Upon The Last of Us‘s release in 2013, everyone agreed “the giraffe scene” was a brilliant addition to the game. IGN even referred to it as “the most important moment in The Last of Us.” Now, the TV show translates this famed sequence to live action.
So, what happens in the giraffe scene? Is there a giraffe Clicker attack? Do Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) learn some major information about the Fireflies? Not exactly. The pair have just reached Salt Lake City and are scouting the area when Ellie spies something delightful: a happy, healthy giraffe eating leaves that have grown up a bombed-out building. She and Joel approach, feeding and petting the giraffe and later observing a giraffe herd roaming through the city.
That’s it — just a lovely moment between Joel, Ellie, and a giraffe. No earth-shattering revelations, no adrenaline-fueled action set piece. But the peace and quiet of the scene is a necessary part of its beauty, along with its placement in the larger scope of The Last of Us.
When we first see her in the season finale, Ellie is withdrawn and quiet, traumatized after her horrifying encounter with David (Scott Shepherd). Yet when she sees the giraffe, all that sadness falls away, replaced with a sense of wonder. As she feeds the giraffe and whispers to it, Ellie gets to be a carefree child again, even for just a moment. Joel watches her, and you can tell by the look on his face how much he cares for her and how important it is for him to see her happy.
The simple calm of the giraffe scene is also a welcome respite from the doom and gloom of the rest of the show. In episode 8 alone, we were subjected to cannibals, fires, and child predators — and that’s only the tip of the heartbreak iceberg. A quick break with the giraffes is a great opportunity to reset and experience some joy along with our characters (who could, quite frankly, use a lot of it).
Along with cheering up Ellie, the giraffe herd also signals a larger kind of hope for the world. Just like with released lab monkeys we saw in episode 6, these giraffes appear to be thriving in this post-Cordyceps era. The world hasn’t completely ended: Like we saw with Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) in episode 3, it is fully possible to create a fulfilling life in the apocalypse. Clearly, the same goes for the packs of animals who have managed to endure for 20 years without getting wiped out by hordes of the Infected. If there’s hope for them, maybe there’s hope for Joel and Ellie and humanity… Oh great, I’m getting teary-eyed over a giraffe again.