When Part II was announced back at PSX 2016, to an understandably excited and loud audience, it was clear that it was going to be divisive, mainly due to it being a sequel to arguably one of the most highly appreciated games of all time, both from critics and fans alike. From each tease from the developers at Naughty Dog, fans became anxious for more news until E3 2018, when the first gameplay footage was unveiled. Though the first game was violent, Part II looked to completely overshadow it. It was horrific, from watching a man get gutted alive to someone explode into nothing but bloody liquid, it was clear that the developers were trying to set an example of just how eerily real games can look and feel.
It would take over a year until the next showcase of the game, when in September 2019, the release date was revealed alongside a trailer, again showcasing arguably one of the best looking titles for the PS4. After a few delays, the final date was set for June 19th, however in April, leaks of the game’s plot had begun to appear online, with footage of gameplay and cutscenes to back them up. The internet exploded almost instantly in anger, with many fans expressing their disappointment with the story and what had happened to their favourite characters. But alas, many people like myself waited for the game to release before judging it, mainly believing that actually experiencing the game would make it a much better experience.
Now that the dust has settled, I feel it’s safe to share a somewhat deep analysis of both the story and the most important characters within it.
The Death Of Joel
TLOU 2 takes place 4 years after the devastating cliffhanger that the original had left us on, with Joel lying to Ellie about the Fireflies and their “failed” vaccine for the infection. Neil Druckmann, the Creative Director for Part II, explained in 2016 that if the first game was about the relationship between Joel and Ellie and how it evolved, then Part II was going to be about “hate”, and more importantly, “making the player feel hate”.
He wasn’t joking. Within the first hour of the game, players are forced to watch Joel, a main and beloved character, get beaten to death with a golf club. It’s dark, brutal and very upsetting, especially for fans who had grown to like him over the first game. For many, it was a disrespectful way to end the character’s journey, but for me, I found it quite effective. The world of TLOU is cruel and unapologetic, where characters don’t get the chance to give heroic speeches before they die.
The original game executed this extremely well, a perfect example being the deaths of Sam and Henry. Although only spending a few hours with them, their unfortunate end is genuinely upsetting to watch, with Henry being forced to shoot his 13 year old infected brother dead before shooting himself. It’s harsh and shocking, and I felt at first as if it was extremely disrespectful to end their paths in that way, similar to how most fans felt with Joel in Part II. It might sound unfair to compare the deaths of two side characters to a main one, but the point still stands that every single character who dies in TLOU, they never get a big moment. You could argue that Tess had the most heroic death, but she was already infected, so was her death actually a heroic sacrifice or was it just an easy way out? Or maybe it was both? And it’s not like she’s treated to a funeral or anything, one moment she’s there and the next she’s not, and she’s barely mentioned afterwards.
So I’m surprised to see that many people were shocked with the way Joel died in Part II. I think for most people it was easy to assume that at some point in the game Joel would meet his end, but for him to die in the first hour was unexpected to say the least. Watching Ellie’s reaction to his death is gut wrenching, and it genuinely fills you with hate as you watch him die. “Hate”, just like Neil said he wanted to make the players feel, and by putting them in Ellie’s position, being forced to watch her father figure die, immediately makes the player feel as if they’re part of the scene and in my opinion, it’s an extremely effective way to not only show how violent the game can be, but also as a sign from Naughty Dog to say “we’re not fucking around”.
If I was to say anything negative about his death however, it would be the gigantic plot hole of both Joel and Tommy revealing who they are to complete strangers. In the first game, Joel was extremely careful of who he could trust and understandably so, since he mentions that he’s served on “both sides”. He’s a character that understands the rules of the apocalypse completely, to keep everything hidden until it’s clear that there is no threat. So it was quite strange to see this same character, reveal not only his identity to strangers (all armed with guns), but also to then reveal where he lives. You know, the massive town in Jackson that houses hundreds of innocent people?
Perhaps it was due to Joel becoming more comfortable around people, since in the first game he was a bit more of a loner. But you’d think with a character having this much experience in the world, and knowing what people are capable of, that revealing your identity to someone new isn’t the greatest idea. If Joel didn’t reveal his identity, would he have been killed? I assume that the group would have had a description of what he looked like, but they wouldn’t have just shot him for looking similar to the Joel they were looking for. It’s a pretty lame way for him to be discovered by this group and unfortunately due to some admittedly incompetent writing, he meets his end.
The first half of the game from then on, is a fairly basic and admittedly cliche revenge plot, with Ellie seeking out the group that was involved in Joel’s murder and more importantly, the woman who killed him, Abby, who we’ll speak about later on.
