COG Considers: A Question For The Ages
It may have been out for a while, but beware of spoilers for The Last of Us: Part II.
I, like many of you, was shocked and appalled when Abby killed Joel in The Last of Us: Part II. True, I came to like her as the game went on and I understood her reasoning, but still, it’s hard to get behind someone who kills a returning hero. The thing is, the more I think about the game, the more I realized that I’m Team Abby. Do I love Ellie? Absolutely, but when it comes to her conflict with Abby, I find myself siding with the latter.
Let’s think about Joel. The beauty of the first game is that he’s absolutely the hero for the same reasons he’s absolutely the villain. Was saving Ellie a good thing? Yes and no. Was it the right thing? Yes, and no.
We understand his reasoning because we spent a whole game watching their bond develop but you know who didn’t play the first game? Abby Anderson. Does she recognize that they love each other? Sure, but she recognizes it from an abstract point of view – what she does know is that Joel killed her father – alongside who knows how many family friends – and doomed humanity in the process.
From that point of view, it’s hard to deny that she deserves revenge, and her initial plan is all about minimizing collateral damage. She doesn’t storm Jackson – at best, she wants to rough up a patrol. Sure, we don’t know how far she would have gone because she got lucky and stumbled right into Joel, but the only reason we’re not rooting for her is that we know more than she does. What we do know is that she decides not to kill Ellie and Tommy, despite having every opportunity to do so, because they don’t deserve it.
Does Ellie deserve her revenge, too? Yes, absolutely, but unlike Abby’s relatively bloodless plan she decides to walk right into Seattle, killing dozens, or even hundreds of random bystanders who’re just trying to protect their city from a group of people who’re killing them. Ellie’s entire story is about being consumed by hatred and taking her own self-loathing for the fact that she never got to fully reconcile with Joel before his death on an entire city.
Abby’s story, meanwhile, is all about how killing Joel didn’t give her closure. The only thing that does is her growing relationship with Lev and Yara. As we see an uglier side of Ellie come to the forefront, we see a nicer side of Abby; she faces her greatest fear to get medicine for Yara, risks her life again and again to protect them, and even abandons her own people and wanders into an active warzone to rescue Lev. Meanwhile, Ellie is systematically killing all of her friends, and countless others in the process.
So Abby tracks down the people responsible for killing her friends, and who knows how many others. True, she kills Jesse in haste, but even though she has the opportunity – and, in her eyes, at least, the right – to kill Ellie, Tommy, and Dina, she lets them live, again, because Lev asks her to.
She’s done the revenge thing. She knows that killing Ellie won’t make her happy. She lets it go, but does Ellie? No. Despite getting a chance at a fresh start, Ellie tracks her down, again. True, she kills a group of slavers and releases their captives, but any heroism is incidental to her goal. She demands a showdown, Abby refuses. It’s only when Ellie threatens Lev that she resigns herself to fight.
By now, in a weird way, Abby knows Ellie better than Joel ever did. She’s stared into a darkness that Joel barely glimpsed. She’s also killed a man who put the needs of the few above the needs of the many, lost everything, found something to fight for, and by the end of the game let Ellie live three separate times, if you include the ending. True, Ellie lets her live, but only when she realizes that killing Abby won’t make her happy or bring Joel back. She, like Abby, is choosing to be happy.
Does Abby deserve to live after everything she’s done? Well, that’s up for debate – but if the first game didn’t exist, everyone would be Team Abby.