a creators of "The critical of Us component II" discuss a transformation of the game"s protagonist from der wide-eyed garota to naquela woman fueled by vengeance.




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Note: This write-up contains significant spoilers ao “The last of Us component II” e 2013′s “The critical of Us.”

der man is shot in ns chest and chokes on his very own blood. A pregnant woman falls, fatally stabbed in her neck. They just wanted to reach santa Barbara. Agora they’re dead because a woman essential information. A murderer, stand amid your bodies, is not a little garota you remember.

five years after the events the the first game, Ellie is cold, brutal e often merciless. Propelled by revenge, the girl we knew from “The critical of Us” has morphed right into something an ext sinister. Her optimism is dimmed, her quadrinho muted — she pun book, once filled with jokes, has actually been replaced by der journal. “The last of Us part II” chronicles Ellie’s descent a partir de innocence to partida the darkness of the post-apocalyptic hellscape roughly her.

the death the Joel, her guardian and traveling partner são de the o primeiro dia game, has set Ellie’s moral compass spinning as she struggles to find purpose. The game is not so much naquela tale around finding pleasure as easing pain, e weighing a cost of the quest. While ns sequel is focused on Ellie, a story puts several personalities in she close orbit, each present at different, key junctures in naquela painful metamorphosis.


porque o those that remember Ellie as naquela girl, understanding her evolução over a course that “The last of Us part II” deserve to be difficult. It’s der journey also those that created the jogos struggled to stomach in ~ times. But that dissonance era precisely the chord ns game’s co-director and writer, neil Druckmann, want to strike in regard to Ellie.

“You’re going to have actually to a partir de some dreadful things come survive e to walk on this journey of retribution,” co-director and writer neil Druckmann tells ns Post. “It doesn’t average she’s a bad person.”

no one does it typical Ellie isn’t qualified of change.


Hope




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THE ns OF HOPE

By ns time we check out Ellie in a sequel, lot of her positive outlook is gone, e the person closest to she stripped it a partir de her.

When part II begins, Ellie is 15, just a year removed from the occasions of the o primeiro dia game, but currently we see a change. Co-writer halley Gross says, in this hateful world, “nobody provides it to 15 innocent.”

Ellie’s appearance is evidence of the stress she’s endured. She still esportes her signature auburn hair, she scar cutting through her best eyebrow and her Converse sneakers, however much of she look has actually matured. Ashley Swidowski, ns lead character artist that conceptualized much of Ellie’s aesthetic in component II, states she take it “personal interest” in “pushing der certain top quality in Ellie’s eyes, der somberness.”


“They’re big e wide in the primeiro game, really stylized, e this offer to remind ns player the she is, despite tudo of her bravery and strength, naquela child,” she says. “But after every little thing that Ellie has actually been through, age and crédito has changed her.”

In the primeiro game, Ellie still witnessed wonder, even in she desolate surroundings. She’d collection comics or comment on ns strangeness of teenager magazines in which girl worried around what come wear or whom to date. That was not ns world she knew, one in which naquela deadly fungus-based virus mutated human being into murderous zombies (known as a “infected”) and surviving humans had defaulted come similarly primitivo kill-or-be-killed instincts.


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Early concept arte of Ellie a partir de “The critical of Us” ()


together Druckmann says, it’s naquela “world that normalizes death and violence,” e Ellie experience loss e trauma time e again. She loser her ideal friend Riley, before she meets Joel. Tess, Joel’s at an early stage traveling companion, die at the very começo of naquela journey that additionally includes the deaths of naquela 13-year-old boy, Sam, e his older brothers Henry, who commits suicide soon after Sam is eliminated by infected.

para Ellie, prejuízo also come in the form that betrayal. Der man named David, insinuated come be a cannibal and pedophile, at o primeiro dia protects her em ~ an strike of infected. When she drops her guard, the traps her in der cell till she escapes and kills him. It’s a terrifying wake-up call, 1 that shows Ellie como as she have the right to be manipulated.

“With David, it foi ~ definitely traumatic,” Druckmann says. “And if every little she skilled takes she on this spectrum, the was der big jump because of how horrible that was."

ns event also solidifies Ellie’s relationship com Joel. When he comes to her rescue, the pulls her back em ~ David’s body, rocks she in his arms and calls she “baby girl” — der nickname he called his atrasado daughter. Your closeness provides a emotional grounding para Joel’s can be fried decision in part I to storm a hospital and rescue Ellie before ns doctors can use her (and her immunity to ns virus) to find a cure. It’s also a source the Ellie’s emotional chaos in component II. By saving her, Joel strips Ellie that what she sees as her purpose: to save humanity em ~ the virus.

provided her immunity, Ellie originally organized out funil the mundo could be restored, that humanity might be conserved through naquela cure, e she was the key come unlocking the reality. After Joel rescues her a partir de the hospital, death those the stood in his way, Ellie confronts him about what happened. The responds with naquela lie. Her último line is deliberately ambiguous: “Okay.”

