The Big Picture
- The Last of Us Part II continues the story of Ellie on a vengeful mission against a militia group, delving into themes of trauma and emotional closure.
- The game forces players to empathize with both Ellie and Abby, two characters with conflicting motivations, leading to an inevitable and intense conflict between them.
- Ultimately, the story explores the complexities of forgiveness and the consequences of one’s actions, leaving Ellie on a path toward an uncertain future.
Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for The Last of Us Season 1 and MAJOR spoilers for The Last of Us Part II.The Last of Us in both its television series and videogame formats tells a bombshell of a story that both long-time players and audiences who hadn’t experienced the game weren’t prepared for. Joel’s (Troy Baker) decision to do what he did and how it impacts Ellie (Ashley Johnson) still has the gravity that it did when the story was originally told in 2013. It can still inspire a level of debate and discourse that few pieces of media can compare to. If you’re one of those people who felt rocked by the first part of the story’s conclusion and have fallen into the rabbit hole of “Was Joel right?”, then you’re in luck as there’s a sequel. The Last of Us Part II not only directly grapples with the fallout and implications of Joel’s decision, but it does so with an increase in moral/emotional complexity that caused a lightning rod of controversy when it came out.
Some who have played Part II may be highly reticent to re-experience it, be it for positive or negative reasons. Especially considering changes are made in the show’s first season and recreating every last queasy moral quandary could be too much, even for a post-Game of Thrones world. To help ease those unfamiliar with it, let’s tap into the plot for the award-winning game by Naughty Dog, The Last of Us Part 2.
The Last of Us Part 2
Five years after the events of The Last of Us, Ellie embarks on another journey through a post-apocalyptic America on a mission of vengeance against a mysterious militia.
- PlayStation 4
- June 19, 2020
- Naughty Dog
- Sony Computer Entertainment
‘The Last of Us: Part 2’ Sees Ellie Go on a Journey of Vengeance and Trauma
The Last of Us Part II picks up 4 years after the first game, where Joel and Ellie are now living in a large community settlement in Jackson, Wyoming. They’re both fixtures of the community, with Ellie having a healthy relationship with a woman named Dina (Shannon Woodward), where they face some homophobic bullying, and Joel is seen as the kind community grandpa. However, you can feel that their relationship has become strained over the years. While Joel and his brother Tommy (Jeffrey Pierce) are out on patrol, they rescue a woman named Abby (Laura Bailey) from some Infected, after which she leads them to a nearby outpost. It turns out the outpost is full of Abby’s cohorts, who are members of a militia group from Seattle called the Washington Liberation Front (WLF or otherwise deemed “Wolves”). We learn in the game that Abby is seeking revenge against Joel for killing her father, who was one of the surgeons he murdered when saving Ellie. By the time Ellie finds Joel, she’s held captive and made to witness him getting beaten to death and left for dead. After some time passes, when Ellie and the Jackson community mourn Joel’s death, Ellie swears revenge on Abby. Tommy informs Ellie he’s going to Seattle to find Abby, which motivates Ellie and Dina to venture to do the same, as this is where the WLF is located. During this journey, Ellie and Dina explore downtown Seattle and share an incredible musical bonding experience. Later, Ellie reveals to Dina that she is immune to the virus, and in return, Dina reveals that she is pregnant with her ex-boyfriend Jesse’s baby. Due to Dina’s increasing pregnancy, Ellie leaves her behind and carries on her journey alone, where she encounters Jesse (Stephen A. Chang), who it turns out has been following them the entire time. In the ensuing journey, Ellie finds information about a friend of Abby’s named Nora (Chelsea Tavares), and tracks her down.
In her search, Ellie encounters a religious cult called the Seraphites, who are having an ongoing battle with the WLF over territorial conflict. Ellie eventually finds Nora and tortures her for information on Abby’s location which we learn causes Ellie immense trauma that Dina helps to heal when fixing her wounds. The notion of how much trauma Ellie is willing to inflict on herself and others to get the emotional closure she needs is one of the most important themes of this story. Ellie then pushes on to the location she was told about, where she finds two of Abby’s friends, Owen (Patrick Fuget) and Mel (Ashly Burch). She then kills both of them and is then given more trauma when she realizes that Mel is pregnant but didn’t notice until after shooting her. A flashback reveals that two years prior, Ellie traveled to St. Mary’s Hospital and learned that Joel lied to her about preventing her surgery, which became the source of their eventual tension. Cutting back to the present, Abby suddenly shows up at the building where Ellie, Dina, Tommy, and Jesse are hiding out. She shoots Jesse dead and severely wounds Tommy, rendering him unconscious. Harsh cut to black, and this is where things flip.
