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Villain Overview

Apparently, there's no way to extricate the parasite without eliminating the host. Fancy way of saying we gotta kill the f**ing 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 was the leader of the anti-government group known as The Fireflies, serving as the tritagonist turned final antagonist in The Last of Us and as a flashback character in The Last of Us Part II.

She was portrayed by Merle Dandridge, who also played Stacy Garrett in CSI: Miami and Lydia Faulk in The Mentalist.



Marlene was born on March 19th in the early 21st Century. As a Firefly soldier, Marlene fought against the totalitarian rule of the military within the Quarantine Zones to restore a form of functional government. The Fireflies successfully overthrew the military rule in several zones, namely Salt Lake City, but their efforts have not always achieved the desired results. Despite her and her organization's attempts to restore order, their numbers have dwindled thanks to the military cracking down and killing any member who was found within the zones. In addition to all this, Marlene had her organization keep a close eye on Ellie as part of her promise to her long time friend Anna, who was Ellie's mother.

She was once close with Joel's brother, Tommy, back when he was a member of the Fireflies. After a while, however, Tommy gave up on the cause and decided to leave. Before he left, he promised Marlene that Joel will help her in anything she might need.

Events of The Last of Us: American Dreams

Stationed with a Firefly battalion in Boston, Marlene got caught in a skirmish with the local military. After retreating from the Firefight, Marlene arrived in time to save Ellie and Riley from the infected in an abandoned mall outside the zone. She had the two girls gagged and tied up before taking them to a smugglers' tunnel. Coming back from finding some resources, such as bread and medication, Marlene later freed the girls of their bindings. Riley immediately requested to join the Fireflies, but Marlene denied, reasoning that too many people had died for the cause. Their argument was cut short when hostile smugglers arrived and opened fire on the group.

Once the smugglers were killed, Riley persisted in joining and dying for the cause if necessary, prompting Marlene to point a gun at her. Thinking that she would shoot, Ellie grabbed a gun and pointed it at Marlene to make her drop hers. Marlene did so, but stated that she never intended to kill Riley. She then revealed her connections with Ellie's mother Anna, and gave Ellie a switchblade as well as a letter. Marlene then directed the two girls back to the military boarding school in the quarantine zone.

Events of Left Behind

Sometime afterwards, Marlene had the Fireflies lure Riley to her. Her men cornered Riley in an alley when she tailed Trevor, and took the girl to Marlene, who revealed she wanted to test her resolve when they last met. As part of Riley's initiation into the Fireflies, Marlene had the girl kill an Infected. When Riley asked whether Ellie could join the organization, Marlene told her that she wanted Ellie to stay safe at the military school and forbade Riley to see her again. Understanding Riley and Ellie's relationship, Marlene decided to send Riley away to another city further away from their unit.

The day before Riley was supposed to move, she and Ellie were bitten at an abandoned mall. Marlene took Ellie back under her wing, almost shooting her when she found out she'd been bitten. When Ellie failed to succumb to the Cordyceps Brain Infection as her friend Riley did, Marlene realized that she was immune. Following this realization, Marlene decided that Ellie might be the key for a vaccine.

Events of The Last of Us

Needing to get Ellie out of Boston, Marlene made a deal with a smuggler named Robert and purchased a cache of guns for her group. Marlene went to close the deal, accompanied by a squad of Fireflies, but she ended up in an engagement with the military, leading to the death of her entire squad and causing her to suffer a gunshot wound to the side. By the time she finally located Robert, Tess and Joel had already killed him. Tess demanded her guns from Marlene, who refused to give them up at first. Marlene decided to concede when she asked them to smuggle something out of the city for her.​​ Tess agreed on the basis that she was allowed to see the weapons before committing entirely.​​

Marlene guided them through the docks and around the military patrols still searching for the Fireflies that attacked the checkpoint within the city. She explained that the Fireflies are trying to leave the city, but the military "riled them up". As a result, the Fireflies have fought to defend themselves.

Marlene successfully led them back to her hideout as she collapsed. Assuming Marlene was in danger, Ellie tried to attack Joel from behind with a switchblade, but Tess stopped her. Marlene assured her friend she would recover, but she could come with her. Ellie wanted to stay with her, but Marlene reminded her that this was their only chance to get her out of the city alive. Marlene asked Joel to watch over Ellie during their journey to the capitol building, an idea Ellie objected to. Marlene assured her that she could trust Joel. Once Ellie was safe with Joel, Marlene took 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. 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 at least ten years. She soon learned that the Fireflies who 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, Marlene sank into depression over her capabilities as a leader. Just a month later, April 25th, Marlene even began to doubt her cause as a Firefly, feeling a need to run away from her team though she did not go through with it.