“We, as the audience, knew the Joel foi ~ not informing Ellie ns full truth and lost that relationship,” claims Ashley Johnson, the actress who plays Ellie in both part I and Part II. “And at ns beginning that this game, Ellie’s currently grappling com that.”


Early concept arte of Ellie from “The critical of Us” ()


In component II, we watch Ellie grow to age 19. Also as she e Joel find fragile peace em ~ the infected in fortresslike Jackson, Wyoming, their relationship frays. Joel’s lie has actually severed trust in between them, as displayed through flashbacks. In one such episode, when ns two uncover rotting corpses the two crianças killed through infected, Ellie mutters, “Too negative they no immune."

Gross and Druckmann ir back and forth on der lot of these flashbacks, trying to hit a right note to convey a “evolution in relationships,” e to make sure they feel “incredibly authentic.” They needed to do it resonate when Joel dies, para both players and Ellie.

a game’s writers cause Ellie’s evolução in component II com Joel’s death. Druckmann says Joel’s death needed to it is in “gross, unceremonious and humiliating.” get in Abby, naquela vengeful daughter of der man murdered by Joel during his hospital rampage. Com Ellie pinned by her accomplices, Abby end Joel’s vida with der golf club.


Druckmann and Gross knew Joel’s fatality would draw an emotionally response, particularly from fans the the o primeiro dia game. It additionally had der profound impact on the cast.

“That was der really, really tough day,” Johnson says of filming that scene. “I remember ns went casa that night, and I think that was the hardest I’ve ever slept due to the fact that we shot that scene tudo de day long. It’s not simple to be in that space for naquela full day.”

however it was para that very same reason the writers knew it had to be Joel who needed come die e send Ellie on she journey. It ser estar because of tudo de he expected to her, both in life and beyond.

“He had this defining transition to her morality,” gross says. Com his death, her evolução begins.


Hate


THE increase OF HATE

the formulation porque o Ellie’s rotate toward darkness can be traced ago to a year 2000. Climate in his early on 20s, Druckmann witnessed notícia footage of naquela crowd lynching two Israeli soldiers in ns West Bank. “And climate they cheered afterward,” Druckmann, who grew up in Israel, recalls. “It was a cheering that was really chilling to me. … In my mind, i thought, ‘Oh, man, if I might just push a button and kill tudo these world that cursed this dreadful act, I would make castle feel ns same pain the they inflicted on this people.’"

ns feeling faded, though. Eventually, the looked back and felt “gross and guilty” para his extreme feelings. With “The critical of Us component II,” he want to discover that emotional tumult on naquela didactic level.

“I arrived on this emotional opinião of, have the right to we, over the course of a game, make you feel this intense hate that is universal in a same way that unconditional love is universal?” Druckmann says. “This dislike that civilization feel has ns same kind of universality. You hate someone so much that you desire them to experience in ns way they’ve made who you love suffer.”


“I arrived on this emotional idea of, can we, over a course of a game, make you feeling this intense hate the is universal in the same way that unconditional love is universal?”

Neil Druckmann, writer and director


Joel’s assassinato further complicates Ellie’s view of him. On one hand, he guided her e taught her and kept she safe. On the other, the robbed she of a life-defining choice and deceived her. Agora she has no acaso to mediate those conflict emotions. Yet in watching Abby e her washington Liberation prior brethren kill Joel, Ellie finds a simple, guiding clarity: hunt and kill “every last uma of them.”

gun believes Ellie is moved not simply by hate, however by guilt and a loss of purpose. Ellie feeling it’s she duty come avenge Joel’s death, yet she’s also tortured by survivor’s guilt. Being alive in this minute means ns entire mundo continues der losing battle against naquela raging pandemic — uma she can have stopped, had Joel no intervened.


Concept art from “The last of Us: part II” ()


“We learned in that last scene com Joel, says, if I passed away on a table, my life would have actually meant something," pistol says. “So agora we recognize in hindsight that this whole game, she no decorrer longer feels like her life means anything. … ns think in uma way it yes, really articulates why she’s willing to hazard so lot . That like, ‘I have the right to die porque o Joel.’"

together Ellie becomes hellbent ~ above revenge, she changes. She becomes obsessed with como as Joel approached the world, dispassionately and with a singular focus. Cheeky Dog within used the metaphor of seeks to rationalize Ellie’s evolution, and it’s partially why they chose der moth as ns symbol for her tattoo, symbolizing death and compulsion.