TLOU 2 spends plenty of time exploring Ellie’s humanity and how far she’ll go to find Joel’s killer. One moment in particular, shows Ellie tracking down one of Abby’s friends, Nora, to an abandoned hospital being used as a base for the local militia. Ellie finds Nora but blows her chance of getting information when Nora decides to mock Joel’s death in front of her. Ellie loses her composure giving Nora the chance to escape. An interesting aspect of TLOU 2 is showing that although Ellie is capable of surviving, she’s still not the best at making quick decisions.
A small example of this would be a scene in the same hospital, where she interrogates a soldier to find out where Nora is. Although she gets the information, she lets her guard down and the soldier pulls out a knife, forcing Ellie to stab her and leave her bleeding out on the floor. It’s another vicious moment, with Ellie muttering to herself afterwards, “that was dumb”. A small but very important scene showing that Ellie is still young and that she’s completely in over her head.
After a lengthy chase through the hospital, Ellie leads Nora down into the basement which is full of spores. Fortunately for Ellie, she’s immune, but the same can’t be said for Nora who is found sat down, slowly becoming infected. Ellie has her cornered, but Nora stays loyal and refuses to give up Abby’s location. What happens next is arguably the game’s most powerful moment, with Ellie being forced to torture Nora for information. Although we don’t see it on screen, it’s made clear afterwards that Ellie is not the same, as she’s seen a few hours later, covered in blood and shaking. She doesn’t say anything until she’s alone with Dina, and even then she doesn’t reveal what exactly she did. This moment is hauntingly similar to what Joel was forced to do in the first game, and it highlights that she’s no better than the people she’s hunting down. She has now completely lost her innocence and she will be haunted by this for the rest of her life. At this point, the game is clearly questioning if Ellie’s intentions are correct and if it is even all worth it.
Another huge mistake Ellie makes is when she tracks down Owen, Abby’s longtime crush, and his partner Mel. She finds the two of them secluded in the aquarium and holds them at gunpoint. Using a similar tactic that Joel used in the first game, she attempts to find out where Abby is located. Again, through her quick temper, she loses attention and Owen attacks her, leading Ellie to shoot him. Then Mel wrestles Ellie to the ground with a knife, leaving Ellie no choice but to kill her. Ellie, through desperation, tries to make Owen talk but it’s too late, and the valuable info she could have retrieved is lost. It’s only after this that Ellie realises what she’s done, finding out that Mel was in fact pregnant this whole time. It’s a pretty big twist, and Ellie becomes visibly emotional before being pulled away by Tommy. Abby later comes across this, finding Ellie’s map that she accidentally left.
TLOU 2 finds the easiest and most cheapest way to give Abby a way to find out where Ellie is staying, since she finds the map that clearly points out the theatre that she’s made into a temporary home. I get that Ellie can lose herself to anger sometimes and that she can make mistakes, but leaving the map that not only reveals where she is, but also the same place that houses both her pregnant girlfriend and that child’s father, Jesse, is clearly out of character.
What follows is possibly one of the most frustrating cliffhangers ever, with Jesse being killed almost instantly out of nowhere, (again having no big, dramatic death) due to Abby having tracked them down. Abby manages to make Tommy a hostage and brings Ellie out of hiding. Finally, after about 10 hours of the game, Ellie and Abby meet face to face again. But before this continues, we’re sent back in time to play as Abby. I wouldn’t have minded if it was a brief sequence exploring her motivations, but instead we learn that for the next 10–12 hours, we have to go through the same 3 days as Abby this time, and so this cliffhanger isn’t resolved until near the end of the game.
TLOU 2 is quite possibly one of the most violent and vicious games to come out in the past decade. It feels at times that the game almost wants to make you feel bad for what you’re doing.
The biggest example of this is that every single human enemy in TLOU 2 has a name. In most games, enemies are considered nothing but obstacles to shoot and kill before moving on, but TLOU 2 treats these enemies as actual human beings. They will scream out the names of people you kill and they become visibly and audibly angrier as they try and track you down. Hearing a dog whimpering over their handlers getting killed is quite heartbreaking, and it’s rare for a game to try and make you feel bad for the atrocities you commit.
The combat is vicious, and it really makes you feel Ellie’s desperation to survive every encounter. At some points it feels eerily realistic. Hearing someone scream out in agony after having their legs taken off in an explosion, watching someone’s face literally tear off when shot by a shotgun, hearing a dog scream out when attacked, it’s extremely harsh and certainly not for the faint of heart. Even for me, with gallons of fictional blood spilled over the years, moments like this left me feeling somewhat squeamish.
