“The Last of Us Part II” and the Never Ending Endings of Endlessness

There are major story spoilers for The Last of Us Part II in this article

I just want something good to happen. I thought to myself as I booted up my PlayStation and settled in to start a video game I’d been waiting to get my hands on for nearly four years. I know how ridiculous it is to want something good to happen in a game like The Last of Us Part II but I hoped for it anyway. Even when a man was getting his brains bashed into the floor of a remote cabin with a golf club or a character I loved pummeled an already dying woman to death in the desolate corridors of an abandoned medical center. I forced myself to hope for something better because everything leading up to the game’s release only reinforced that it was something impossible to hope for, and I was too stubborn to accept that.

After the first official trailer was released for The Last of Us Part II, in 2018, giving more of a sense of what to expect from the story, it became clear that the game centered around a revenge plot. For the past two years everyone I talked to about this game would casually mention in some way how Dina was going to be killed and Ellie was going to seek vengeance. They would simply shrug it off and continue talking about other aspects of the game like that fact barely mattered to them. It certainly did not help that the trailers released ahead of the game actively created false scenes with Ellie and Joel and removed Dina from certain shots in order to throw viewers off the plot.

By showing Dina less Naughty Dog made it seem as if it was all based on something happening to her and in retrospect this is clearly meant to mask the true reason for Ellie going on a warpath. I get the need to attempt to disarm fan theorists from dissecting every little detail they see in these trailers but projecting the idea that Ellie’s entire revenge plot was centered around something happening to Dina at the start of the game still feels very cruel. It fed into the “bury your gays” trope without even needing to be released.

For queer fans, like myself, this assumption and acceptance of the fact that Dina would likely die was never something to be celebrated. It was agonizing awaiting the arrival of The Last of Us Part II and casually having people tell me “You know Dina is going to die right?” honestly hurt and ate away at any enthusiasm I had for the game. I don’t fault anyone for participating in that discourse, it’s how most of these kinds of revenge plots are structured in all forms of media. By the time I was able to play it I was doing it more so out of a need to take a weight off of my shoulders than out of enjoyment. I didn’t want to stumble upon any more spoilers or have someone tell me what happened second hand.

I kept telling myself that as long as Dina and Ellie survived this game it would all be worth it. Turns out, I was wrong about that.

Dina is not the reason for Ellie’s vengeance quest after all. Joel’s death at the hands of Abby and her group of Washington Liberation Front (WLF) members turns out to be the driving force behind Ellie’s motives throughout the game. Technically that meant Dina was safe to start off and I did my best to not let my lurking paranoia get in the way of being happy during certain portions of the game but it was an ever present feeling. Even now, having finished the game, it is still there. The few times I forgot about it I found myself taking comfort in two women deeply in love, in the shit together.

Going into the game, so sure Dina wasn’t going to make it past the first few hours, it was jarring to try and set myself at ease and believe what I was playing. I’ve only ever experienced something like that in Naughty Dog games like Uncharted where the stoic hero, Nathan Drake, gets to go artifact hunting with the women in his life. Here I was casually flirting with Dina as Ellie while investigating the ruins of a bank, singing songs to her in a rundown music shop, and planning their future on a farm somewhere, far away from everyone else. All the time wishing Ellie and Dina existed in another game where that was all they did together.

Eventually Ellie and Dina find themselves taking refuge in an abandoned theatre. Eventually Dina is no longer able to join Ellie because she has discovered she is pregnant, the father being her ex-boyfriend Jesse. From here you end up leaving her behind while you continue to chase down Ellie’s remaining targets. She returns to Dina after each encounter, progressively more worn and emotionally battered but no less motivated to continue. After Jesse’s unexpected arrival Ellie must also grapple with coming to terms with Dina’s pregnancy. Learning how to deal with this situation brings Ellie and Dina closer together and leads into some really moving flashbacks between Joel and Ellie.

There is a lot of content in the game that explores other characters, particularly Abby. She is the one member of the WLF Ellie has the most trouble hunting down. My one issue with the parts of the game you play from Abby’s perspective is that it could have been far more condensed and spread out throughout the story with the same results. At the start of the game there is a good balance, switching between Ellie and Abby, but much of her story is piled on at one moment toward the end, breaking the tension of a very climatic scene.

