Is the Last of Us Part II Too Dark?

WARNING: This article contains major spoilers.

The Last of Us Part II, unlike the first game, has a permeating sense of dread that is felt throughout the meaty campaign. Every moment is rife with tension, it’s foreboding, like A24’s Hereditary where something always feels off. The lighter moments are often quickly cast down and barely gives you a chance to revel in what little joy there was. Is it too much dread? Is it too dark? The infamous giraffe scene in the first game is truly The Last of Us at its sweetest, it is a short respite from the horrors yet to come but we’re still tentatively hopeful that things will work out for our two beloved characters. Scenes like the aforementioned giraffe scene, Ellie and Joel driving together after leaving Bill’s town and Ellie pretending to check into a long abandoned hotel are just a few examples of how the first game feels more palatable. The first game is a much easier game to stomach and follow because it’s telling a more traditional story, we root for Joel because he’s taking care of Ellie and we like them, so naturally we’re rooting for them. In The Last of Us Part II, there is not much hope. Not for Joel, not for Ellie, less even for this world these characters inhabit. It paints a bleak picture, literally too, more than half the game is spent in a dark overcast and Seattle more than lives up to its name with all the torrential rain pouring down.

I never loved a game that hurt me so much. After Joel was brutally murdered by Abby, I had to pause the game and go for a walk. I didn’t do that because I was enraged and just had to dm Naughty Dog for ruining the game, I walked out because I was saddened by it. Partly shocked of course, but I was really shaken up emotionally. I can barely watch that scene even now. Seeing the pain in Joel’s eyes as he fixed his last gaze on Ellie right before Abby finishes the job is one of the most heart-wrenching images I’ve ever seen in any medium.  Not since the very beginning of the first game when Joel’s daughter Sarah gets gunned down have I ever felt such sorrow. We are as pinned down and helpless as Ellie in this scene, subjected to watch a beloved character get his skull bashed in. 

Another moment where I had to step away was when Ellie savagely stabs Mel in the neck only to discover she was pregnant the whole time. That is as dark as it gets and it got me good. I had to get a glass of whiskey after that and just regroup. It’s also worth noting Ellie fatally shoots Owen in this scene, adding to her merciless body count. The Mel death scene works on many levels, we see Ellie stab how many unsuspecting people in the neck? How many of them were likely pregnant? It’s a dark rabbit hole to go into and Mel’s death is further punctuated much later in the game when we switch to Abby. Mel is talking to her about how she could never be able to do what she did to Joel despite believing he deserved it. Mel is not one of them, she’s not an Abby and she’s no Ellie, and yet she died just as brutally as their victims in the end. It’s this endless cycle of violence. We kill so much in this game that we, like Ellie, lose sight of what’s really worth it in the end. Will so much death bring that much closure?

When Dina is pleading her not to chase after Abby after they’ve settled down nicely with a child and the farm of her dreams, you already see the cycle of violence has become senseless. Follow this:

  •   Abby killed Joel.
  •  But Joel killed her dad and along with it the dreams of the fireflies.
  •  Still, Abby spares Ellie and Tommy.
  •  Ellie kills all of Abby’s friends, except thankfully Lev.
  •  Abby unceremoniously kills Jesse, but spares Tommy again.

Why continue this cycle? Ellie is consumed with so much darkness, fueled by her PTSD and Tommy’s horrific timing in egging her on at the farm. The things I yelled at the TV would be too incomprehensible to write in words. Still, no matter how loud I yelled out to Ellie, she didn’t listen to me and she didn’t listen to Dina either. This is another incredibly dark moment, as we see Ellie slip away from an unsuspecting, sleeping Dina and their kid, never to return to a lively house ever again. It’s these moments in the Last of Us Part II that really makes you appreciate the boldness and risks undertaken by Naughty Dog. How dark is too dark? Should Ellie have died? Should she have murdered Abby? What do you think should have happened to our characters? Leave your comments and theories down below.

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