That’s not to say that the gameplay isn’t satisfying, and there is still a detachment from feeling any remorse for what you’re doing. I understand that the developers wanted to make the player constantly question if what they’re doing is correct, but it’s still a game, and no matter how realistic it looks or sounds, I’m still going to find some enjoyment in dispatching people in various sadistic ways.
It’s certainly unique for a game to take this stance on the themes of violence, and again it’s understandable to see where they’re coming from. I just don’t see this making a difference to how anyone views it in the real world though, as again, it’s just a game.
Another part to this is that Naughty Dog has proven time and time again that they clearly use violence to get people talking about their games. The first game, when it debuted at E3 2012, left articles claiming that they were “fetishising violence” and that they felt disturbed that an audience cheered at the atrocities committed on screen. They doubled down on this tactic with the marketing for the sequel, with one trailer showing a woman being pinned down before having one of her arms get beaten and broken by a hammer. It was pretty nasty, and it was clear that Naughty Dog was trying to get people riled up. So for them to try and sell the game through causing controversy, only then to turn around and say “violence bad” is extremely hypocritical.
If you wanted people to feel bad about violence and question their humanity, it probably would have been better to make a commentary on violence in the real world, rather than creating one set in a fictional apocalyptic world filled with zombies. That’s not to say that fictional stories can’t make us reflect on real issues because they can, but if you’re going to try and make me feel bad, maybe don’t make the game so fun to play…
Ellie & Dina
One of the most important aspects to TLOU 2’s story is the relationship between Ellie and her girlfriend Dina. For one, it’s nice to see an LGBT relationship represented in such a massive game. Many times it feels like gay characters in media only exist as an excuse for the creators to say that they’re representing the group, but it normally just feels very shallow and forced, so it was genuinely surprising to see such a believable and natural relationship within TLOU 2. Not once did it ever feel like the game was pushing an agenda.
Dina is an extremely crucial character, arguably just as important to Ellie as Joel was. Comparing their relationship at the start of the game to the end is perhaps one of the most saddest aspects of the game, as Ellie proves again that she’s willing to lose everything just to get revenge.
Something that I found unique about their relationship is that for the majority of the game, Dina actually supports Ellie’s decision to get revenge and even travels with her to Seattle to find the group responsible. It heightens the tension when Ellie not only has to keep herself alive, but Dina as well.
This leads us to the awkward love triangle between Ellie, Dina and another character Jesse. It’s normally tiring to see such a cliche romantic plot played out like this, but TLOU 2 keeps things interesting by revealing that Dina is pregnant with Jesse’s child. Now not only does Ellie have to look out for Dina, but her unborn child as well. It doesn’t make things any easier when her and Jesse are close friends as well. So now Ellie has dragged this poor child’s mother AND father to an extremely dangerous area… talk about awkward.
Towards the end of the game, when Ellie has seemingly given up on her quest for revenge, we see that the two of them have retired their violent past to settle on a farm, raising the child together. It’s a massive change from what we’re used to seeing and in typical TLOU fashion, treats us to a small moment where there’s no violence or fear, just time to breathe and take everything in.
However, shortly after on, Ellie gets word on Abby’s whereabouts and decides to pursue her yet again. It might seem like a stupid decision, since Ellie now has a family, but the game shows clearly that Ellie is inseparable from violence. She’s haunted with PTSD, having vivid flashbacks to Joel’s death, and she feels as if it will only stop if she kills the person responsible. So it’s actually understandable that Ellie would abandon everything for Abby, and we’re manipulated into believing that Ellie losing everything just to get revenge is worth it, but as we’ll learn later on, it’s not.
Dina serves as the only character left that Ellie can fully trust and rely on, which is important since this exact position was taken by Joel up until Ellie found out the truth about the fireflies. It’s surprising after that moment that Ellie can still find trust in people after being lied to for years by Joel, but perhaps that just shows how important Dina is to Ellie and how strong their relationship is. It’s possibly one of the most human relationships I’ve seen in a game, perfectly capturing the awkwardness of them coming to terms with the fact that they’re more than just friends.
This is where things get extremely controversial, but I’ll try my best to remain as unbiased as possible. Abby isn’t a badly written character, in fact, she’s quite the opposite. The game takes time to explore how she is human, and that the woman that we saw beat Joel to death in the beginning of the game shares the same motivation as Ellie, getting revenge.
