The Last of Us Part 2: life has imitated art – Reader’s Feature
A reader makes a spoiler-filled plea to head the message behind The Last Of Us Part 2 and not give in to hate.
*** WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD FOR THE LAST OF US PART 2 ***
I’m not afraid to say it: Joel deserved to die. He had it coming. Does that mean I wanted him to die? No. Would I have liked to see him stick around longer? Yes. But death can be unfair; and for this particular story on consequences and forgiveness, Joel’s death is perfect. The Last of Us Part 2 is an emotionally taxing journey which should be experienced by every true gamer. Rather than playing it safe and providing a satisfying rehash of the original game, Naughty Dog took a creative risk with the sequel.
It is bold and brave and every sequel deserves to be this daring. Yet, the game receives grand amounts of negativity and hatred by fans. This has even reached the point where the game’s developers and actors are receiving hate mail and death threats. My answer to that: there’s already too much hate in this world, so let’s accept the lessons Naughty Dog is trying to teach us.
The most prominent complaint surrounds Joel’s early death and this is the first message that Naughty Dog tries to teach us. Joel is not a beloved character and he is certainly not a hero. The people we love, they do bad things. Joel is somewhat of an anti-hero who made multiple selfish choices throughout the first game, which all culminated in the harrowing final moments at the hospital.
Joel brutally slaughtered innocent doctors and stopped mankind from developing a cure, all for his own personal needs. Joel put himself before the needs of the many. Yes, any father would save their daughter in that context, but that does not mean it’s the right thing to do. Naughty Dog wants us to understand that Joel is a monster. The way they chose to do this is the second biggest complaint of the game.
The Last Of Us Part 2 is not just Ellie’s game. The story also belongs to Abby, Joel’s killer. But how could they make us play as the villain? Because Naughty Dog is teaching us to take a walk in the other’s shoes. They want us to understand that there is a side to every story. Let’s think hypothetically here for a moment: it’s 2013 and The Last Of Us has just been released on the PlayStation 3 and we play as a doctor trying his best to keep his daughter, Abby, alive during an apocalypse, all the while searching for a cure to save mankind.
You eventually discover an immune girl who serves as your best shot to rid the infection. Just as you’re about to proceed with the operation, a hatred-fuelled maniac, the immune girl’s father, breaks into your settlement and guns down everyone in sight, including you, the doctor. You then play as the daughter, Abby, as she discovers her murdered father. She has suffered a great loss. Abby then vows to exact revenge on her father’s killer, Joel.
When placed within a different context, we sympathise with Abby. By understanding the story from her perceptive, we truly feel the weight of Joel’s actions. We are being told that actions have consequences. This is something we must deal with, and the game is wanting us to listen to the other instead of being hot-headed. Sending death threats is not the answer. It achieves nothing except prove one’s ignorance.
Ellie’s grief reflects this hot-headed, impulsive nature. Just like Abby, Ellie wants revenge and she lets it consume her existence. Abby and Ellie are very much alike. Ellie is willing to do whatever it takes to find and kill Abby, and she prioritises it over the safety of her friends. She is driven by her anger. Ellie has been wronged and she is unwilling to listen to the other’s side. This is the biggest message Naughty Dog teaches us.
Ellie’s immediate hatred for Abby overwhelms her and her grief takes over. Her actions are impulsive and she proceeds without hesitation. Ellie’s early actions reflect those of the negative reviewers of the game, and this is why I claim that life has imitated art. The majority of haters of the game have struggled to grasp the meaning of Naughty Dog’s story as they refuse to accept Abby.
The haters have failed to truly walk in the other’s shoes, despite playing as ‘the villain’ for 10 or more hours. Just like Ellie, their immediate dislike of Joel’s death overwhelmed them and they acted – in the form of death threats. Yet, unlike these haters, Ellie does take a step back during the final moments of the game. Here, the story teaches the importance of forgiveness and acceptance, something that has gone past the majority of fans.
Ellie, through flashbacks of Joel, realises that Abby is just like her. Here, the other is no stranger, but a mirror to oneself. On the beach of Santa Barbara, Ellie recalls how she began to forgive Joel for his decision at the hospital. She understands that through Joel’s actions, he created Abby. Neither Abby nor Ellie are inherently good or bad, they just took matters into their own hands without taking a step back. Revenge is not always the answer, and Ellie accepts this as she lets Abby sail away.
Forgiveness and the ability to move on with a new outlook can be more powerful. Life has imitated art because, just like Ellie initially did, haters of this game refuse to accept this message. I urge them to replay the game while taking a step back. You’re allowed to be upset over Joel’s death but do not let it cloud your judgement; be open to listening to the other and understand their struggles. Just like fans of this game imitated Ellie’s anger and grief, I hope that we can come full circle and imitate Ellie’s acceptance.
By reader Lewis A Downie
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