In the game, Joel is practically super-human. He brutally takes on legions of enemies and — in true video game fashion — can patch up fatal wounds with nothing but alcohol and tattered rags. He has superhuman hearing, allowing him to locate enemies across the map; he’s strong enough to punch people to death; and he’s proficient with every single weapon he encounters. Also, by virtue of being the game’s primary playable character, his health can always be fully restored. It’s almost as if his adventure with Ellie takes no real toll. The only exception is his near-fatal injury on the college campus, but even then, he plows through the cannibal clan well before he’s fully healed.
Pedro Pascal’s Joel could never.
It’s not that this version of Joel is weak. Making that case would be absurd: the fact that he’s survived the world for this long speaks for itself. Not to mention the fact that we’ve also seen him fend off clickers, snap necks, win gunfights, and generally terrify anyone with the slightest knowledge of his violent history. Joel is capable — but there’s nothing super-human about the guy.
For a while, Ellie is none the wiser. Though he isn’t always the warmest companion, Joel is her protector. He’s the guy who beat a FEDRA soldier to death in her honor. But we soon see cracks in that facade. Just as Mazin promised, Joel is first and foremost a 56-year-old survivor. He’s lost his hearing in one ear; his knees aren’t what they used to be; he falls asleep when he should be on watch; he freezes when a moment demands he acts quickly, and he’s battling panic attacks.
Joel isn’t a bulldozer or an unkillable fiend. He’s just a man. He can be stabbed or shot, like anyone else. Horrifying as it may be, Joel can be killed.