When we first play as Abby, it’s set during the events of the first game. It’s revealed early on that her father is a doctor working for the Fireflies, trying to find a cure for the infection. At this point, Ellie is being prepped for surgery. Of course, we know how the first game went, with Joel changing his mind and going on a violent rampage killing the Fireflies to escape with Ellie, since he finds out that in order to find the cure, Ellie has to die. This is when we’re treated to the big twist of finding out that Joel killed Abby’s father. At first, I just rolled my eyes at how boring of an excuse it was to make Abby want to kill Joel, but the more I think about it, the less I hate it.
In the first game, there’s an innocent doctor that you’re forced to kill in order to reach Ellie, and it turns out that this doctor is Abby’s father. Obviously when they made the first game, this doctor was just some nameless guy who made the poor decision to threaten Joel with a knife, so it was actually pretty smart for them to turn this nameless doctor into Abby’s father, since now if you was to play the first game, you’ll feel even worse knowing that he had a kid in the building the whole time.
Abby’s reaction to her father’s death is eerily similar to Ellie’s reaction to Joel’s death, and this is no coincidence. Maybe this is the reason why Abby decides to let Ellie watch Joel die and spare her life. Abby has spent years tracking Joel down, so she’s clearly aware of his relationship with Ellie and how she sees him as a father figure. Abby is recreating exactly how it felt for her all those years ago. Just instead of it being her being held back and watching her father lay lifeless on the floor, it’s Ellie. This is clearly made to mirror both Abby and Ellie, and that they’re both after the same thing, which is revenge over the death of someone they care deeply about.
It’s an interesting concept. Lets say the first game had you playing as Abby, and it was about the relationship between her and her father. Cut to the end of the game where you find out that this mystery man named Joel has killed Abby’s father for no reason at all, I think all players would be rooting for Joel’s death in the sequel. It’s pretty interesting to look at things from a different perspective, which is why TLOU 2’s decision to switch to Abby halfway through is quite unique, although it is frustrating due to the cliffhanger we’re left on.
The biggest problem with Abby is that we play as her after she’s killed Joel. She’s succeeded in her mission for revenge and she can now go back to helping the militia fight the cult of Seraphites. If they wanted us to feel anything for Abby, they should have let us play as her as she tracks down Joel. Why couldn’t we have had the first half playing as Abby, leading towards Joel’s death and then the remaining half as Ellie. For one, it solves leaving that massive cliffhanger in the middle of the game, and it solves the problem of not actually caring about Abby. What a great twist it would’ve been if we didn’t even know her full motivations, and that the character we had spent half the game playing as was actually the villain the entire time. Again, I get what they’re doing, trying to mirror Abby and Ellie and that they’re both similar in their plots for revenge, but it just doesn’t work when you’re making me play as the character who killed the main protagonist from the first game in such a horrible way.
It doesn’t help that Abby is extremely ignorant to the pain that she causes for other people. I understand that this is something that she learns to stop doing towards the end of the game, but you can’t make me feel bad for someone who actually suggests torturing random, innocent civilians just to bring Joel out of hiding. Sure, Ellie can be just as violent as we see with her scene with tracking down Nora, but at least Nora played a part in Joel’s death and even encouraged Ellie to kill her as she mocked his death. Ellie has no interest in hurting civilians and she only kills people who pose a threat to her. However, this could just be due to Abby coming from a militaristic background and being conditioned to follow orders and doing whatever is possible to complete a task, in this case, hunting and killing Joel.
Yara and Lev
In the second half of the game, Abby is captured by the Seraphites, a religious cult at war with the WLF. Before Abby is lynched, her life is saved by Yara and Lev, two characters that we later learn to be essential in the evolution of Abby as a character.
We find out that Yara and Lev are actually deserters from the same cult and that they are related. Abby saves Yara’s life by patching up her severely damaged arm showing a tiny bit of humanity, before leaving them in hiding as she continues her journey to see Owen. However, the next day, she wakes from a nightmare of seeing Yara and Lev, gutted and left hanging from a tree. This is the first time that we actually witness Abby feel regret. Before this, we only know her as a trained killer for the WLF, so it’s made clear that both Yara and Lev have a much stronger part to play in the game later on.