Through her you explore how she is connected to what happened at the hospital at the end of the first game, revealing that her father was the doctor Joel killed in the operating room. I enjoyed playing through more survival horror sections of the game as Abby, exploring buildings full of clickers and getting to hangout with Lev, a trans boy, and his sister, Yara. It was also cool to see how they explored skyscrapers using a DIY catwalk system throughout the city.

Altogether it takes about six hours or so to get through all of her backstory. I understand the importance of expanding on her character and explaining Abby’s motivations for wanting to kill Joel. It was far too much exposition relating to her at a point in the game where the focus should not have been shifted that drastically for that long. The most important part of this sequence to me was her meeting Lev and his sister, who rescued her from nearly being killed by the Seraphites, a religious cult in the game. We also see Abby through her life and witness how she changes after her father’s death. I think the attention to detail on her character design told as much of the story as what we saw play out on screen. Her body becomes the canvas for her rage, with her signature biceps being very distinct when you play as her in her adult life.

This entire section is also meant to facilitate switching to Abby’s point of view during the theatre confrontation with Ellie. This was difficult to playthrough since you end up having to beat the crap out of Ellie after chasing her backstage. I get that things like this are worked into the game because you are meant to see the story from each woman’s point of view, but I hated having to play as Abby and brutalize a character I very much identify with. Dina comes to Ellie’s rescue but ends up with Abby holding a knife to her throat. It is at this point that Lev calls out to her and Abby backs down. Abby leaves with a final threat and that is the end of that, or so you are made to think.

The next time we see Ellie and Dina they are living on a farm, raising sheep just like they talked about in Seattle. Dina has had her baby, JJ and they have a good life together. For a short while you get a taste of it by exploring the farm and forgetting that The Last of Us is built on trauma. Ellie is shown to clearly be dealing with PTSD and this coupled with Tommy revealing he knows that Abby and Lev likely ended up in Southern California lead to Ellie making a decision that felt completely unnecessary.

In the middle of the night, despite Dina begging her not to go, Ellie sets out to chase after Abby one more time. The whole thing is heartbreaking and I realize there is an attempt to make Ellie’s PTSD the culprit but as Dina expresses in the scene, she is struggling too. Ellie leaves anyway and with it, the remnants of my own patience. The last few hours of the game you end up in Santa Barbra tracking down Abby and Lev. You’re introduced to The Rattlers, a new enemy faction that, unbeknownst to Ellie, has taken Abby and Lev captive on their way to meetup with a newly formed group of Fireflies.

When Ellie finally finds Abby and Lev, they have been left for dead along with other captives of the Rattlers who were punished by being tied to wooden pillars near the beach and left to the elements. Ellie cuts Abby down and watches the now emaciated woman use what energy she has to cut down Lev and carry him toward boats to make an escape. Ellie threatens an unconscious Lev to goad Abby into a fight on the beach. I found myself identifying more with Abby in that moment, but not for the reasons the story wanted me to. In that moment I was the one struggling against Ellie, I was the one drowning on that beach in Santa Barbara. Every ounce of fight in me was gone.

I was going along with whatever the story threw at me just to be done with it even if it killed every last bit of motivation for me to ever pick up a Last of Us game ever again. Luckily Ellie stops short of killing Abby and lets her go with Lev but all you’re left with is the fact that this game should have been over long before the events of Santa Barbra. Tacked onto the end of The Last of Us Part II it continues a story that already had the potential to have a perfectly good ending.

Why not just let Ellie and Dina have their happy ending with JJ on the farm? Did Abby and Lev have to be caught by an enemy group and subjected to torture after everything they’ve been through? Why couldn’t they just find the Fireflies and have the final revelation be something that isn’t tied to vengeance and hate? I just wish they had taken a chance on something else in the end. Are the new Firefly groups still looking for a cure? Do they all know about what happened with Ellie and Joel? Hell, they could have even thrown in a twist where Riley’s alive and immune somehow. I could go on, and I’m sure many others could too.

I find myself at a crossroads of sorts where I cannot fully commit to liking or disliking this game. There are moments that I hold very dear to my heart and many that I still have a hard time wrapping my head around. Many of the things I like about this game outside of story moments are the technical aspects of it, like exploring ruins of a world unfamiliar to the characters exploring them, and the survival horror elements of some of the combat encounters. This is of course, not everyone. Should you play it? I’d say if you have a feeling you shouldn’t, then don’t.

