The Last of Us Part II: Where did it go wrong?
Note: This is solely my two cents on The Last of Us: Part II as well as how the writing could have been better. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Let's address the elephant in the room. The notorious death scene. Before I speak against it, allow me to make certain matters clear. Joel Miller isn't a God of Jackson. Nor is he a saint to the post-apocalyptic world. A smuggler he was. Had a second opportunity at being a father and he took it at the expense of others, namely the Fireflies. It's his choice, albeit a selfish one. However, being a hero in somebody's life can be being a villain at someone else's. People need to comprehend the magnitude of the crime Joel had done into pushing mankind to doom single-handedly. It's only natural the WLF are out for his blood.
What did not sit well with majority of the people including me was the manner in which he was written off. It is aggrieving. People have every right to be resentful towards this. Now let me further elaborate on this.
About 90 percent of the first game was played solely as Joel. Gamers grieve with him as they watch him lose his daughter and later his partner, Tess. Bluntly speaking, there is an incredible character development he undergoes in The Last of Us, moving from stone cold and broken to open and affectionate towards Ellie. Fans had to wait seven years for The Last of Us: Part II to finally release. Many had expectations that they would get to play as Joel for a large portion of the sequel. While there may be plenty of flashback scenes showing the years Ellie and Joel spent together after escaping the Fireflies, knowing how he eventually dies puts a damper on those moments. It's not even that they're bittersweet—it's as though the moment is dilapidated by already knowing what will happen to the characters in the future.
Furthermore, a death like that isn't fair to Ellie. She has already lost most of the people in her life, including her parents. Joel became a father figure to her, so losing him was the equivalent of losing a parent all over again. Honestly, it felt like rubbing salt in the wound that Ellie had to witness Joel die in front of her. She was literally inches away from him—helpless, powerless. The entire graphicness of the scene felt unnecessary, almost too painful to watch. There is a good way to send off a character then there is this—plain pathetic, low quality, dishonorable death. Granted, most characters don't meet a satisfying ending in a post-apocalyptic society dominated by zombies and vicious factions. But just because it may have been unrealistic or inconvenient with respect to this aesthetic setting, doesn't necessarily mean this sequel should not have attempted to provide players with more finality when Naughty Dog made the decision to kill Joel by pummeling him with a golf bat. With a clear conscious, nobody cannot possibly state otherwise for the franchise's beloved character. I get it. It sets up the rest events and is, again, believable in terms of setting. But we know very well it is done in order to fabricate that cheap, unprecedented shock value.
Even more, it was almost unbelievable for players to see Abby kill Joel after having been forced to play as her minutes earlier—time which could have been better spent giving players final moments in Joel's shoes. The epilogue is decent enough to pay some dividends to Joe Miller but overall, there is little to no closure to be found here.
Moving away from Joel to other detrimental aspects of the game. The story doesn't do justice for the other casts particularly Jessie, Manny, Mel and Tommy. No sooner you get introduced to Jessie at the end of Day 2, you play with him as your companion only to get his head blown off at the end of Day 3. Ellie makes stupid choices throughout her arc along with a disturbing scene of her killing Mel, a pregnant woman. These are just bad writing to make you think "Revenge at what cost?" You feel absolutely nothing as Tommy kills Manny. Same for Yara. No matter how hard I tried to relate with these characters, I just could not. Why bring them under the limelight when these characters aren't going to be fleshed out?
What the game does get right is in the portrayal of Ellie and Abby. Ellie could not forgive Joel for taking away her decision but told him she is willing to make effort. She wanted to invite Joel(as she told Dina) to movie night the very day of his departure from that world. Knowing very well, she lost her opportunity, her yearn for vengeance is very believable in that regard.
Abby's Seattle Days are splendidly written as I was calm enough to play her arc with an open mind. Her adventure with Lev is somewhat reminiscent of Joel and Ellie. However, I just wish we could have instead played through Abby at first and how her team got the near Jackson to track down Joel. We bump into him and Tommy alike the game scene and instead of heading to enemy territory, Abby gets taken to Jackson instead. There she meets Ellie, comprehends the extent of their relation and why Joel did what he did. Upon returning to her territory where her rest of the crew holed up along with Joel, Tommy and only this time with Ellie too, they could have cornered them and rest scene played out exactly as it is. Before the final decisive blow, the flashback scene could have occurred. She is in a dilemma about killing Joel or not, but then she does it anyway in order to make Ellie understand what she went through. Not stating people would not hate it however we wouldn't downright hate Abby as by then we would have been invested in the character. Through this approach, gamers would not be hesitant or unwilling to play with Abby later.
But hey what do I know? I don't make video games. Just an ordinary gamer compiling his thoughts.
Tamim Bin Zakir aka Shwag_Lord(PSN ID) is an enraged individual who seldom thinks of being generous to others. Feel free to devour his tranquility at [email protected]