Because of this nightmare, Abby goes back to where she left them to recover. We find out that the Seraphites are still hunting them down and after getting through them, Abby finds Yara and Lev. Again, Abby’s humanity begins to increase as she takes Yara and Lev to the aquarium where Mel and Owen are stationed. It’s important to note that Yara and Lev are supposed to be Abby’s enemy, so to see Abby try and take care of them is surprising. It’s never really explored as to why she makes an effort to save them, but I would imagine it being due to Lev being a child and that he cares about his sister, perhaps a reminder to Abby about families that still exist no matter what side they’re on, since she has no family left. The situation between the cult and the WLF is no longer black and white to Abby, and that these cultists are just as human as anyone else, no matter how deranged or sadistic they may appear to be.
Abby finds out from Mel that she doesn’t have the tools necessary to amputate Yara’s arm safely, and so Abby and Lev agree to travel to the city’s hospital to gather supplies. Again, it’s never really explained why Abby goes through such effort to save a single person’s life, but again it’s probably due to Lev’s desperation to save his sister’s life. It’s also important to note that Abby has a fear of heights, and that she’s willing to walk between huge skyscrapers on a flimsy crane just in order to save Yara’s life. It’s almost as if the relationship between Yara and Lev is the same as Abby and her now deceased father, and because of this, Abby doesn’t want Lev to go through the same pain that she went through in the past. Although I still didn’t care for Abby as a character, it was nice to see a change in her personality and to actually see her evolve into a much more sympathetic person. She’ll always be known as Joel’s killer, but at least we see that she still has a heart, even if it’s sometimes misguided.
After going through a massively long and somewhat tedious task of gathering the supplies, Abby and Lev make it back to the aquarium and Yara’s arm is safely amputated. Lev is seen arguing with Yara the next day about going to their home to save their mother and bring her back, before getting angry and running off. Again in typical TLOU fashion we’re treated to another moment of being able to take everything in without any tension, as Abby and Yara search for him. There’s two very important moments that happen in this section.
For one, we learn that Yara is afraid of dogs. Since the WLF uses attack dogs to hunt Seraphites, Yara has been conditioned by the cult to fear them and stay away. It’s a tiny moment, but Abby encouraging Yara to interact with the dog and play fetch with it is a nice thing to see. Again, Naughty Dog proves just how much they excel at building deep characters from the tiniest moments. It also serves as another way to humanise the Seraphites. They’re just like the WLF, brainwashed into believing who to class as an enemy and conditioned to follow orders and to stay loyal. They’re not just generic enemies for you to kill anymore, these are just scared people trying to cling onto any hope they can find, even if it turns them into religious fanatics.
Secondly, there’s another scene where Yara reveals to Abby that Lev was born a girl named Lily but he shaved his hair and changed his name seeing himself as a male. This serves as an explanation as to why they’re being hunted by the Seraphites, as it’s forbidden and is the reason why their mother forced them to leave. Now of course there was bound to be outrage from transphobes over the fact that there’s now a transgender character within the game, but I don’t understand why. It’s a small, 2 minute scene in a 20+ hour long game, literally just revealing that Lev was originally a girl. Just like with Ellie and Dina, it’s great to see another group get highlighted within the game. The game never mentions this again after, so it’s quite confusing to see how a vocal minority was so outraged by this. Yes, transgender people do exist and if an apocalypse broke out, they’d still exist. The game isn’t forcing you to take a side on the situation nor is it reminding you every 5 minutes to push some sort of agenda. It’s just a single transgender character that the game tells you about before moving on, it’s not that serious…
After searching for a while, it’s revealed that Lev has stolen a boat to head towards the Seraphite island, leaving Abby and Yara to chase after him. Abby splits up from Yara so she can get to a boat quicker, but she runs into her friend Manny, another character who was involved in Joel’s death. The two of them make their way forward, being shot at by a sniper. It’s a pretty tough section to get through, it takes some patience and by the end of it you become so incredibly annoyed at the sniper that you almost forget about Lev, and that you’re only goal is to get to him.
So it’s a pretty big twist to find out that this mystery sniper is actually Tommy on his way to track down Abby and her group. This is why the developers made this section so difficult, as you start to hate whoever this sniper is. So when it’s revealed that it’s actually Tommy, it’s a unique way to suddenly make you feel bad, since you’ve desperately spent the last 10 minutes trying to murder Joel’s brother, who you’re supposed to be rooting for. Congratulations to Tommy for killing Manny by the way, since he kind of spat on Joel’s dead body and told him to burn in hell, so that was easily the most heartwarming part of the game by far.
Abby and Yara eventually manage to find a boat and they head towards the Seraphite island. This is easily one of my most favourite sections of the game, just due to the setting being so vastly different to anything else in the game.