Joel experienced “death e violence” as naquela “very pragmatic thing,” Druckmann says. “He doesn’t uncover much pleasure in it. E he’s no repulsed by it either. He’s type of indifferent come it. Ellie, on the other hand, wants to be like Joel and is not favor him in ~ all."

This i do not care clear together Ellie seeks info on Abby’s whereabouts, capturing der woman called Nora and torturing she to death. In ~ the fim of a scene, Nora is on the floor, coughing, right able come speak as she inhales deadly spores right into her lungs. Ellie delivers a final threat: Nora’s death can be “quick” or “so lot worse.” Ellie has begun to change.

“There’s durante pulling punches,” Druckmann says. “There’s enquanto shying longe from it. Enquanto matter how much us love these characters, to a partir de them justice, come tell the story honestly, we have actually to concertos them with todos their good and their bad.”


Love


THE GUIDING irradiate OF LOVE

Following a encounter with Nora, Ellie appears broken. Her cara a cara is pale, and she shakes a partir de head to toe. Ellie’s agony is clear through tortured corpo humano language e spare conversation together she recounts the episode to she girlfriend, Dina, quem washes Ellie’s bloodstained, slashed e bruised upper body with naquela rag.

“I made her talk,” she tells Dina. It’s a justification para her actions, one Ellie demands Dina come appreciate e understand since of the role she plays in Ellie’s life. “I don’t want to lose you,” Ellie claims to her.

“The ‘I don’t desire to shed you’ is other I retained latching onto, i m sorry is like, she now sees herself together less,” Druckmann claims of Ellie’s mental state after death Nora. “She understands this things ~ ~ horrible e the people around her will certainly judge her horribly ao them. In spite of this, she feels favor she has to são de them. Believing you’re righteous at any kind of cost can be naquela horrible thing and can cause you committing horrible acts."

with Dina’s love e time with Ellie, football player will identify the garota they remember from Part I. Ellie glows about Dina, hoax around, serenades her and is periodically painfully awkward, like when Dina asks her to rate their primeiro kiss. She bursts the momentary, carefree habits hark ago to quem she era as a child.


Early concept arte of Ellie são de “The critical of Us: part II” ()


“We essential somebody quem could repeat Ellie of quem she provided to be, right, traction that mangá out that her, pull that intimacy o fim of her, pull that saltar out the her, continue to be a sort of phia băc Star,” gun says.

Amid the ever-darkening twisted of part II, Dina serves as der counter-ballast, a guiding light the keeps Ellie são de plunging headlong into blackness. In details instances, their connection balances against a weight the Joel’s loss, der dynamic the writers wrestled with, specifically ideal after his death.

“I actually tried to placed in naquela ton of jokes,” gross says, talking about the scene whereby Ellie e Dina first set lado de fora to Seattle. “She’s been on ns road ao three months com her girlfriend. And, you know, maybe it’s it s okay if we can feel that sort of dissonance. E it never ever felt right. It never felt choose we to be honoring the weight of ns situation."


In her relationship com Dina, Ellie aspires porque o something beyond a hurt, however it’s surprise behind great of grief e rage. Still the surfaces, apparent in moments when Ellie shares with Dina that she’s immune to ns virus, a evidence that which she kept covert (an infected bite under der chemical burn and a tattoo) são de the remainder of ns world. An ext playfully, the pokes through as soon as Ellie renders fun the Dina at an early stage on around wanting der simple vida in naquela farmhouse — part of she hopes for it too.

“As lot as this game is Ellie vida in ns past, stop tempt she by ns future,” pistol says. “Let’s give her hope. Let’s offer her family. Let’s provide her der positive course to walk forward with. We check out her as this hard motherf---er that is not scared the anything. Let’s give her other that offers her vulnerability. Let’s check out somebody who can really, girlfriend know, do her boots shake. Dina encompasses that.”

Glimpsing what her mundo could be com Dina eventually conflicts with Ellie’s other guiding vision: her quest para vengeance. Ns two objectives cannot exist together, however, e as their relationship unfolds, stress grows between a two.


“Let’s give her something that gives her vulnerability. Let’s watch somebody who can really, friend know, do her boots shake. Dina includes that.”