Right now I don’t know if I’m ever going to fully understand how I feel about The Last of Us Part II but I know what aspects of it I love to focus on and I’ll likely replay it at some point. For all the things I have faulted this video game for I still want to know more about the characters in this world. I still see what could be if The Last of Us series can push past the trauma and let some light shine onto the stark reality that’s been created. I still want that good thing to happen.

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Jessica Vazquez

Jessica Vazquez is an artistic, gaming, cat-loving, writer and over analyzer of all things queer media related. You can follow her maelstrom of feels on Twitter or listen along to the podcast she co-hosts, QueerComicsPod

Jessica has written 4 articles for us.


  1. Thank you so much for writing this review, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about this game since I finished it a week ago and most takes I see are by straight men that can’t understand the nuance of a female led (and queer female led) game.

    Although I didn’t play the original until the days leading up to part 2, I had similar feelings about a lot of the things you’ve mentioned.

    I too came into the game with the distinct impression that Dina was going to die early on so it felt like I was anxiously holding my breath the whole time waiting for it to finally happen. I’ve since gone back to watch the trailer for the game and I find it pretty shitty that they intentionally changed key scenes and made it seem like Joel isn’t the person who gets killed, especially since I feel like it might have contributed to magnitude of outright hatred a lot of people have felt towards Abby (and stoked a fire that has lead to her voice actor receiving death threats in response.)

    I actually enjoyed that the story switched at the climactic stand off in the theater, I thought it brought a really interesting angle to the structure of the gameplay. Getting to play it all again from an unknown point of view, but racing towards a set series of events not knowing how you end up there added a layer of excitement while keeping me wondering how that conflict could possibly resolve once you reach that moment again.

    I think that’s where it starts to go off track for me, because the game is set up around this final meeting between the two women, so extending the plot on for hours after the conclusion of that conflict felt pointless.

    I believe the ending from Santa Barbara onward suffered from acute Written-by-a-Man Syndrome, which stood out more starkly considering how nuanced and layered I was finding Ellie and Abby leading through, especially in interpersonal relationships they have with the other characters in the game.

    Maybe I’m just too gay, but to have the writers suggest that Ellie would leave her partner and the child they’re raising together felt like absolute bullshit to me (also what were the logistics of her leaving? Did she just walk out and leave her girlfriend and infant son to travel back to Jackson alone? What happened to the sheep???)

    By the time they’re fighting on the beach I almost wanted Ellie to lose because she’s a nearly unrecognizable character at that point. To watch her go through everything she does with the Rattlers, then refuse mercy to a woman who is an inch from death, physically weakened nearly beyond recognition and trying to get herself and a young unconscious boy to safety really tested my ability to suspend my disbelief. I hated literally every moment of that last fight, it felt stupid and badly written. Grim and heartless and awful just for the sake of it as though it’s teaching you a lesson you haven’t already learned, which reeks of being written by a man and took me completely out of it.

    I only read one review leading up to playing part two and it talked about how needlessly bleak and violent the game was but I didn’t truly feel it until the final fight. I’m glad they let Abby and Lev live to presumably make the journey to Avalon but it all still felt totally unnecessary. Why go through that at all? It would be perfectly reasonable to have Ellie’s motivation to change hinge on watching her pregnant girlfriend nearly die in the crossfire of this revenge plot.

    The last scene at the abandoned farmhouse was the only thing that I felt saved the ending at all, to give Ellie closure and the peace to move on with her life. If nothing else it allows us to believe she might work her way back to her family and have some kind of happy ending, whatever that looks like after what she’s gone through.

    Although one thing I would like to say about the final farmhouse scene, I recently saw a theory that suggested it takes place a bit farther ahead in the timeline. That it might actually be taking place after Ellie has returned to Jackson and made (or begun to make) amends with Dina. It points out how she seems to have put on a bit more weight, how she’s wearing different clothes, how she doesn’t seem surprised to find the house the way it is, how Ellie is wearing Dina’s bracelet when she hadn’t been wearing it in Santa Barbara, etc., and I am going to take that theory and run with it because these girls deserve a happy ending, and damn it if we don’t deserve one too.

    • This game’s narrative lead was Halley Gross, a woman.