Since the Seraphites don’t believe in the “old world”, they discourage the use of guns and technology. They’re much more primitive than their WLF friends, focusing on using bows and arrows, and communicating to each other through their own language of whistling. It’s unique and honestly pretty terrifying to hear a bush start to rustle and whistle to you.
The Seraphites are revealed to live in wooden huts, with small farms and animals to live off of. It’s pretty interesting to see that the Seraphites are the exact opposite of their enemy, the WLF. This mainly is to do with the fact that the WLF is made up of ex-military with a clear hierarchy and they’re much more organised, whereas the Seraphites don’t have ranks, they are all just members worshipping a single idol and nothing more.
Abby and Yara manage to track Lev down to their mother’s house. Upon entering, the mother is seen dead on the floor with Lev in the corner crying to himself. This is a reminder that Lev is literally a child and nothing more. He’s not a soldier or a killer, deep down he’s still just a child who wanted to feel validated and accepted by his family. Of course, due to the Seraphite’s strict beliefs, Lev was forced to murder his own mother in self defence. It’s a bleak moment, one that the game doesn’t linger on for too long and understandably so, since the game just feels as if it’s constantly getting darker and more morbid with every plot point. It’s almost as if the developers are saying “We get it, you’ve seen enough”.
Of course it wouldn’t be TLOU if something didn’t go terribly wrong, as the WLF launches their assault on the cult and arrive on the island. Now, Abby, Yara and Lev are trapped in-between a war with the WLF and Seraphites, with both sides actively hunting them and wanting them dead. It’s important to note that at this point, Abby has deserted the WLF to be with Yara and Lev. This is why these two characters are so crucial to Abby’s story. Not only do they remind Abby how to be human and forgive, but also they’re strong enough for Abby to abandon the group that she’s been loyal to for so long.
After navigating through the island, Yara is suddenly attacked by a soldier and shot. Before Abby or Lev can react, they find themselves surrounded by WLF soldiers. Through an incredibly timed coincidence, it turns out that Isaac, the leader of the WLF, is with this group of soldiers. He recognises Abby and sees Lev behind her. He threatens her to move out of the way in order to kill him but Abby refuses. Just before Isaac shoots them both, Yara is revealed to still be alive and shoots Isaac dead, sacrificing herself to give Abby and Lev a chance to run.
Lev is now in the exact same position as Abby. He has no family left after being forced to kill his own mother and watch his sister die in front of him. Abby is now classed as a traitor and is forced to kill the same people she used to be allies with. They all seem to recognise Abby as they call out her name, so she’s now fully abandoned any idea of following the WLF and their rules. She now has one single purpose, and that’s getting Lev off of the island.
It’s interesting, since this somewhat mirrors the relationship that Joel had with Ellie. They both meet each other not really liking each other at first, but throughout the course of the first game, Joel abandons his mission for a cure and betrays the Fireflies in order to save Ellie’s life. However, Joel’s betrayal is arguably a lot more selfish than Abby’s, since he ruined possibly the only chance of ever finding a cure to stop the infection.
After a lengthy fight through both the WLF and the Seraphites, Abby and Lev manage to get to a boat and escape the island intact. When Abby returns to the aquarium, she expects to find Mel and Owen inside. However, she comes across their dead bodies left after Ellie accidentally killed them both in a failed attempt to get information. She finds Ellie’s map and we know what happens from there.
So now we’re FINALLY back to where that cliffhanger left us, with Abby holding Tommy at gunpoint. After a brief confrontation with Ellie, she shoots Tommy in the face as Ellie makes her escape to the stage in the theatre.
Now we’re forced to play as Abby and we have to fight Ellie, by sneaking around and attacking her from behind. I’m not ashamed to admit that I purposely failed at the first few attempts just to watch Ellie kill Abby. How things would’ve been so much simple if that’s how it went, but it’s a game, and it wants to you play a certain way, so reluctantly I did. As much as I hated it, it was pretty interesting to have the tables turned in this scenario. We’re so used to playing as Ellie, so to get the chance to be trapped in a room with her trying to kill you is pretty unique and even a tiny bit terrifying. I’m still confused as to what the developers were trying to achieve here. Were they trying to make me feel bad for trying to kill Ellie? Did they want me to root for Abby in this moment? Perhaps you’re not supposed to feel anything and you just have to accept that as unfair as it is, this is where their paths have lead them. Maybe you’re not supposed to root for either of them…
Unfortunately Abby wins the fight. Dina rushes in to help but is overwhelmed by Abby, who then proceeds to relentlessly smash her face into the floor before holding a knife to her throat.
