Note: This is the seventh part of a multi-part series detailing my experiences, observations and thoughts on The Last of Us on PS3. Part 1 can be found here, Part 2 can be found here, Part 3 here, Part 4 here, Part 5 here and Part 6 here.
Day 13 (May 17, 2015)
The Last of Us needed a change of pace after the heavy tragedy of Sam and Henry, and the game makers clearly recognised this when they decided on the events of the next Act. First of all, they moved time forward, changing seasons to autumn.
That’s one of the things the game does extremely well — creating the feeling that there is a real passage of time. Most video games don’t take the time or effort to do that — it’s just one scene to the next — but here it’s important to get the sense that Joel and Ellie are growing closer and that they have been through a lot together.
After a bit of exploration, Joel and Ellie arrive at what appears to be a massive compound with security gates. Their attempt to open the gate prompts another major coincidence (one I can live with) — the reappearance of Joel’s brother Tommy.
This meeting was set up beautifully given that Joel had just said, moments earlier, that he and Tommy did not part on good terms after a difference of philosophies about the new world order. “I believe his last words were; ‘I don’t ever want to see your goddamn face again’,” Joel said.
If you don’t recall, Tommy was the guy who saved Joel’s life by killing the soldier who was about to kill his brother all those years ago, but I guess Joel’s inability to cope with the loss of Sarah, his daughter, drove a wedge between the siblings. As the story goes, Tommy joined the Fireflies after growing sick of the shit Joel was doing to survive. His appearance at this juncture, however, means he must have left the Fireflies, and his warm embrace of Joel when they meet again suggests he has let bygones be bygones.
I know what you’re thinking about right now — Sawyer from Lost!
I swear, the makers of this game must have been huge Lost fans. First it was Michael and Walt, and now Sawyer. I mean, just look at the resemblance.
I don’t know if or when the movie’s gonna be made, but Holloway has to be the No. 1 pick for the role of Tommy. It’s not a huge role, but it’s a pivotal one, and Holloway hasn’t exactly been tearing it up since Lost, meaning he should be amenable to such a role should it be presented to him. A-listers like Bradley Cooper aren’t likely to say yes to such a minor role, so it opens the door for guys on the second and third tiers to jump at the chance.
Since parting ways, Tommy has joined the Fireflies, left the Fireflies, and hooked up with a blonde lass named Maria who runs a compound with her daddy. The place reminded me a little of a mix of all the compounds in The Walking Dead, from Woodbury to Terminus to the Alexandria Safe Zone. There are people working odd jobs all over the place and others seemingly living in harmony. But most importantly, there are horses!
It’s a shame we didn’t get to spend too much more time in Tommy’s compound, which apparently isn’t that safe anyway. Following a grand tour of the premises, the compound suddenly comes under attack by Hunters who have someone made their way in. So much for security. I took care of business and showed these compound pussies how it’s done out there in the real world.
Not long after that, Ellie overhears Joel and Tommy’s arrangement to have Tommy escort Ellie to the Fireflies — since he used to be a part of them and all — and Maria’s stern opposition to the whole deal. She’s a scary woman.
By the way, Ashley Scott, who voiced and motion captured for Maria, would be a good fit for the movie role.
The argument leads to Ellie stealing one of the horses and taking off, which is awesome, because it means Joel finally gets to ride a horse! Joel and Tommy each grab a horse and away they go, and just as I expected, the controls for horseriding are very smooth.
We track Ellie to a bunch of Hunters in the woods and crush them easily. Eventually, we find Ellie’s horse outside a house, and Joel finds her in a young girl’s room, reading the girl’s diary and being astounded by the kinds of things teenagers used to worry about. Remember, this messed up world is all Ellie knows because she was born into it. The diary is one of many subtle comments The Last of Us makes about contemporary society and materialism, along with the movie posters and advertising they come across throughout the game. It’s clever commentary too, not the hackneyed stuff you typically see in video games.
Anyway, this is one of the most pivotal scenes in the entire game. Ellie mentions Joel’s daughter, Sarah, for the first time (she heard it from that loudmouth Maria), prompting Joel to go apeshit and declaring that they are going their separate ways despite Ellie confessing that she does not want to go with Tommy and wants to stay with Joel.
Now, this is my take on what the scene means. Up to this point in the game, Joel’s relationship with Ellie has grown close, but he hasn’t really admitted to what she truly means to him, ie, someone who can fill the gaping hole left by the death of Sarah. In the very beginning, he thought of her as nothing more than a nuisance, a burden, but over time, and especially since Tess’s death, Joel has come to accept her as a companion and someone he can trust with his life.
It wasn’t until his meeting with Tommy, however, that the emotions of the past were dredged up from the recesses of Joel’s memory. From the start of the game, Tommy has appeared to be the stronger one. He was the one who drove over to pick up Joel and Ellie when the outbreak commenced, shielding them from zombies as they fled for safety. He was also the one who saved Joel’s life by shooting the soldier. He was the one who joined the Fireflies to “save the world” while Joel was still caught up in self-destructive behaviour.
It is therefore no surprise that Joel believes Tommy can take better care of Ellie than he can. One the on hand it keeps her safe, and on the other it keeps him from facing his true feelings about her. Perhaps most importantly, the decision shelters Joel from the responsibility and pain should something happen to Ellie, something he cannot bear to experience again. Three birds with one stone.
Ellie’s a smart gal, so she must know a little of what Joel’s thinking, but her assurances — about not being Sarah — comes across to Joel as calling out his cowardice and shirking of responsibility, causing him to react the same way he has for the past 20 years — defensively and heartlessly.
Fortunately for them both, a bunch of Hunters attack the house, and for Joel, it either resets his perspective or gives him the requisite time to come to his senses. Whatever the catalyst, he realises by the time it is to say goodbye to Tommy that he and Ellie are in this together, for better or worse. Rather than hiding from his fears, he has decided that the only way to exorcise his demons is to face them head on.
And so he makes up an excuse about being scared of Maria and sends Tommy home to his wife. As we will see, it’s a decision that will change their fates forever.
Godammit I love this game!