      Ellie leaves Dina and JK because she cannot cope with her PTSD. Ellie literally says she cannot sleep or eat. She is consumed by this thought process of never finding peace if Abby is out there. This is also why the final fight with Abby when Ellie finally sees Joel NOT being tortured is what helps Ellie let go. She sees Joel in his porch from the night she said to him “I don’t think I can forgive you but I’m willing to try.” You could compare this with how she feels about Abby: I don’t think I can forgive you but I’ll let you live and I’ll try. She releases that guilt when she lets Abby live. It’s really powerful.

      • I agree, I think the ending was perfectly on point. Everyone talks about the message of this game being ‘revenge bad’, which it is, but I think that the point of Ellie’s story especially is about forgiveness. It’s basically not until the final porch scene with Ellie and Joel, right at the very end of the game, where her entire story arc is put into perspective. Its not about Ellie’s dogged pursuit of vengeance against the people who killed Joel, but rather about the pain she’s inflicting on herself because she couldn’t forgive Joel for his actions from the first game. And then Joel was killed, right as she was on the cusp of being able to move forward. It throws her for a loop, hard, and she goes to increasingly brutal ways to try and cope with that until the she finally has Abby drowning in her hands and she flashes back to the image of Joel on the porch. Forgiveness is what she needs, not revenge.

        Check out Ellie’s journal entries throughout the game too, especially her drawings. After Joel is killed, she cannot draw his eyes (and we know she doesn’t have issues with the eyes since she drew a picture of him that was on his wall, and her flashback journals have drawings of him). Its not until the epilogue where she returns to the farm, after she’s allowed herself to forgive, that she’s finally able to draw him fully again.

      • Yeah, I think Halley Gross is a big reason why the game is so damn interesting and fleshed out and why the characters feel so real and interesting and complicated (women writing women just hits different.) That’s why that last part of the story seemed incongruous with what I felt I learned playing as both Ellie and Abby leading up to that moment. Ellie is so traumatized and horrified by her own actions every step of the way, so it felt like we already learned that seeking out revenge via constant violent murdering wasn’t helping anything.

        I was reading a thing Neil Druckman said about coming up with plot ideas for part 2 and I thought this quote hits at the motivation for the last section:

        “I left that for a while and came back to it with the concept of hate, of this very universal feeling that all people experience which is just deep hate where, in your mind, you’re willing to commit horrible acts of violence against another human being … How far would my mind go down this downward spiral, and is there [any] coming back from that?”

        Which feels very boring to me and very much like something a man would come up, no offense to Neil.

        What I WISH had been explored more is the theme of inherited coping mechanisms and the role they play in either continuing or disrupting the cycle of violence.

        I know a lot of people really love Joel and I get it! He’s a great and interesting character, but be as a parental figure to Ellie he’s VERY emotionally distant/unavailable when it comes to moments when she’s learning to navigate great trauma and grief. You really see the effect that has on her during and after the events of the first game. Ellie is constantly struggling with working through her issues and feelings in a healthy manner and it seems like Ellie’s inability to cope with her grief is closely tied to what she picked up (or more importantly what she didn’t pick up) from her time with Joel. I remember a moment in the first game when you come across a small grave and Ellie tries to bring up Sam’s death because she wants to talk about it. Joel continues to sternly shut her down until she drops it saying “things happen and we move on.”

        Dina too has lost people, but she seems to have access to healthy coping/healing mechanisms to move through her grief (talking about the people she’s lost, accepting help and taking comfort in her community and Jesse’s family) Ellie is mystified by that because she’s internalized not talking about grief or your feelings and instead resorting to violence/vengeance as an outlet (there’s a journal entry where Ellie recalls Dina telling her she should talk about Joel and Ellie thinks it’s a bad idea and that it would only hurt her more.) You see Tommy suffer this as well, unable to come to terms with Joel’s death and alienating himself from his wife over his obsession with revenge.

        My biggest gripe is that I wish they had gone in a different direction with the ending, but I’m glad they did eventually give Ellie her closure and left her with a future open to live for herself.

        All that being said I REALLY enjoyed the game (minus the scary infected parts) and I really like reading through these comments and seeing that everyone got something different out of it, it’s really fun to get to have a game like this that’s interesting and sad and complicated (AND it has a queer woman at the lead killing zombies with her girlfriend!!) and no matter what issues I have with the ending I’m definitely going to be replaying it soon.

