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TLOU Finale: We Finally Know The Heartbreaking Origin Of Joel's Hearing Loss

Contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" Season 1, Episode 9 — "Look for the Light"

As HBO's perfect video game adaptation comes to a close, we finally learn the truth about Joel's (Pedro Pascal) darkest moment. During "The Last of Us" Season 1, Episode 1, we see what happens to Joel and his daughter, Sarah (Nico Parker), during the early days of the Cordyceps outbreak, with the infection tearing through society almost overnight. Most upsettingly, Sarah is killed by an overzealous soldier in the chaos, no doubt setting Joel down the violent path we know he followed in order to survive.

But then the episode cuts forward 20 years to Joel's life in the Boston Quarantine Zone. What he does between the death of his daughter and the moment we encounter him dispassionately piling dead bodies into an open fire is left a mystery.

At some point during that intervening period, Joel suffers a minor gunshot wound: As he later tells Ellie (Bella Ramsey), someone shot at him and missed. But in the season finale, we finally learn the heartbreaking truth about who was wielding the gun that inflicted it.

Joel's gunshot wound was self-inflicted

On the last leg of their journey to the Firefly hospital, Joel finally begins to open up to Ellie about the most traumatic moments of his life, including revealing that the person who shot at him and missed was not a soldier or a raider, but himself. Only a few days after Sarah's death, he attempted suicide by firearm in 2003, no longer seeing a point in living after losing her. In the end, he flinched as he pulled the trigger, leaving himself with a scar and permanent hearing loss.

The truth behind Joel's gunshot wound reveals the extent to which Sarah's death fundamentally broke him. And what's worse, we can see that he's entirely unprepared to suffer such a loss once more. His later rampage through the hospital is not born purely out of his desire to save Ellie from medical experimentation — he will burn the world if it means never having to suffer a loss like the one he went through with Sarah again. Just how far he'll go is a question that can't be answered until Season 2 airs, but those with a gaming system can get some possible hints in "The Last of Us Part II" since Bella Ramsey thinks Season 2 will follow the game pretty closely.

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.