On April 28 2034, Firefly scouts reported that they spotted an older man and a young girl in the tunnels, who turned 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 told Marlene that the unique mutation of the infection within Ellie made it possible for them to reverse-engineer a vaccine. However, the doctors could not operate on Ellie’s brain without killing her. The doctors asked for her “permission” to go ahead with the procedure, a formality Marlene assumed was done merely on principal as she did not think she could stop the operation regardless. She decided to make the choice and allowed them to proceed. The decision was painstaking on her. She recorded two ruminations to Anna over the choice she was about to make, but remained firm that it needed to be done, even though this would mean that she's betraying both Anna and her daugther.

Marlene thanked Joel for looking after Ellie, grateful they both survived the ordeal to get to the hospital. When she told him about Ellie’s situation and the possibility of a vaccine being produced, he objected to the idea. Marlene was sympathetic to his turmoil, and assured him that Ellie’s death was necessary and far more important than anything either of them may feel for her as surrogate parents. She told a Firefly named Ethan to lead Joel 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 refused to kill the one person who understood what she was going through.

Her decision to keep him alive allowed Joel, having killed Ethan, to stop the operation and force Ellie from the doctors. Marlene cornered Joel in the parking lot of the hospital to dissuade him at gunpoint. She tried to intimidate him with terrible scenarios that could happen to Ellie; death at the hands of Clickers, sexual assault and/or being murdered.

Marlene told him that Ellie would want to follow through with the surgery and that he could still do the right thing by handing her over. She lowered her gun and raised her hands in a show of peace, but Joel shot her in the side and placed the unconscious Ellie inside a car. A bleeding Marlene begged Joel to let her live. However, he stated that she would only pursue Ellie to get her back, shooting Marlene's face in point blank. After driving away, Joel lied to Ellie that Marlene and the Fireflies gave up looking for a cure in order to help her get over her survivor's guilt.

Events of The Last of Us Part II

Before she told Joel about Ellie’s condition, Marlene held a meeting with the Fireflies' head surgeon Jerry Anderson. The surgeon revealed that Ellie was indeed immune, and as the group's lone surgeon, he believed that he could somehow create a vaccine by extracting the fungus on Ellie's brain, even at the price of her life. Marlene protested, begging him to find another way. Jerry admitted he could not see one. Marlene challenged him further, questioning if he could kill his own daughter to create the cure. Jerry responded that finding a cure would make everything he and all the Fireflies, including those who died, worth it. At that point, Jerry's daughter Abby came in, bringing her father food. Marlene gave in, giving Jerry permission to start the surgery before storming out, insisting she was going to tell Joel because he had a right to know either way. After Marlene and most of her crew were killed by Joel after he saved Ellie, the last of the Fireflies voted to disband.

See also


  • Marlene's decision to sacrifice Ellie in attempt to creating a vaccine is one of her most delusional decisions. Her belief that everything would "end" once a vaccine were made is a sign of a desperate woman who have lost everything. Even if a vaccine were created and proved successful...
    • It would not end the apocalypse that had already had been going on for 20 years. More than half of humanity had already been infected.
    • It would not stop the military from still rulling with martial law or attacking what was left of the Fireflies. They might would have taken the vaccine for themselves in order to keep control.
    • It would not stop other survivors from fighting each other over supplies and territory. Many people had already grown disillusioned with the Fireflies cause.
    • There might not be enough resources left in the world for mass vaccination.
    • She has no right killing an innocent child. A child whose mother, Marlene had promise to protect, and when she "talks" to her, she's betraying both her and her daughter.
    • Marlene might not had the intension of creating a vaccine to save mankind or even her group. Only to save herself, since the Fireflies were already on their last legs, she meant to just run away from everything after being vaccinated.


           The Last of Us.png Villains

Joel Miller | Ellie

Ethan | Joe Warren | Marlene

David | James

Washington Liberation Front
Abby Anderson | Owen Moore | Mel | Nora Harris | Issac Dixon


Infected | Federal Disaster Response Agency | Bandits | Head Surgeon | Hunters | Jimmy Cooper | Reuben | Robert | Smugglers | The Military