  2. I hated this game. The gameplay was great, and so were the graphics, but I will never get over TLOU2 using Joel’s death as a plot point. And then Ellie literally loses everything in the end? Hated it.

    • It could definitely be argued that there’s still some hope for Ellie in the end. Some people have even analyzed the final scene and come to the conclusion that Ellie and Dina are still together, but no longer living at the farm.

  3. There is so much more I loved about this game than things I disliked. Funny enough, I think most of the stuff you disliked are what made me like the game even more. Here is some of what I loved:

    I loved that Ellie couldn’t let this go. I think that, like most people who are hell bent on vengeance, she felt she had to do this to make the hurt stop. In the end, she realized it wouldn’t. It never does. It felt a bit more real to me than the “happy” ending on a farm in the middle of an apocalypse with an infection that continues to run unchecked.

    I *really* love that, aside from the Rat King fight in the hospital basement, the hardest parts of playing through this game for me had nothing to do with the difficulty of gameplay. Like you mentioned, it’s hard as HELL to beat on Ellie as Abby. It’s also super hard to watch Ellie go once more, leaving Dina to wonder if she and JJ will ever see her alive again. Harder still to hold Abby under the water.

    Ultimately, this entire story just wasn’t meant to have a happy ending, and I’m so happy it didn’t. There’s nothing about the world Neil Druckmann and everyone else over at Naughty Dog created here that should lead us to expect happy endings. They certainly didn’t give us one with TLOU 1. In fact, it was another example of them making us play through incredibly difficult decisions made by the main character. Do you know how hard it was to keep playing as Joel while I murdered everyone in a hospital where they were trying to save humanity? To save ONE girl’s life? And guess what? It would’ve been just as hard to leave her there, and let her die. The entire saga, as painted, leaves very little room for happy endings, and I’m glad of it.

    We have plenty of cookie cutter, happy-ending games whose stories focus more on delivering feel-good endorphins than to delivering a compelling story. The story told by TLOU wouldn’t be out of place in a novel, and I’m glad that’s the direction they have taken the series in from the beginning.

    • I agree with you completely, all the hard things are what made it so powerful for me. In addition to all the things you mention, I loved that I had to analyze why it was so much harder for me to “kill” digital representations of dogs than humans. (The answer was that the doggos didn’t have a choice who they worked for, while humans do.)

      I just loved how hard it was to fight Ellie as Abby, it was like beating up myself. At the end in the ocean, I let Abby win like three times because I was so scared that Ellie would kill her…I only continued when I realized I couldn’t move forward otherwise. How powerful is that?!

    • Agreed. And that Rat King thing… don’t think I’ve ever sworn that much in my life…..

  4. I did not care or play or watch the first game. And I felt the same about this sequel until I saw a leak of Abby and Ellie fighting. I have craved that kind of violence between women for so long, you know? Women allowed to be messy and awful and violent without having a face of make up on and heels and whatever else. I’m so tired of the benevolent sexism of ‘women don’t do violence, they’re diplomatic/emotionally intelligent/some other bioessentialist truth’. I watched someone else play the game, but I liked how bleak the game was. I liked how fucked up and flawed Ellie and Abby were. Also the Abby vs Ellie fight scene was hot.

  5. Probably going to go down as one of my favourite games ever. Fantastic combat gameplay (which has been significantly improved over the first game), stunning visuals and superb world-building (seriously just look around and check out how much character is in the environments, that has no ‘interact’ prompt and is just there for you to look at).

    I thought the story was fantastic. It was far from being the usual power fantasy of saving the day, and instead forced you to think about what was happening and how the characters were dealing with it. I don’t agree at all that the perspective swap to Abby halfway through killed the pacing of the story – instead I felt it absolutely succeeded at its goal. You hate Abby for what she did; she deserves to die. So hold onto that hate, but also check out her story. Can you still hate her after her story has been told? Thats one of the main themes of the game, the whole ‘eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’ and the ‘cycle of violence’. Its writ large with the background story of the Seattle QZ, first with the oppression of FEDRA then the WLF rising up against them, only to eventually become the oppressors themselves and finally with the senseless ‘they killed ours so we kill theirs’ conflict between the WLF and the Seraphites. Abby has a more personalised version, with how her revenge against Joel really didn’t change anything for her – she still has nightmares about her father and now all her own friends are getting killed for her own actions. Its only through helping Lev and Yara that she’s able to move beyond her past (not at all dissimilar to Joel’s story from the first game…).

