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The Last Of Us: Why Did Joel Spare [SPOILER] In His Hospital Rampage?

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

Throughout Season 1 of HBO's "The Last of Us," we've watched the grizzled survivor Joel Miller (Pedro Pascal) carve a bloody path through the post-apocalyptic United States — and Joel's hospital rampage in Episode 9 is his most brutal act to date. As the Fireflies prepare Ellie (Bella Ramsey) for a fatal surgery that will help them create a Cordyceps vaccine, Joel desperately fights his way through the hospital to pull her from the operating table.

Consumed by a blind rage, Joel guns down nearly every Firefly in sight — littering the hallways with corpses and murdering indiscriminately as he marches across the hospital. He even puts a bullet in the head of the Firefly doctor about to operate on Ellie, who was armed with nothing but a scalpel, though oddly he decides to spare the two nurses (Laura Bailey and Ana Rice) working alongside him. This act of mercy seems singularly odd for Joel, who mere moments earlier had executed another Firefly soldier who had dropped his gun in surrender.

The episode never addresses why he spares these two nurses in particular (as well as another nurse cowering behind them) though it's worth noting they were the only two people who actually cooperated with him and unhooked Ellie from the machine. According to fans on Reddit, this is the real reason they were spared.

The nurses were spared because they posed no threat to Ellie

Impressed, appalled, and shocked by the massacre in the Firefly labs, fans on the official "The Last of Us" subreddit were left scratching their heads when Joel Miller decided to spare two nurses who were moments away from killing Ellie — and many seemed to agree that it was because the nurses posed no real threat.

"To be fair to Joel though, everyone up to that point was armed and ordered to kill him," said u/Mars-For-The-Rich. "Gotta save his bullets," offered u/Anarchybites, pointing out that Joel only had a pistol at this point. "Can't reload with Ellie in his arms. Save his bullets for threats. Like poor Marlene [Merle Dandridge]." Another user emphasized how this moment of mercy makes Joel's rampage less evil, making the other murders seem necessary to save Ellie while these two nurses actually de-escalated and listened to him — unlike their fallen cohorts.

Although it's unclear whether or not these two nurses will come back to haunt Joel in the future (since they appear to be the only survivors of his killing spree), other users were quick to point out that Joel's choice to spare them is also a choice you make in the game – and many players simply executed the nurses with no later consequences for the story. In the end, it seems like Joel's mercy was pragmatic rather than noble, and had the nurses fought back they would have ended up the same as the other Fireflies strewn across the hospital floor.