WARNING – THIS POST DISCUSSES THE ENDING OF THE LAST OF US PART II
THERE WILL BE SPOILERS
The Last of Us Part II has been available for a short time, and it’s already proving to be divisive. A quick Google search will reveal that audiences are more-or-less split between those who consider the sequel a masterpiece and those who draw issues with its brutality, LGBT+ representation or narrative.
Unsurprising, it’s the latter that appears to have the loudest voice.
Twitter and the usual comment sections are rampant with opinions and memes concerning the fate of major characters and the game’s harrowing themes. Whatever your views on this polarising title, I think we can all agree that the ending lacks the weight of the original.
For seven years, The Last of Us has been discussed and dissected, fondly remembered as the game bold enough to let you rob the human race of a future then lie about it.
The ending to The Last of Us Part II is not nearly as brave.
Consider that Ellie barely survives her multiple encounters with Abby, only to leave a seemingly happy life with Dina and JJ for another crack at revenge. It sure feels like Ellie is pushing her luck.
Yet by the end, the consequences of her actions are limited to a breakup and losing two fingers required for banging out tunes on acoustic guitar. Remember, she lost Joel with or without the revenge, so that doesn’t count. The Last of Us Part II concludes with Ellie walking off towards the horizon in search of whatever comes next…alone. Ellie sure killed and tortured a lot of people. She gets off lightly considering her actions.
So I pose a ‘what if’ scenario; an alternate ending that brings the story full-circle and one where Ellie’s luck finally runs out:
Towards the end of the game, Abby and her companion Lev locate an abandoned Fireflies outpost in Santa Barbara and manage to contact the militia group via radio. Before they can begin the journey to the Fireflies on Catalina Island, the two are captured by a group of bandits called the Rattlers who enslave the pair for months.
What if there were no Rattlers?
What if Abby and Lev find a new home amongst the Fireflies on Catalina Island? What if the Fireflies are continuing Abby’s father’s research into a Cordyceps cure and now the only thing missing is a test subject—someone who’s immune to the fungus?
Then Ellie re-enters the picture, following in Abby’s footsteps and finding evidence that Joel’s murderer is living safe and sound on Catalina Island. Ellie, still distraught and blinded by revenge, encroaches on the Fireflies camp and locates Abby, only to be captured and the secret of her immunity is revealed.
This alternate ending would see Ellie once again being prepped for the surgery that would result in a cure but also end her life. And this time, no one is coming to her rescue. In her final moments, we see Ellie reflect on the decisions that brought her here. She realises that she could have stayed with Dina and JJ, tried harder and avoided this outcome. Then we see the flashback where Ellie and Dina slow dance, followed by the scene where Ellie tells Joel that she wants to try and forgive him.
Lying on the operating table with her head shaved for surgery, Ellie finds solace in the fact that her life finally has meaning. Her eyes close, and we fade to black.
It’s certainly a bleak ending, but one that’s fitting with the tone of the narrative. It could also shock and awe gamers in the same vein as the original’s ending and bring the story full-circle.
Naughty Dog does a remarkable job in shifting our perceptions of these characters, making it possible to empathise and side with Abby over Ellie. I just would have liked Neil Druckmann and the writers to take this a few steps further and create an ending as memorable and timeless as the original.
Whether Naughty Dog decided to keep Ellie alive to feature in a potential Part III is yet to be seen.
What we do know is Ellie, Abby, Tommy, Dina, Lev and baby JJ are still out there. Maybe even Jeffrey Wright’s villainous Isaac. There’s still a deadly fungus threatening the human race and one young woman who holds the key to their survival.
There’s going to be a Part III right? There has to be. Let’s just hope we don’t have to wait another seven years for the next one.
Michael Vane is a freelance writer based in Sydney.