    And then Ellie. I think she’s truly one of my favourite characters across any medium. I think that she genuinely got an optimistic or hopeful ending. I feel its a deliberate flip of the ending of the first game. The first one had an ending that seemed happy, but was really hiding the problems around Joel lying to Ellie. This game though seems bleak and depressing on the surface, but is actually a positive step forward for Ellie since she’s now finally ready to deal with her trauma and move forward. I also think that there’s more than enough subtle hints to indicate that her future lies with a reconciliation with Dina and JJ in Jackson (she’s wearing Dina’s bracelet in the final epilogue for instance, after it was conspicuously absent from both her wrist and backpack for the Santa Barbara chapter). There’s just so much to unpack and unravel with Ellie that I’m definitely going to be thinking about this story and these characters for a long time. If that doesn’t indicate an impactful story, then I don’t know what does.

    Also, Dina is bae AF. 10/10, will play again for more Dina alone. Please give me Dina DLC.

    • Couldn’t agree more, especially what you said about Ellie. Loved reading your comment. Your love for the game really shines through. x

  6. I love this game. Don’t get me wrong, there are bits I hate, but overall I really love it. It totally went under my skin. Took me 3 days just to process what I’d just experienced once I was finally done. Took me 33hrs to complete cos I wanted to see everything and listen to all the optional dialogue and find ALL THE THINGS! (so much story just in the notes and journals you find lying around)

    The Santa Barbara bit broke my heart, but I wasn’t surprised Ellie left everything and everyone behind. Tommy proper guilt-tripped her to go and her vengeance – forgiveness – arc wasn’t done yet. Abby let her live. It wasn’t in Ellie’s control to let go and move on. Abby, with the help of Lev (thank you Lev!) made that decision for her. It was important she reaches the “forgiveness” state by having control over Abby’s life and choosing to let her live. That’s at least how I interpreted it. Only at the very end, when she’s sitting in the water has she truly learned forgiveness and can move on. Without that it would have felt like there was something important missing in her story and character development.

    I wish they had given the “redemption” arc to Ellie as well, instead of Abby. While I didn’t mind playing as Abby (actually think she’s an awesome character) it did start getting annoying after playing as her for about 8hrs (with almost 4 more to go until confrontation) cos all I wanted was to have my Ellie back.

    I think TLOU2 is a great sequel to the first one, showing us consequences of one man’s action and how it affects others by showing us Ellie’s actions and how they affect herself and others. It’s such a beautiful tragedy, still haunts me. It’s not easy to digest. And I do hope they make a 3rd one.

    Am currently playing it for a 2nd time and it’s a different experience. Cos you now know EVERYTHING from the start, whereas before the narrative kept a lot of stuff from the player, not the character, I have an even deeper admiration of what they did here. My major gripe would be that the gameplay is not really in sync with the overall message the game is trying to make, which is a shame. But at least I learned a new term: ludonarrative dissonance. x

  7. Interesting take on the game.

    I adore this game which is more than worthy successor to the masterpiece the first one was.
    Instead of doing some fanfic sequel with perfect Ellie doing everything a player can immediately connect with, we get a flawed human being who is still recognizable but fighting her inner demons and if you want to connect with her, you have to learn how to accept her with these flaws.
    Once the Farm chapter started, I immediately sensed someone was off. Ending the game at the farm would feel like a cheap way out. This is the part where a lot of gay fiction looses me, it tends to succumb to satisfying the reader without serving the story and its characters first. The finale was actually where I was able to connect with Ellie and not see it from the outsider’s perspective.

    Playing NG+ made the experience complete, almost wholesome, also because I looked into her diary entries in the finale chapter. The ending is very hopeful for both Ellie and Abby as opposed to the bleak closure of The Last of Us.

    I am so happy I was able to play game which stars a gay character and the game isn’t about her gayness or her romance but it is still the integral part of it.
    And I still cannot believe this game didn’t pull bury your gays (or any known LGBT, in fact).

    The Last of Us was a complete story for me. The Last of Us Part II is something which closed the doors behind its past and prepared the ground for the last chapter, Part III, in my eyes. Ellie fought her dark legacy and is ready to explore what place she has in this world outside of Joel’s shadow.