Again, Ellie is left hopeless on the floor, begging Abby yet again to spare someone she cares deeply about. Abby nearly kills Dina, but she notices Lev standing in the distance watching her. Abby is reminded that she has something to live for, she got her revenge and now she can move on, so she spares Dina and Ellie and warns her not to look for her again. An overhead shot shows Ellie and Dina both laying motionless on the floor as the scene comes to a close.
1 year has passed and now we find Ellie and Dina living on a farm raising their child together, trying to lead a normal life. Ellie however, is still plagued by the death of Joel. We find her sat on a bed looking at Joel’s broken watch, which still holds it’s significance from the first game. In the first game, the watch was a reminder to Joel of his deceased daughter, however in this game, it’s now a reminder to Ellie of her deceased father figure, Joel. Ellie has the life she has always wanted and she should be at peace, but there’s something off about her during this sequence.
We find out later that this is due to her now suffering from PTSD. Something as mundane as a barn door slamming shut triggers her into hallucinating Joel’s death. His screams are heard behind a locked door and Ellie struggles to force it open, a clear representation of the rift between both her and Joel. This door represents her new life, and she desperately wants to break through and stop this event from happening again. It’s clear that she still feels responsible and that the only way for her to move on, is to kill Abby.
Tommy is revealed to still be alive, now missing an eye, and he arrives with information about Abby and Lev’s whereabouts. Ellie seems to be at war with herself about what to say and Tommy becomes angry and leaves. It’s understandable to see why he would be annoyed, since he only has Ellie to kill Abby now. Whilst Dina and Tommy argue outside, Ellie looks at the map once again, and even though she doesn’t say a thing, it’s made clear that she feels as if it’s her duty not only to Tommy, but to herself to kill Abby so that she can move on from the pain.
After this, we find Ellie waking up in the middle of the night to retrieve her journal. Throughout the game, players can read Ellie’s journal to read her internal thoughts about certain people and situations. Since a year has passed, there’s been some new additions. Every page is littered with constant references to Joel and how much she misses him. It’s at this point that we begin to get a much deeper understanding of just how much pain Ellie is going through.
“It happened again. I was hunting this boar and I’d cornered it in this old gas station. It was bleeding out, screaming. Sounded like him. Then I couldn’t get the images out of my head. I left it there, dying. My skin hurts.”
We find Ellie a little while later, with Joel’s jacket, packing a gun into her backpack. Dina finds her and tries to convince her to go back to bed but it’s too late, Ellie had made up her mind, “I have to finish this”. Dina becomes upset whilst Ellie leaves the house, unknowing that she has now destroyed everything she had. It shows strongly just how desperate Ellie is for vengeance, when in the first game she opened up to Joel about being scared of being left alone. She has risked everything for this, and as we find out later, she is now completely alone.
We cut to Abby and Lev, now in California, searching for the whereabouts of a supposed gathering of ex-Firefly members attempting to reestablish the group and begin recruiting. They come across a house, rumoured to be a firefly outpost and they enter to find a basement with a working radio inside. Abby finds a list of call signs and begins to try and make contact, but she has no luck. That is until she suddenly gets a response. With all the game’s faults, nothing comes close to just how incredible this scene feels, especially for fans who played the first game. Hearing the original game’s theme play as it’s made official that the Fireflies still exist is arguably the best moment in the game, at least on Abby’s side of the game. It’s revealed that they have all returned to their home base and have over 200 members. Abby and Lev now have a purpose, and it’s a moment for Abby to follow what Owen had wanted to do in the first place. It’s also a slight tease for a possible sequel, since the return of the Fireflies is a pretty massive deal for both Abby and Ellie respectively.
However, things go wrong once they leave the house, as they are attacked by a new faction of enemies, a slave owning bandit gang known as the Rattlers, which is a really lame name by the way. Abby and Lev are captured, presumably to be made as slaves by this new group of bandits.
We cut to Ellie as she’s now made it to California. What follows is quite basic, with her navigating through both this new bandit faction and infected before she suddenly steps into a trap and is pulled up by a rope. She swings into a tree that cut her deep into her stomach. It’s interesting to note that this is the exact same way Joel was nearly killed in the first game by being impaled, and this is extremely important for a reason we’ll mention later. 2 slavers find her presumably a few hours later to try and bring her to their camp. In typical badass fashion, Ellie takes advantage of the situation, killing one and interrogating the other. She learns of Abby’s specific whereabouts, tracking her to their main base.
