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Apparently, there's no way to extricate the parasite without eliminating the host. Fancy way of saying we gotta kill the fucking kid. And now they're asking for my go ahead. The tests just keep getting harder and harder, don't they? I'm so tired. I'm exhausted and I just want this to end... so be it. Oh I miss you Anna. Your daughter will be with you soon
~ Marlene's insight on Ellie's surgery.

Marlene is the main antagonist of the 2013 videogame The Last of Us. Marlene is the founder ,commander and supreme leader of the Firefly organisation. She seeks to finish the outbreak, kill Ellie and Joel and to rebel against the government.

She was portrayed via motion capture and was voiced by actress Merle Dandridge.

Early Life

Marlene was born in the middle of the year 2004 at Utah, USA.

Before the outbreak and fall of society, Marlene was best friends with a young nurse named Anna, who later became pregnant in 2018 or 2019. After Anna's death, Marlene took her daughter, Ellie in and looked after her after Anna died, raising Ellie as her own, before eventually becoming separated from the girl at some unknown point.

Events of The Last of Us

Looking to keep up the morale of the Fireflies, Marlene makes a deal with a smuggler named Robert and purchases a cache of guns. She goes to close the deal and, during events unseen, she is badly injured. When she finally locates Robert, Tess and Joel have killed him. Tess demands her guns from Marlene, who refuses to give them up at first. Marlene decides to concede when she asks them to smuggle something out of the city for her. Tess agrees on the basis that she is allowed to see the weapons before committing entirely.

Marlene guides them through the docks and around the military patrols still searching for the Fireflies that attacked the checkpoint within the city. She explains that the Fireflies have attempted to leave the city, but the military mean to use the Fireflies as scapegoats by inciting violence. As a result, the Fireflies have fought to defend themselves.

Marlene successfully leads them back to her hideout as she collapses. Assuming Marlene is in danger, Ellie tries to attack Joel from behind with a switchblade, but Tess stops her. Marlene assures her friend she will recover, but she cannot come with her. Ellie wants to stay with her, but Marlene reminds her that this may be their only chance to get her out of the city. Marlene asks Joel to watch over Ellie during their journey to the capital building, an idea Ellie objects to. Marlene assures her that she can trust Joel. Once Ellie is safe with Joel, Marlene takes Tess to verify the weapons.

Once Marlene recovered from her injuries, she and the rest of her surviving men left Boston and moved to join up with the rest of the Fireflies in Salt Lake City. Along the way, she and her men were attacked by the Infected losing two of their members, leading to the group entering a dismal phase. However, they soon brightened up, much to Marlene's happiness. By March 2034, Marlene barely made it to the city with the rest of her men intact. They reached the hospital, the group and Marlene entering better spirits at bring reunited with friends they hadn't seen in as long as ten years. She soon finds out that the Fireflies that were supposed to meet Ellie and the smugglers at the Capitol Building were already killed. With no way of knowing where they are, coupled with the losses she endured during her trek with her men across the country, she sinks into anxiety and depression over her capabilities as a leader, even being unable to eat. Just a month later, April 25th, Marlene even begins to doubt her cause as a Firefly, feeling a need to run away from her team though she doesn't go through with it.

On April 28, 2034, Firefly scouts report that they spotted an older man and a young girl in the tunnels, who turn out to be Joel and Ellie. Joel was knocked unconscious by a Firefly while Ellie, having nearly drowned, was taken to the surgery room to be examined. Initially overjoyed to see them, the doctors tell Marlene that the unique mutation of CBI within Ellie may make it possible for them to reverse-engineer a vaccine. However, the doctors cannot operate on her friend’s brain without killing her. The doctors ask for her “permission” to go ahead with the procedure, a formality Marlene assumes is done merely on principal as she does not think she could stop the operation regardless. She decides to make the choice and allows them to proceed. The decision is painstaking on her. She records two ruminations to Anna over the choice she is about to make, but remains firm that it needs to be done.

Marlene thanks Joel for looking after Ellie, grateful they both survived the ordeal to get to the hospital. When she tells him of Ellie’s situation and the possibility of a vaccine being produced, he objects to the idea. Marlene, sympathetic to his turmoil, tells him that Ellie’s death is necessary and far more important than anything either of them may feel for her as surrogate parents. She tells the Firefly with her, Ethan, to lead him out but only shoot him should he attempt to stop the operation. Earlier, other Fireflies suggested to Marlene that she just kill Joel, but she refuses to kill the one person who understands what she’s going through.

Her decision to keep him alive allows Joel, having escaped from and killed Ethan, to stop the operation and force Ellie from the doctors. Marlene waits for Joel in the parking lot of the hospital to dissuade him at gunpoint. She tries to intimidate him with terrible scenarios that could happen to Ellie; death at the hands of Clickers, sexual assault, and/or murder committed by thugs.

Marlene tells him that Ellie would want to follow through with the surgery and that he can still do the right thing by handing her over. She lowers her gun and raises her hands in a show of peace, but Joel shoots her in the side and places the unconscious Ellie inside a car. Bleeding out, Marlene begs Joel to let her live. He appears to hesitate, but kills her anyway, stating that she will pursue Ellie to get her back anyway. After driving away, Joel lies to Ellie that the Fireflies gave up looking for a cure, so that she can get back to living and get over her survivor's guilt.

This can be interpreted in many ways as there is a tape by the surgeon who was going to perform the procedure himself. It is for the most part, ambiguous, and overall states how Ellie can be used for a cure. However, near the end, he states "All the sacrifices of those men and women or worse, will not be in vain." This puts forth to the fact possibilities that there were others like Ellie. It also twists the fact that Joel's statement changes from supposed lies to mysterious truth when he addresses Ellie in the end, putting Marlene's judgement up to interesting conversation as a true martyr to her group's cause.

Personality

Towards the Fireflies, Marlene is an inspiring and charismatic ruler. Most of her soldiers have loyalty to her and her cause and she seems to reciprocate this; she knows most of her soldiers names and seems saddened whilst overlooking two Firefly corpses that were murdered by government soldiers.

Despite being an aggressive militant, Marlene feels that the government is oppressive to it's citizens inside Quaratnine Zones. She inspires others to fight and "look for the light" and, despite her failure to the more well-equipped government Joel states that a "lot of people put stock" into the Fireflies implying Marlene's claims are correct about the strictness of the government. Above all, Marlene is optimistic about the future of their world; at the choice of a cure to the cordycep brain infection she was willing to make the sacrifice, including the murder of a girl she knew from childhood (though a recorder states that she was pressured to make the decision by her head doctor and refused to kill Joel when he came to the hospital, due to his determination to reach the Fireflies and his care for Ellie). Marlene even tried to relieve Ellie from Joel non-violently though she obviously valued her life as she begged when she was mortally injured and at Joel's mercy.

Trivia

  • She was voiced and mo-cap by actress Merle Dandridge.