    • I love your take on it. I agree, NG+ makes me appreciate this game even more and makes for a more complete experience.

  8. I personally thought the game was exceptional and daring – it made me feel so many emotions which , in my book, can only mean the game was great – whether the feelings were gut wrenching pain, anger or some bittersweet relief towards the end.

    I don’t think the fandom was quite prepared for this game – its not the game we wanted (or were promised in the trailer) but perhaps it’s the game we needed. I felt every step of the way emerged in the horrendous world of the zombie apocalypse and even though I abhorred playing Abby I found at the end I could (just like Ellie) not kill her, though the torture at the hands of The Rattlers kind of contributed to that perhaps. In the end I wanted both women to stop suffering.

    I decided to not play the game 2 days after I saw Dana and Ellie were raising JJ at the farm (jeez, I was so relieved they did not kill Dana)- I tried to come to terms if that ending would work for me ( I could have just taken out the CD and continued playing Zelda) but like Ellie – I couldn’t and a happy ending like that would not have left me satisfied in the realm of TLOU.

    Also – I love how Naughty Dog pushes the envelope in terms of the LGBTQ+ representation and does it in such an immersive way (Lev’s story is absolutely terrific in my eyes).

    It is definitely not a game for everyone – emotionally it took a lot of out me, but just like sad movies can be beautiful, the same goes for games.

    Finally – there is a hint of a happy-ending there, Ellie wears the bracelet given by Dana in the final scene, and she might just be walking back to Jackson leaving her baggage behind, so the story may not be as closed as it seems. Who knows if they ever move forward to TLOU 3 – a gurl can dream.

  9. Forgot to mention something in my original post, that I’m very interested to hear other gay women’s opinion on:

    Watched my friend play the game yesterday and she came across the sex scene between Abby & Owen. Afterwards I asked her her opinion on the different depiction of “sex” scenes between the homosexual couple (Ellie & Dina) and the heterosexual couple (Abby & Owen) and I would love to hear from more people on their thoughts regarding that.

    In case it’s not clear what I’m on about, in the E&D scene we have them kissing, fully clothed, fall on top of each other on the sofa and we cut to black. It’s mega cute and obvs implies they are having sex, esp given the follow up scene, where they lie next to each other in their underwear.
    The A&O scene is a lot more explicit with shirts and bras coming off, nipples on display, Abby pushed into a sexual position and Owen thrusting away before we cut to black.

    Up until that point I was very happy with the LGBTQ representation. But seeing the heterosexual sex scene displayed in such an explicit way reminded me of LGBTQ couples in other forms of media and their tame depiction in order to keep it “family friendly” or theresuch. That double standard left a bad taste in my mouth and I would love to talk to Druckmann about why this was done. There might be perfectly legit reasons for this that I could easily live with, but every time I see that scene it aggravates me, especially given the otherwise great representation. Just look at the character of Lev! So well done!

    Would love to hear everyone’s thoughts. Thank you.

    • Actually that is a very good point! I very much agree with the double standard there between Ellie&Dana vs Abby&Owen. TBH I hated the whole sex scene with Abby as it seriously did not make sense to me that she was straight, everything about her screamed gay, I couldn’t get the connection to Owen and the whole scene was awkward, degrading and hard to scrub from my retina.

      • I agree. My friend was under the impression Abby & Owen were siblings at first. When Mel entered the picture I felt I had to tell her that that’s not true and she was very surprised. She also thought Abby was gay and was shocked when the Abby & Owen scene happened…..

        That double standard…. it’s still bugging me….

    • The scene caught me by a surprise. I also didn’t understand why it was there, revealing so much. I thought they pushed it there to avoid any assumption that Abby was trans (as a fake rumour spread a while ago) and it didn’t feel necessary because we were already shown what Owen meant to her and them having a romantic history.

      Now I think there are 2 things at play:
      1. They thought it would be interesting to show a woman with such build at this sexual situation as we are not used seeing that in media at all.
      2. They have already been together, so they are not in the “Let’s explore ourselves casually” phase any more and thus can skip to more direct approach which is an act of frustration and desire. On the other hand, Ellie and Dina are together for the first time, still unsure. They are also stoned, so I guess it slows them down a lot, lol. It was more like “show me first 10 seconds of that encounter whatever it is”. If their roles were reversed, I am sure it would play out similarly.

