The Last of Us Part II: My Thoughts
Heavy spoilers below
Okay, so it has been just over two weeks since The Last of Us Part II was released, and I finally feel ready to discuss my experience – spoiler alert, I have emotional whiplash so bad that I may need therapy.
My reason for taking so long to talk about this game is two-fold, to give more people a chance to complete it to allow me to discuss spoilers and to give my bruised heart time to heal. Those who have endured and survived will know what I mean, those that haven’t well done, you have managed to protect yourself from true heartbreak and confusion.
Unfortunately, I am one of those people that had the game spoiled a couple of months ago, Joel’s death found its way into my DMs on Twitter, and that was that. Given that major blow had already been delivered I didn’t see the point in protecting myself from the rest of leaks, what could hurt me more than knowing we would lose Joel quite early in the game? Finding out I had to play as his killer for at least 10 hours is what! But, as I will explain later, I do not consider Abby to be a bad character and despite me still being team Ellie, I can understand Abby, especially after three playthroughs.
So Joel’s death left a bitter taste in my mouth, but not because he died. Honestly, if you were not expecting his demise, then it is kind of a more fool you situation. Joel needed to die to give us a story, I know many people thought Ellie’s quest for revenge would be in regards to the death of her girlfriend (based on early trailers), but how would that affect the players? We – before TLOU2 – had no connection to Dina. Thus her death would not hold the same weight as Joel’s.
Anyway, his death is not what left me feeling unsatisfied. It is more the manner in which he died. It was brutal, and frankly, some might argue deserved given his choice to save Ellie robbed humanity of a potential cure. But, as a player who grew attached to both Joel and Ellie, I just wish he could have had one last hurrah. Really, this is a personal preference; I can’t deny that the scene in which Naughty Dog created was impactful – it was tragic, heartbreaking and oh so sad to witness.
You see, my issue is Joel being gone in under two hours without him so much as putting up a fight. No, I will not claim it is ridiculous how he went, because it wasn’t, I will not claim it was out of character for himself and Tommy to trust Abby because it has been five years in the game. Joel has grown as a person; he is no longer the smuggler found in The Last of Us, he has adjusted to communal life in Jackson. So no, trusting and helping Abby is not out of character at all. Although, damn, it made it so much worse to watch the man save his killer before she practically shot his leg off and caved his head in with a club.
Thus, the events of the game truly begin; Ellie wants revenge and heads off to the primary setting for the game, Seattle. I loved playing as Ellie, all of her chapters and sections were so good, to me at least. But, I am a little biased given she is one of, if not, my favourite video game characters of all time. Although this doesn’t mean I don’t see the bad in what the girl winds up doing, the funny thing is, many people fail to see that Ellie is Abby in this situation. The journey she finds herself on is the one that her nemesis walked.
That is the point of the game. It is why you have to play as Abby for a good chunk of the story because you get to experience both sides of the same coin. Ellie is on the path for revenge, while Abby is trying to cope with what she did, sure she feels Joel deserved what he got – which he did, let’s not kid ourselves and pretend he was a good person – but she was not prepared for the aftermath, and that is the path we must take with her.
It makes the game all the more interesting, even if I was not an Abby fan for most of my first playthrough. I loved spending the three days as Ellie, day one certainly posed some threat and brought some secrets to light. It also set the tone for how far Ellie was willing to go to get the justice she sought, not to mention the great lengths her adoptive uncle was clearly going to. We do get to take out one of the WLF members that were there when Joel died, and boy did that feel sweet. I was right there with Ellie when it came to taking out Jordan; he is the one that wanted to kill her after murdering Joel after all.
But, after our encounter with Jordan and the WLF at the school, this is where the game really gets going in the “you should question what Ellie is doing” department. Because, from now on, we are going on a murder spree for the ages as we work our way through Seattle to exact our revenge. I mean, I get it, in this sort of world I can very much see myself being similar to Ellie, or Abby for that matter.
I would like to take a second to backtrack to earlier in Ellie’s Seattle Day One when in Downtown of the city, make sure you visit that music shop for a missable cutscene, that should not be missed. Ashley Johnson does a beautiful rendition of Take On Me, and trust me when I say that all players should experience the scene first hand.
Getting back on track, at the end of Day One, Dina discovers that Ellie is immune – mind you Ellie did tell her in Jackson, but Dina clearly didn’t take it seriously. However, more importantly, our protagonist discovers that her girlfriend is pregnant. This serves as the perfect example to show just how consumed Ellie is by her quest for justice, instead of them leaving the city, Dina stays behind in the theatre while Ellie continues her murder spree.
