This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us Part 2.
Completing The Last of Us Part 2 offered me a huge sense of relief, among many other emotions. Not only that I could now trawl the Internet without the constant threat of coming across contextless leaks which have wrongly and frustratingly soured the opinions of many who have come across them, but also relief in that the long-awaited sequel is in fact a phenomenal achievement in video games and not the disaster some claim. It’s an almost perfect examination of the cycle of violence in a medium where such things are often mishandled or ignored. Everything it does is intentional, including the feelings of hate you’ll feel towards some characters and events as they occur, but as you continue playing and writer/director Neil Druckmann slowly shows you all the cards in his hand, a sequence of epiphanies follow which alter your perspective on such characters and actions forever. It’s a game that brilliantly messes with player agency and while it begins as a game about hate, it ends as a game about forgiveness and love, with just the right amount of ambiguity.
If the end of The Last of Us Part 2 is the final note of the franchise then I’ll be completely content with that decision. However, despite my only significant issue with the game being the slightly slow pacing (it took me a whopping 32 hours to complete), I can’t help but selfishly desire more. Druckmann has stated that no DLC is planned for the game but I can’t help feeling that there are potentially meaningful stories left to tell, whether as a sequel, an expansion or even in another storytelling medium, like the American Dreams comic-book. And let’s not forget that Druckmann has lied about this in the past. He recently revealed he began planning Part 2 at the same time as the Left Behind DLC for the first game and yet denied that a sequel would be coming. So, with that in mind, let’s look at four potential stories in the world of The Last of Us just waiting to be told.
As Ellie and Dina make their way through Seattle, they periodically come across the wake of Tommy’s revenge. Having reached the city a day or two ahead of them, Tommy only appears in person briefly throughout the game but his actions loom large. In Seattle he raids the hotel and eventually becomes an antagonist to Abby in that tense sniper section later in the game, and later, when he’s injured and lost everything on quest for vengeance, he persuades Ellie to hunt Abby once more in the game’s final act. Ellie’s relationship with Joel is the core of the game but we can’t forget that Joel hangs like a spectre over Tommy after his death as well. Tommy has been a fairly under-explored character thus far, as has his relationship with his brother. If there’s a tale the game has left to tell, it’s Tommy’s.
I would love to play as Tommy on his vengeful quest and really get into his headspace. Like Ellie, his relationship with Joel was turbulent. At one point he wished him dead and yet there’s a deep bond between them which has only grown in the time between the two games. A DLC could finally shed light on their often mentioned but rarely shown relationship by employing the same flashback narrative techniques as the first game’s DLC – Left Behind. As Tommy butchers his way through the WLF towards the aquarium, we could flash back to him and Joel before the events of the first game, when he was a Firefly. We could finally see the Miller brothers together for an extended period of time, before witnessing the event that caused them to split apart, further expanding on his personal motivations in Part 2 and strengthening that aspect of the game.
Ellie’s Road Trip.
While the wider narrative arcs and themes of The Last of Us Part 2 are executed masterfully, sometimes the more basic story beats can feel clunky at times. Characters, such as Jesse, suddenly appear at the perfect time from halfway across the country, and the game isn’t concerned with these huge treks across the post-apocalyptic landscape. For the most part I feel this was the right call because the story needed Ellie to be in Seattle, or later Santa Barbara, and the journey there isn’t as relevant as it was in the first game, which was very much a road trip. Despite this structural choice being understandable, I do find myself wondering about these journeys more than I perhaps should. I’d love to get at least some more information on them, if not outright experience them as DLC. We know from reading her journal that Ellie and Dina travelled through places like Boise and Kennewick on their way to Seattle, although the sombre tone of the journey immediately after Joel’s death might not be the most enjoyable to play. I’d love to witness Ellie’s journey from Jackson to Santa Barbara however, which would feature a stay in Las Vegas and an encounter with a horde at Palmdale, all while she deals with leaving Dina, JJ and her happy life behind.
I remember back in 2013 when many gamers, including myself, thought that the notes written by Ishmael spread across the first game were teasing DLC featuring the character, and although that was incorrect, I find myself falling for the same trap seven years later. Towards the end of the game, Ellie discovers a note written by McKenzie, a former slave to the Rattlers whose husband died by their hand. She has escaped and vowed to return with others, seeking revenge. I would love to experience this story, especially considering that the Santa Barbara location feels so different to anything else in the game and yet we only spend limited time there. Such DLC could shine a light on the Rattlers too. In a game so dedicated to fleshing out its ‘villains’ and making every NPC a character, the Rattlers feel too much like generic baddies just there to be killed. McKenzie’s quest would also continue the themes of the first game and, despite Ellie and Abby hopefully breaking free of the loop, the cycle of violence continues. Maybe even McKenzie could team up with the prisoners freed by Ellie at the end of the game – if they’re still alive.
Abby and Lev’s Epilogue.
The list wouldn’t be complete without Abby and Lev. Naughty Dog does such a good job with Abby’s characterisation throughout the game, from the person you hate because she killed Joel to the sympathetic character whose true nature is on display by the game’s end. It’s shocking that, come the final fight that you desperately don’t want to happen, you’re maybe rooting more for Abby than you are Ellie. Lev is the character that fully unlocks the humanity and the new, better purpose in Abby and their relationship builds similarly to the Joel and Ellie relationship from the first game. After a harrowing imprisonment by the Rattlers and actually being saved by Ellie instead of killed, they make their way through the mist and hopefully to the remaining Fireflies. So, do they make it? The new title screen seems to hint at an affirmative and it’s a vaguely happy ending, but could we see what happens next? As I said at the start, if this is the end then I’ll be content but if Abby and Lev’s story did continue, either as a third full game, DLC or something else entirely, then I’d welcome it with open arms.
You’ll notice a distinct lack of Joel and Ellie on my list and, while I loved the flashbacks of them together during the game, I feel that story has now been told. ‘The Birthday Gift’ is a wonderful chapter of the game and the final flashback before the credits roll is the perfect, heart-breaking note on which to end. It concludes their story together, recontextualises the past and offers hope for the future. Ellie isn’t just angry that Abby killed Joel but enraged that the chance to forgive him was ripped away. She began down that road but before they could reconnect, he was taken from her. The reveal that that was the core of her motivation the whole time was fantastic and, in the end, I feel Ellie managed to move past it and maybe begin on the path of forgiving Abby instead. As Ellie leaves the farm and, in my interpretation towards Jackson, those thoughts of forgiveness ring through her mind but with her now in Joel’s position: will Dina forgive her? I don’t know and I don’t think I need to know.
New content or not, the story and ideas of The Last of Us Part 2 are still dominating my thoughts and I imagine will do for some time to come. But, if there is DLC on the way, what would you want it to focus on? Let me know in the comments and be sure to geek out with me about TV, movies and video-games on Twitter @kylebrrtt.