      The scene still feels unnecessary to me but so do many sexual scenes in other games/movies/series in general.

      It is not like Ellie is shown just as a shy schoolgirl who just explored her sapphic tendencies and moved on. It is made pretty clear she has already been interested in other 2 girls before Dina, and that she maintains her sexual relationship with her till the farm. Where we get to see Ellie being all horny and it is certainly a sigh you usually don’t see in this contenxt :).

      • I understand why you interpreted it that way – it makes total sense. For me I appreciated the discretion in depicting Dina and Ellie because I felt it could so easily (especially early on in the game) come across as titillating or fan service. NOT that I think that’s fair, either! But I was weirdly gratified that they got to make out, we saw they’d had sex, but they also got their privacy.

    • I want to touch on the sex scene question. I personally didn’t interpret the sex scenes as a difference between ‘safe queer’ and ‘explicit straight’. To me, it felt like it was far more about the nature of the two scenes. One was romantic, the other wasn’t. One was tentative, new, exploratory. The other was desperate, drunken, rushed and sad. To me, getting equally explicit in both sex scenes would have felt strange. The first one did not demand explicitness for the storytelling. The second one did. The first was a fairy tale. The second was raw. I’m the first person to cry ‘foul’ on the ‘safe gay sex’ bs, but this one felt justified for me.

      Maybe that’s also because I felt there was something quintessentially queer in the scene between Owen and Abby. There was a genderqueer masculinity to it that I really appreciated.

      As for the game, I have to agree with the comments more than the review. I thought this game was a remarkable work of fiction. It certainly isn’t perfect, but it does what I want all of my fiction to do; it swings for the fences. It took a massive risk with a hugely beloved property, knowing full well that there would be backlash. That, to me, speaks of creator that knows their world intimately.

      I’ve played the game twice now and will play it a third time. First of all, I love Ellie. She’s one of my favourite fictional characters, point blank. In this game, she became a monster, and while it was incredibly sad, and difficult to watch, I never stopped loving her. Her father died and she dealt with it the only way she’s ever seen anyone deal with anything. She grew up in this world of cutthroat violence. As far as she’s always known, justice comes at the end of a gun. And yes, it’s exhausting to watch her throw herself so wholeheartedly into revenge, but wasn’t that the point? That vengeance drains the life out of you? That it will only take and never give? I agree with a lot of the people above; as far as the Last of Us universe goes, this ending was positively optimistic.

      This wasn’t the right game for Ellie to have her happy ending. This was Ellie’s descent into becoming what Joel became in the first game. There will be a third game, and in that, she will have the chance to redeem herself. When you’re writing a series, you can’t deliver the characters needs in book two. They gave themselves a third chapter to write, and I’m happy with that.

      What they also gave us was a glimpse into what redemption looks like, in the form of Abby, whom I loved more than I ever could have expected. The NERVE it must have taken to decide to dedicate half your game to humanizing your villain. Forcing you to watch the humanity of all the people you just spent 15 hours terrorizing? That’s bold. And it takes away the viewers power to justify Ellie’s actions. On purpose. It reminds you that these aren’t just NPCs, they’re not quest items, they’re not goals to accomplish – they’re people.

      Abby and Levs story maps out what may be in Ellie’s future. Abby’s quest for revenge (though she got it) didn’t fix her either. She lost everything too. The two women are identical in so many ways, so much so that you can half imagine them being best friends in another world.

      I found that final fight to be beautiful, devastating and unforgettable. I cared so deeply for every person involved (I literally can’t even get into how much I love Lev or this will be another six pages). Both times I played through it, I was left emotionally raw and took me a day or two to fully process it. Personally, I would have been upset if the game had suddenly had a ‘happy’ ending for no reason. That would be a huge betrayal of the concept and the world. Not to mention, it wasn’t earned. Ellie and Abby made so many mistakes and hurt so many people. To me, the story is about empathy, and understand that there is no such thing as a good or bad person, just good or bad actions. What Ellie and Abby both earned was the chance to keep going, and in the world of Last of Us, that’s truly the kindest thing you can be given.

  10. Jessica,

    Thank you so much for writing this article! I love your writing style. Looking forward to more pieces from you.

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