She assaults their base completely by herself before finding a group of prisoners in a cell. She rescues them and learns that Abby is outside, “by the pillars”. It’s interesting to note that Ellie never shows any interest in rescuing these prisoners, she only does it to learn where Abby is. Of course given the chance Ellie would save them, but if she had learned that Abby wasn’t there, would she have still made the effort to free them?
Ellie makes it to the beach, with the sound of the prisoners causing chaos back inside. She comes across the “pillars”, with bodies strapped high left to rot. She finds Abby, who looks completely different from when we last saw her. She’s clearly broken and malnourished and it’s clear that she’s spent quite a while being a slave at this location. Ellie cuts her down and lets her get up, perhaps expecting her to try and fight. Instead, Abby rushes over to cut down Lev, who is unconscious. This is the first time Ellie sees Lev in person, and it’s clear to her that Abby cares deeply for him. Ellie walks with Abby over to some boats. Ellie places her bag into the boat, before looking at her cut.
This cut is extremely important, and it’s a detail that I missed the first time around. This is a reminder to Ellie of Joel, as when she touches it she has flashes of Joel’s mangled body. It’s a reminder of the moment he nearly died and she saved his life, and how years later she failed to save him again. Abby is behind her, preparing to leave. She has the perfect chance to kill her but for the first time, she’s reluctant to, perhaps since she’s now seen the relationship between Abby and Lev, and it reminds her of the relationship she had with Joel.
Ellie holds a knife to a still unconscious Lev, blaming Abby for bringing him into this. Ellie expects a fight and Abby reluctantly agrees. It’s interesting to see that Abby isn’t fighting Ellie over revenge or hatred like she did before. She’s doing it to win the chance to escape with Lev, kind of like a really, really messed up game show, with the winning prize being to visit the Firefly holiday destination that she’s desperately wanted to visit.
With Ellie seriously wounded, and Abby not having the muscles she used to have, it’s a somewhat balanced fight. Ellie manages to get the upper hand before Abby bites off two of her fingers. A now mutilated Ellie attempts to drown Abby, but she quits halfway through, throwing herself off of Abby in frustration. She tells Abby to leave with Lev and she does, leaving Ellie sitting in the ocean alone, crying over what she has failed to do.
We cut to Ellie, now missing two of her fingers, standing in front of the ranch that she lived in with Dina. Instead of the farm being surrounded by sunshine, it’s now cold and cloudy. It’s empty, miserable and alone, mirroring how Ellie feels inside. She enters to find a now derelict house, and as she looks around she finds everything has been taken. She enters her room to where all of her belongings have been stashed by Dina. She picks up a guitar, the same one Joel had taught her to play years ago. She attempts to play a song, but due to her missing fingers, she is unable to. Ellie stops and sits for a moment, before we cut to another scene.
We’re treated to a flashback, one which shows Joel sat outside his house, playing that same guitar. Ellie meets him, and they both begin to talk. It’s clear that the relationship isn’t what it once was, since this is after Ellie found out the truth about the Fireflies and that Joel lied to her. Ellie suddenly opens up about it, “I was supposed to die in that hospital”. Ellie mentions that she can’t ever forgive him, but that she would like to try. Joel is left to try and contain his sadness and regret as she says goodbye. It’s a somewhat mixed scene. It’s nice to see that Ellie attempts to repair their relationship, but it’s also unfortunate considering what happens soon after, with Joel dying.
We cut back to Ellie, now placing the guitar against a window. She takes her bag and leaves, with us not following her out. Instead we slowly pan towards the window, showing Ellie walking away from the ranch, unknowing where she’s going or what she has planned. The game ends.
After the credits we’re treated to one more surprise, with the main menu now showing a boat on a beach, with a domed building in the background. This is of course the Firefly base, and judging by the boat it’s clear that Abby and Lev made it there.
Ellie has completely lost everyone and everything. She’s become the person she’s been afraid of becoming, to be completely alone. She’s betrayed Tommy’s trust by not fulfilling her promise of killing Abby, also betraying the trust of Dina by making the attempt. The game gives Ellie everything before ripping it all away, and it’s due to her arguable selfishness of wanting to “finish it”. Even if she did kill Abby, it wouldn’t bring anyone back and she’d still be in the exact same position.
Ellie has stopped the cycle of violence by sparing Abby’s life. If she had killed Abby, Lev would have made an attempt to track Ellie down and the cycle would just continue. By letting Abby go, Ellie has learned to finally forgive. She never had the chance to forgive Joel and so by forgiving Abby, she can hopefully find peace with herself and Joel’s death. It’s a painfully bleak ending, with Ellie now completely alone and vulnerable, now going wherever life takes her next.