The Last of Us Part II picks up four years after the end of the first game. Joel and Ellie have settled down in Jackson, Wyoming, with Joel’s brother Tommy. Their relationship is fractious – instead of the happiness they have earned, there is strife borne of Joel’s decision to save Ellie at the end of Part I.
One day on a regular patrol, Joel and Tommy save a stranger from some Infected. The woman, Abby, guides them to an abandoned building to wait out the storm, but it’s an inevitable trap. Abby is now a fearless member of the Washington Liberation Front (WLF, or sometimes Wolves), a militia group from Seattle, but she was once a helpless onlooker as Joel murdered her father, who was a surgeon set to operate on Ellie at the end of Part 1.
What happens to Joel in The Last of Us Part II?
Abby and her companions viciously beat Joel to death, but not before Ellie arrives and is forced to watch. Tommy swears revenge and heads off alone to Seattle. Ellie and her new girlfriend Dina go after him to help. These first couple of hours of gameplay are extremely effective and introduce the game’s main theme – the cyclic nature of violence and how anger and hate just perpetuate endlessly. Anyone who played Part I will probably have a fairly complex relationship with Joel depending on how they feel about his choices at the end, but it will certainly hit hard to watch him get killed.
In a tender moment, Ellie reveals to Dina that she is immune to the virus, and Dina reveals that she is pregnant with her ex’s baby. With impeccable timing, the ex, Jesse, turns up. Ellie and Jesse leave Dina in relative safety in the theatre as the physical effects of her pregnancy begin to make themselves known.
Ellie and Jesse find one of Abby’s companions, who they torture and kill to gain information about where Abby is. A further theme of the game is the idea that ‘hurt people hurt people’ – when you are traumatized, how do you break free of the cycle of trauma? Ellie and Jesse follow the lead to two more of Abby’s gang, Owen and Mel. Mel is pregnant but Ellie only learns this after killing the pair.
At this point, we get a flashback that confirms what we already suspected. Ellie went back to investigate the Firefly hospital from the first game and discovered that the yarn Joel spun was indeed a yarn, and he robbed her of her autonomy and possibly the world of a cure. They have a big falling out and spend over two years almost estranged.
Back in the present, Abby finds where Ellie, Dina, Jesse, and now Tommy are hiding out in the theatre. She shoots Jesse dead in cold blood and Tommy is seriously wounded. Cut to black, and suddenly, we are Abby.
The second half
We start with a flashback underlining the strong relationship Abby had with her father and then land at a point about three days before the showdown in the theatre. We get some relationship-building and scene setting before Abby discovers her ex-boyfriend Owen has gone missing while out hunting Seraphites, a religious cult.
Abby gets herself caught in a snare trap on her search but is freed by Yara and Lev, who were Seraphites but have been shunned due to Lev being a trans man. Abby finds out that Owen has tried to leave the city and its fighting and violence behind to reunite with the Fireflies. It emerges that Yara’s arm was broken so badly in their escape that it will need to be amputated if there’s any hope of survival. During surgery, Lev runs off to try and convince his mother one last time to accept him and break free of the Seraphites. When Abby and Yara eventually find him, he is forced to kill his mother in self-defense. As they are trying to get away, the WLF arrive to wage war on the Seraphites and Yara heroically sacrifices herself so Abby and Lev can escape.
Abby and Lev arrive at Owen and Mel’s hideout to find information but instead, Abby is faced with the dead bodies of one of her closest friends and his pregnant partner. Helpfully for her, Ellie had dropped the map highlighting her hideout, and Abby seeks her revenge.
After a brutal showdown in the theatre where Abby beats Ellie into a paste and threatens to kill Dina, Lev convinces her that it’s not worth it and Abby lets them go with the warning that she better not see them again.
The Last of Us Part II ending
It would be easy to end the game here, but The Last of Us: Part II isn’t interested in easy. After a brief interlude where it seems that Ellie and Dina will get to live happily ever after on a farm, raising Dina’s baby, Tommy arrives with news. He has located Abby and wants Ellie to leave her idyllic new life to pursue his revenge. He leaves in anger when Ellie won’t be convinced. Except, of course, Ellie can’t escape from this cycle and abandons Dina and their child in the night to perpetuate the violent cycle.
The last hour or so of the game introduces a new faction, the Rattlers. These are unambiguous bad guys and Ellie has no qualms about killing her way through scores of them to reach Abby and Lev, who are being held as slaves. Ellie cuts Abby loose. Abby is confused to see Ellie but doesn’t question it, heading straight to free Lev and trying to escape.
Ellie is not satisfied, and the gameplay climax is an incredibly brutal, dirty, emphatic fistfight on the shore of the beach. Abby bites off two of Ellie’s fingers, but Ellie gets the upper hand and tries to drown Abby before a flashback snaps her out of it. She thinks of Joel and the forgiveness she had found for him just before his death. It is fitting that it is Joel who pulls Ellie back from the brink at the end here.
Letting Abby and Lev go, Ellie returns home. But of course, you can never come back from something like this. The farmhouse is empty and Dina and the baby are gone. There is a poignant scene where Ellie tries to play the guitar, her strongest connection to Joel, but finds that with her missing fingers even that has been taken from her. She leaves the farmhouse and walks towards…whatever is next.
The Last of Us Part II Remastered is out now on PlayStation 5.
Featured image credit: Naughty Dog