Finding hope in The Last of Us Part II
If you’ve read this column before, you know how much I love The Last of Us. It is arguably my favorite video game ever. Last year around this time, I wrote about my thoughts on “2020’s most controversial game: The Last of Us Part II.” Now that almost a year has passed, I’ve had a lot of time to process and reflect, and I have learned that my opinions surrounding this game are ever-changing. I can finally see the beauty and light in The Last of Us Part II.
Last year, I wrote, “I knew the game was going to be incredibly dark, which is normally not an issue for me, but this game came out in the middle of a global pandemic; people, myself included, were already feeling incredibly sad, drained, and anxious. I wasn’t sure if I could really handle this type of game in the midst of all that.”
I wanted to emphasize this point because I feel it can’t be understated - a major reason The Last of Us Part II was so hard for me to play was because of the state of the world in June 2020. It was honestly probably the worst time for a game like Part II to release. On top of everything going on in the real world, the story leaks just made everything worse. It took away my ability to go in blind and experience the story without bias. In fact, I had every intention of not picking up my pre-ordered copy of the collector’s edition. Getting that major story beat spoiled and then reading strangers’ opinions online made me feel like I didn’t even want to touch this game… a game I had been looking forward to for seven years. I let the opinions of strangers influence my feelings on a game I had yet to even experience for myself. Thankfully my husband saw the big picture and picked the game up for me; he knew I would love it when it was all said and done. Spoiler alert - he was right.
In retrospect, I wish I had taken better care of my mental health and played Part II when I was in a better place mentally, but I felt I had to rush through it to avoid getting anything else spoiled for me. I had been looking forward to this game for years and I was dying to know what would happen.
My first run of Part II (which took me 24 hours and 24 minutes to complete) really took a toll on me. I tried to start a second playthrough a couple days after completing it, but I could not do it; it was, as Tommy would say, a lot. Only upon playing it now, almost a year post-release, can I see the beauty, hope, and light in this dark, gruesome world.
On the surface, The Last of Us Part II may appear to be a story about revenge, but to boil it down to that is to do a disservice to the story. Part II is ultimately a story about trauma, love, growth, hope, and redemption. Both Ellie and Abby ultimately become better people by the time the credits roll; Abby because of Lev, and Ellie because of Joel. Even from beyond the grave, Joel taught her to be a better person than he was. Joel wanted Ellie to be happy, and because of him, Ellie finally realized that the best way to avenge Joel was to allow Abby to be the Joel to her Ellie (Lev).