“I Would Do It All Over Again.”
‘The Last of Us: Part 2’ Gives Us a Second Protagonist in Abby
We’re pulled back to three days earlier, and now we’re following Abby. We get to see the relationship she had with her father, the connections she had with her WLF compatriots and how she had an intimate relationship with Owen that goes back to their late teen years. This is one of the key elements of the story: how the story forces you to empathize not just with Abby, but also with people that we already know Ellie eventually kill. It makes you question how and why you empathize with certain people and demonize other people purely based on how you first got to know them. Abby finds out that her now ex-boyfriend, Owen, has gone missing while he was investigating the Seraphites. While on her journey to find him, she gets captured by the Seraphites and is then saved by siblings Yara (Victoria Grace) and Lev (Ian Alexander) They were previously members of the Seraphites, but were branded as traitors and kicked out because Lev “betrayed their traditions” (which actually means Lev is a trans man and the Seraphites do not respect trans identities). After helping Yara and Lev escape from a Seraphite attack, Abby leaves them behind to find Owen, who she finds out is traveling to Santa Barbara, California, as he is tired of fighting in the territorial conflict and wants to rejoin the Fireflies. In response, Abby chooses to return to Yara and Lev.
Once she finds Yara and Lev, she realizes Yara’s arm is broken from the previous Seraphite attack, so badly that it will have to be amputated. Abby and Lev travel to a WLF hospital in Seattle to get proper surgery equipment. After giving Yara the amputation, Lev runs away to convince his mom to abandon the Seraphites,causing Abby and Yara to go after him. When Abby and Yara catch up with Lev, they find that he has killed his mom in self-defense. The trio rides out to escape the Seraphite village right as the WLF arrives to launch an all-out turf war. When the trio gets cornered by WLF soldiers, Abby officially disavows the group and Yara sacrifices herself so that Abby and Lev can escape.They arrive at the WLF hideout where Owen and Mel were but find them both dead and a nearby map that leads to where Ellie’s hiding. Abby and Lev go to Ellie’s hideout, bringing us to Abby shooting Jesse and incapacitating Tommy in her seething rage. This leads to a giant fistfight with Ellie, which ends with Ellie beaten and Abby threatening to kill Dina, knowing she’s pregnant. The only reason she doesn’t kill Dina is that Lev talks her out of it, so they leave Ellie and Dina behind, telling them both to leave Seattle forever.
‘The Last of Us: Part 2’ Isn’t About Picking Between Ellie and Abby
This is where the central narrative concept of the sequel pays off: having the player fully control and empathize with two characters diametrically opposed to each other, and then having those two characters smash into each other in inevitable conflict. Do you find yourself more invested in Ellie’s bloodthirsty and self-righteously motivated quest for vengeance? Or are you more invested in Abby’s journey of living with the consequences of her actions and then having to protect Yara and Lev in a way that reflects Joel’s journey in Season 1? If you thought feeling conflicted over Joel making one tough decision was bad enough, you’re not prepared. Getting back to the story, several months pass after Ellie and Abby’s encounter. Ellie and Dina are living on an isolated farm taking care of Dina’s baby. Things are as peaceful and happy as could plausibly be, though Ellie struggles with PTSD daily, related to both Joel’s death and all the mayhem she caused. Tommy, having survived the encounter, arrives and tells Ellie that he’s found out where Abby is, in case she’s still interested. Dina insists it’s a bad idea, and she doesn’t need to pursue her selfish need for violent closure. Ellie, however, cannot shake it off and decides to travel to Catalina Island, California, where Abby and Lev have been held as slaves by a group of degenerates called the Rattlers.
Ellie wipes out the Rattlers’ headquarters and rescues Abby and Lev, but then forces Abby to fight her by threatening to kill Lev. Abby and Ellie get into a disgusting, no-holds-barred fight where they roll around in gross ocean water and muddy sand, ending with Abby biting off two of Ellie’s fingers. Ellie has Abby dead to rights and is actively drowning her, but she stops because she has a flashback to a conversation she had with Joel before he died, where he acknowledges that he feels he was justified in his actions and Ellie summons the courage to start on the path toward forgiveness. Ellie lets Abby go in exhaustion and defeat, and allows her and Lev to sail off into the foggy distance. Ellie returns to her farm home, realizing that Dina has moved out and taken the baby. Ellie goes up to her room and tries to play Joel’s guitar, but finds she can’t due to missing two fingers. She reminisces more about the last hours she spent with Joel before he died, leaving the guitar behind, and walks out of the house toward an uncertain future.