) chapter
  48. The Last of Us Storyline Explained in Detail
  49. The Last of Us - Presentation by Naughty Dog
  50. The Story and Environment of The Last of Us
  51. The Last of Us - The Definitive Playthrough (Accessed May 6th, 2020)
  52. Mark Richard Davies Tweet - Twitter
  53. WhatCulture Rankings
  54. - Annie Marie found such


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