Granted Ellie told Dina off insisting had she been honest they could have returned to Jackson, but at this point, they still could have turned back. Tommy was quite clearly handling himself quite well, actually, had Ellie and Dina turned back there is a very good chance that Jessie would not have been killed and Tommy wouldn’t have lost an eye nor have a limp.
Her vendetta so consumes the girl that she will abandon her family in pursuit of Abby, but I will have more on that later.
Two of a kind
Think about it. Ellie and Abby are so similar in many ways. Had it been another place, time or even life, these two would have been great friends or at least strong allies. Honestly, can you imagine facing off against these two if they worked together, just look at the destruction both can cause alone.
I have expressed how there are certain things I wish were different. I have also made it very clear that despite any action Ellie took, I am still on her side throughout. However, now would be a good time to explain why I do not hate Abby like most of the internet apparently does. In fact, for those who are hating on Abby, I’d stay away from Twitter because some claim to prefer her to Ellie, not an opinion I share (obviously) but it is not one I condemn, I can actually understand it.
When it comes to character growth, Abby displays changes a lot earlier than Ellie does, although this is due to Ellie being at the beginning of her journey, whereas Abby achieved her goal and is now in the aftermath.
The girl steps up, while Ellie is on a bloodthirsty rampage, Abby is trying to help two kids from the Seraphites, or rather the Scars. The sworn enemies of the WLF, as a wolf, Abby should hate them, heck, she should have put a bullet between their eyes or at the very least left them to die, but she didn’t. The former Firefly sees this as her chance for redemption, and so she takes it upon herself to help Yara and Lev, she even combats her intense fear of heights to get to the hospital to save Yara’s life.
When you look at Abby’s story, it is hard to hang on to that hatred that has been manifesting since she killed Joel. You realise that deep down, Abby is not a bad person, she had her father ripped away from her which left a gaping hole in her heart, and she did what most people would do in the hope of finding peace. However, clearly, this didn’t serve as a means to alleviate the pain, nor did it bring any sort of closure. If anything, Abby’s actions brought her more pain as it caused Ellie and Tommy to wreak havoc throughout the city, killing all of Abby’s friends.
Naturally, you question what Ellie has done, and some have as they now have a preference to Abby. But, it is worthwhile to remember that both girls are damaged. I’m team Ellie all the way, but I can recognise the growth in character and heart for Abby Andersen.
Back to Ellie, the girl will throw everything away to get what she perceives as the only way to get closure. After the events in Seattle, after Abby both defeats and spares her – god did that fight hurt to do – Ellie makes a life on the farm with Dina and JJ, she’s happy with a good family home. Yet, she chucks it in the bin to pursue Abby, that was one of the saddest parts of the game for me, to watch Ellie throw away what matters in life all for some fucked up revenge plot was a tough pill to swallow.
However, unlike some people, I did not find myself insulted or outraged that Ellie didn’t follow through with her plan. In the end, she did track Abby down, but she found her tied to a pyre on the beach after having been enslaved by the Rattlers for a couple of months. This is not the same person that killed Joel, she is a shell of her former self, literally, her muscle mass has nearly gone, and she is so skinny that she could rival Ellie who herself has lost weight due to a lack of eating. At the end of the day, this game is about love and empathy, yes that’s right, empathy. The game practically hits you over the head with that concept for 25 straight hours.
Which is why it is so shocking to see online still that many are pissed that Ellie didn’t kill Abby, claiming she didn’t grow as a character. What a way to miss the point entirely, it is her character growth that stopped her from killing Abby, thus getting rid of the cycle of violence. Although it is awful that she loses her fingers before coming to this decision, it causes Ellie to lose her ability to play the guitar, the one thing that keeps her close to her lost father figure. But, in that final scene, we see her leave the guitar behind in an empty farmhouse, after watching her fail to play Future Days (the song performed by Joel and herself multiple times throughout the game).
I did not like the ending one bit; it left me emotionally battered, it left my heart aching for Ellie, for the love she has lost, for not getting the chance to build bridges with Joel, to mend their broken bond. However, my not liking the ending does not take away the impact it has left, never has a game left me feeling so sad and fragile before. Not knowing where Ellie is going, or what is next for her is perhaps what hit me the hardest – although in my mind she went back to Jackson to try and mend the broken bonds that can be fixed.
I didn’t cover anywhere near as much as I would have liked, but maybe I will take a more in-depth look at each day for both Abby and Ellie in the future.