An Eye for an Eye: In Defense of “The Last of Us Part II” Part Two

Despite releasing in June 2020 to critical acclaim, “The Last of Us Part II” was a victim of many people review-bombing the game online, specifically on Metacritic, shortly after its launch. This meant that a majority of the people who did this either hadn’t played the game or just hadn’t finished it. So upon release, it was just the kind of game that was really bad to talk about.

As I stated earlier, I personally really loved the game, although it definitely has its issues, specifically in terms of its story structure. Many of the criticisms are regarding the game’s story, and a lot of them are very understandable. Online critics who I really respect were not big fans of this game, and although I don’t agree with all of their points, they make completely valid arguments and criticisms.

However, I’d like to start by bringing up the criticism that is 100 percent invalid; so much so that I am almost hesitant to even refer to it as criticism. In April, many of the game’s story elements were leaked, leading to outrage among the fans. Some of this criticism was actually regarding the story details that were leaked, but there were also a lot of people complaining about certain characters who they perceived to be part of the LGBTQ+ community … so basically, just bigotry masquerading as game criticism.

One specific criticism was towards the character Ellie being a lesbian, with one anonymous person directly messaging game developer Neil Druckmann complaining that he “ruined” a character by making them lesbian in the sequel, to which Druckmann simply responded with, “Who wants to tell him?” Ellie was specifically shown to be a lesbian in the first game (in a very natural and non-pandering way, as a matter of fact), so the idea that Druckmann just changed the character’s sexual orientation is absolutely incorrect.

Another criticism like this was referring to a character named Abby (who will definitely be mentioned later), who is presented as an incredibly muscular and strong woman… so many people assumed that she was transgender. To which, I’d like to say this:

Are you trying to imply that cisgender women are unable to be muscular? Because if so, tell that to Ronda Rousey.
Even if Abby was a transgender woman… so what? Why are you complaining? The criticism would be different if people felt that Abby was a bad representation of trans women, but the criticism is essentially that trans women shouldn’t be characters in games, which is, once again, bigotry and not game criticism.

There is a character in the game named Lev who is actually a transgender boy (played by a transgender actor, no less), and I am at least alright with reading the criticism of his depiction in the game (including the use of his dead name by the antagonists). These criticisms are in no way trying to put down the trans community, whereas the criticism towards Abby (who is explicitly shown to be a cisgender female) is.

Now, the biggest issues that people actually took with “The Last of Us Part II” were the story and themes, in particular the treatment of characters from the first game and the introduction of new main characters.

So to get this out of the way: Joel, our protagonist of the first game, is killed by Abby in the first two hours. When we first meet her, it is implied that there is someone that she is trying to hunt down before she separates from her group and gets attacked by Infected. Abby is then rescued by Joel and Tommy, who lead her to her group of friends before she reveals her true intentions by shooting Joel’s leg with a shotgun and beating Tommy into unconsciousness.

What makes the sequence more harrowing is how long it takes, and how much Abby wants him to suffer. It’s implied that Joel wronged her in some way, and she will not rest until he feels her pain. So she grabs a golf club and gets to work.

By this time, Ellie has been made aware by her group that Joel has been missing, so she finds her way to where Abby’s group is and finds Joel on the ground with his head nearly bashed in. As Ellie is subdued, Abby takes a final strike to Joel’s head, exacting her revenge as Ellie watches helplessly.

And with that, the game revealed itself as a story of revenge and hatred… sort of.