I know I'm really late with this but I have been waiting to comment on this spoilercast until I beat the game and I just did. It was an emotional ride and I loved almost every second of it. The beginning was slow but once it got up to pace it just didn't end and it was just flat out amazing.
My analysis of Joel was that he was a selfish man. After the death of his daughter he had nothing and would only do something would benefit him in the end. He had feelings for Tes which is why he hung around her and listened to her but he is a difficult man which lead to problems in their "relationship" The scene where Tes dies and she says, "if there is anything here" got to him which is why he continued on with Ellie. He loved Tes and he wanted to do it for her. (You can look the relationship between Ellie and Joel after that like this as well. Joel blames Ellie for Tes' death. Like a man can get mad at his new born child if the mother died in child birth.) Although he gains a liking for Ellie which is why he continues on with her instead. The scene when they get to the hospital and Joel asks if she wants to go back is another sign of his selfishness. He doesn't know what is going to happen but he does know what will happen if they go back; which for him is not losing Ellie. Him killing the doctor (regardless if you killed the other two) and running away with Ellie is a sign of selfishness because he could have saved the whole world. The very last cut scene was his very last sign of selfishness because he wants her and if he tells her the truth she would leave. He wants her and he got her.
Sorry if my wall of text is confusing but I will try to summarize and make sense. Joel went through a character circle (patent pending on this one guys) In the beginning he was selfish and only looked out for himself and his loved one. As he went along with Ellie he slowly got softer and kinder. Then as the game starts to wind back down he reverts back to his selfish ways. I love how the game ended where it began.
I also loved the character swap by the end of the game. At one time Ellie was the soft one, with Joel being the brute. As the game went along (I might be repeating myself sorry guys) they switched. This was strikingly apparent when Joel got hurt and Ellie had to became the care giver. She did her best impression of Joel and stood up took what she wanted. Then at the end of the game when you play as Ellie that was a very important choice. If you notice when ever you run with Joel you don't run as fast or with that much confidence, it is always this kind of determination. So they make you Ellie and she runs with the same way. While Joel is doing what? Running ahead like Ellie used too in the beginning of the game. Then in the very last cut scene they revert back to their first characters; Joel the selfish man, and Ellie the smart little girl.
Amazing game, I will try and beat the game on a harder difficulty just because I enjoyed it that much. I was jumping up and down at the end. I wish the podcast was longer, come on guys.
I don't think Joel's only goal is survival. Yes, he wants to survive, but he also wants his close friends to survive too. The years as a hunter weren't just for his own survival, but also for his brother. He simply cannot face the loss of one of the few people that he's close to and he runs away when that happens. When his daughter dies, he runs from Texas all the way to Boston. I think that's the biggest reason why he left Boston with Ellie. He wanted to honor Tess' last request, but he also wanted to get away from where his best friend died and taking Ellie away was his excuse. We see how sore he is about these 2 deaths whenever Ellie asks about them. At one point, he even makes a rule that these topics cannot be discussed. He's afraid of facing those issues.
The problem is that that aspect of Joel's character isn't really developed in the gameplay. Ellie, Tess, or whoever else is there but you rarely have to think about them as the player. Maybe you'll have to send a bullet in the way of somebody they're grappling with every now and then, but you mostly just leave them be in and out of combat. I think defense in combat, patching up after, and all the things you do to Joel should have also been done to Ellie. It would have further cemented that he really does care for these people.
... Hm. I have to say, everything Tom said I actually disagree with largely. I didn't think it was going to be to the extent that it is, but dang. I feel like Chris and Shaun understood what was going on in the game better. Tom seemed to be jumping to weird conclusions, that could be possible, but I think somewhat unrealistic. One thing I didn't think about, and I've heard once before from IGN, that Chris brings up was how Sarah and Tess are kind of the the two sides of Ellie for Joel, I find that interesting, and it makes sense.
I realize that Chris is right- at the end Joel's just screwed over the rest of mankind just so that he can have something to hold onto in Ellie- even though she was the one who was determined to get all the way to begin with- so she could help mankind. And when he lies to her face on that hill at the very end, I'm pretty sure by her reaction that she doesn't believe him, she just accepts this is how it has to be.
Also, when I burst into THAT hospital room at the end, I only shot the one doctor with the scalpel. I left the other two because they weren't armed, and it didn't feel right (even though I'd murdered about two dozen Fireflies to get that far but they were shooting at me...).
I really enjoyed hearing your different interpretations of Joel's motivation. My thoughts on his motivation go like this. After the prologue, Joel is so broken after the death of his daughter that he really has no motivation what-so-ever. He is just a skilled survivor who gets pulled into different situations by those around him. Tess is the one who seems to call the shots in the beginning, and Joel just goes along for the hell of it. When Ellie enters the picture, I thought that there was a bond between him and Ellie almost instantly, though Joel would NEVER admit it. I don't think he welcomes it, and because he is so broken, he constantly pushes Ellie away. I don't think he meant any of the verbal abuse he hurled at her. Joel is so afraid of caring for someone else that he pushes everyone away. So after Tess dies, protecting Ellie is his only motivation, though I still don't think he'd even admit that. He takes her to Tommy because he thinks that is the best thing for Ellie. The scene after Ellie runs away was when Joel finally dropped his guard, if only a little. After she tells him that she doesn't feel safe away from his side, Joel was shocked. He never considered that she would want to stay with him. There bond strengthened a lot then. Now his motivation is to also help Ellie with her journey, not just protect. Protecting Ellie was everything for Joel. I felt the same way. I was not going to let Ellie die. The finale was a rush for me. I didn't hesitate with the surgeons. I shot all three in the head because if I failed to get Ellie out, I didn't want there to be anyone to perform the surgery. It did make me feel ill, but Ellie was all that mattered. I'll remember that ending for a long time. I was curious if there was an alternate ending after, but saving Ellie was what I was going to do first. At the very last scene, I don't know if Ellie thinks Joel was lying or not. I felt she believed him because she trusts him. Though if she ever finds out the truth it would destroy her. I think Joel lied to her because deep down he knows that Marlene's last words to him were true. If Ellie knew that her death would mean humanities salvation, she would sacrifice herself. Keeping her alive is all that matters to Joel.
@bonander couldn't agree more. I didn't want to kill the surgeons as they could be the last few doctors on earth the cure this thing. (also they were unarmed and not 100% going to kill me.) At the end of the day for Joel, Ellie became his life. In the same regard that Ellie was able to name all of the people she has loved and lost in her 14-15 years on the planet Joel probably has way more including a daughter, wife and almost a brother (emotionally) So for him those final scenes were about saving the world, his world. Ellie became everything to him and that nothing in this world not even the end of the world could every come between the bond between a father and daughter. Great game, so happy i finally beat it.