The Last Of Us Part 2 Proved Me Wrong, So Why Can’t Another Sequel

Neil Druckmann has said The Last of Us still has more stories to tell with its world and characters, meaning that Naughty Dog likely hasn’t watered the miserable well of narrative prestige dry just yet. If anything, it’s just getting started. The Last of Us Part 1 arrived on the PS5 back in 2022, and we are just days away from the HBO adaptation taking over our lives.

Joel and Ellie’s post-apocalyptic adventure is more relevant than ever, and who could blame Sony and Naughty Dog for grabbing this bull by the horns and doing whatever possible when it comes to more games, comics, shows, films, or whatever else spawns from it. I’d be lying to say I’m entirely on board with all this, and would much prefer the studio revisit Uncharted or explore new ideas instead of returning again and again to a relatively generic execution of a zombie outbreak. It’s been done so many times before, albeit never this well, so what does a third entry have to offer beyond more death, more misery, and more storytelling pretension.

I thought the exact same thing about The Last of Us Part 2. Like many others, I still think the original ending is perfect. Joel and Ellie’s final conversation is understated, subtle, and ever so tragic in how it reinforces a lie so catastrophic that it will change both of their lives forever. We know the thread will unwind eventually, and the temporary sanctuary Joel has created for himself in fear of saying goodbye to the one thing in the world worth fighting for will spell his demise. At the time, we didn’t need to imagine that ultimatum, our minds filling in the blanks and leading us to a final destination that either mirrored Joel’s own rejection of the truth or went somewhere much darker. For years, the idea of a sequel felt unimaginable, a paranoia it would take away from a game so special that nothing could ever live up to its majesty.

Except it did. It surpassed everything it achieved by daring to ask tough questions and give even tougher answers, even if the journey was defined by bloodshed and betrayal so brutal that even thinking back brings a taste of iron to my mouth. Joel’s death, Ellie’s descent into revenge-fueled madness, and Abby’s realisation of her own justified mistakes are narrative arcs nobody could have predicted, nor convinced that Naughty Dog would ever be brave enough to tear apart the foundations of the experience, thus changing its trajectory forever.

Few sequels have managed to completely transform my perception of certain characters, turning my love into hate so effectively that forgiving them now seems inconceivable. Yes, none of it is real, but the fact it conveys that much emotion through virtual means alone is something no blockbuster of this calibre has ever managed before. The Last of Us Part 2 is a multifaceted epic unafraid to confront its own prejudices, tearing good-natured characters apart in the name of human nature, and it all feels so achingly real. You can’t determine whether anyone in this universe did the right thing, or was justified in taking lives away from so many others, and it's that malleable interpretation that makes it such a masterpiece.

This brings us to the idea of a third installment, and where exactly one might go in terms of its story and characters. The Last of Us 1 was a game about love, The Last of Us 2 was a game about hate, so would it make sense for the third to forge a path towards forgiveness?

Ellie has nothing, returning home to an empty farm where Dina has left with everything she holds dear, only leaving behind a relic to a father figure whose connection she’s thrown away in pursuit of revenge that she wasn’t willing to see through to the end. This small sign tells me she isn’t beyond redemption, and as she walks away once again, could always aim to rectify her fatal mistakes and try to rebuild something, anything, of what she used to have.

Abby and Lev are very different people now too, reaching their objective after avoiding death and hopefully starting a new life together as surrogate siblings. Once again, where it all goes is left up to interpretation, and the one true path will only be revealed once Naughty Dog lifts the veil and dares to take us there. I’d happily go my entire life never seeing another entry in this series, but knowing how phenomenal the second game managed to be because of how willing it was to dish out harsh truths and take us to unexpected places, part of me is equally desperate to see the culmination of their respective paths.

Ellie doesn’t deserve to spend the rest of her life alone, and Abby has a right to find new friends and family after all she once held dear was unfairly taken away. Regardless of the perspective, actions taken by each of them were entirely justified, and we aren’t mistaken for agreeing with either one. That’s the beauty of this universe, and how it takes a generic vision of the apocalypse and treats the infected like an afterthought, and how humans are capable of loving, hating, and displaying complex emotions regardless of the circumstances.

I would have saved Ellie. I would have killed Joel. I would have tried to kill Abby. We can hop onto our gamer high horses and act like we’d take the morally superior road, but the reality is, decisions like this aren’t possible to comprehend until we have to make them ourselves. Few games in the past generation have encouraged mainstream conversation in this way, and I’d be foolish to reject the potential a third might bring if it was done right.

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