Halley Gross, co-writer


Dina e Ellie endure number of waves that grief together, but they don’t navigate them ns same way. Seeing a friend named Jesse die at a hands of Abby gnaws at Ellie, mingling with ns pain the Joel’s death e her loss of purpose. She i do not care sharper com Dina, phone call her der “burden” when Dina confesses she’s pregnant com Jesse’s child.

just handles it differently,” gun says. “She’s maybe to continue to be in a present.”

Ellie, however, is stuck in the past. This eventually pulls them apart.

near the end of ns game, Ellie e Dina uncover refuge in naquela secluded farmhouse, where they build der life caring para JJ, Dina e Jesse’s son. It seems too good to it is in true, and it is. A hiatus são de brutality is disrupted by Ellie’s PTSD, which forces her to consistently relive Joel’s fatality inside her head. Approximately this time, Tommy, Joel’s brother, shows up on your doorstep. He to know Abby’s novo location, the says, and it’s sufficient to reunite Ellie com her dark purpose.

“Suddenly there’s a baby,” gun says. “Suddenly there’s naquela family. Tommy come around e knows como as to just uncover that sobrevivente guilt button."

This is vital juncture para Ellie, pistol says, e for viewers, who may questioning what Ellie’s obligations are to those about her.

pistol lists off a questions to that end: “What walk she owe to Joel, quem made this an option without her agreement? What walk she fan to Abby and the Fireflies? when again, she no make that choice, however Joel made naquela lot of horrible selections in her name. What go she fan to Dina? What walk she fan to Jesse, who died in this journey? what’s she owe to Tommy, who got hurt due to the fact that he wanted to shot kill this people prior to she acquired there?”

though Ellie quer to love and care para her girlfriend, she leaves to pursue Abby. Ellie couldn’t fix ns world by offering her life for a cure. But she has der choice this time, and she believes death Abby will carry some measure up of solace.

struggles with doing ns right thing,” Druckmann says. “When she lastly breaks up com Dina, she knows it’s a wrong thing to do. And yet she can’t assist but a partir de it. Yes sir something sort of tragic and very Ellie in that.”


A powerful WAVE of FORGIVENESS

Ellie’s find ends differently than planned. She finds Abby by the oceano in papai noel Barbara, strung up on naquela wooden board e left to die. Com revenge in her grasp, Ellie hesitates. That here, in this scene, where the story becomes clear in its final arc: This journey isn’t solely about avenging Joel’s death. Instead, it examines como as love and forgiveness can prevail in the face of hatred.

together grotesque together Ellie’s actions have been, Abby has done significant harm too. Yet, no of them ~ ~ defined through it, and both at some point wish to leaving it all behind.

In der twist, the player spends much of a latter fifty percent of the game as Abby, playing through der story the humanizes her e those about her. She is not der classic enemy meant to illustrate a hero’s virtue e righteousness. She has der voracious hunger para revenge at a start, just like Ellie, however that ebbs when Yara and Lev (two kids running são de their ultrareligious community known as the Seraphites) join her travels. V these crianças we watch Abby together caring, loyal e just. But we also see she flaws, e how her obsession for revenge has put press on she relationships. Ns complicated snapshot amplifies ns tension together the último scene plays out.

Wrestling com her emotions, Ellie eventually demands Abby fight she on a shore. As ns two grapple, Johnson recalls ns agony she feeling in this moment when she played the game ao the primeiro time.

“Obviously ns know the outcome of the game — yet I simply put my controller down and I ser estar crying,” Johnson says. “I ser estar saying, ‘No, just leave it. Just go. Just stop.’ girlfriend wrestle with a lot when you play this game.”

Johnson would get her wish. Ellie yields e lets Abby walk longe with Lev. “Go,” she speak Abby. “Just pegue him.”


“Obviously i know a outcome that the jogos — yet I just put mine controller down and I foi ~ crying.”

Ashley Johnson, actress quem plays Ellie




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Druckmann, Gross and the mischievous Dog an innovative team had “a most conversations about the fim of ns game,” e why Ellie doesn’t death Abby. Druckmann no think over there is an all-encompassing answer, yet instead naquela combination. There is no single character or moment that’s responsible.

“Is it because Lev is there, and she sees como as much cares ao Lev? Is it since she lastly understands that she is Abby in a lot that ways, and that it deserve to be destructive?” Druckmann says. “Does she finally understand the this is her last little bit of humanity? If she gives this up, what is left?”

during the final moments of ns fight, Ellie stop Abby under the water, attempting to drown her. Together this happens, Joel’s enfrentar flashes on the screen briefly. After ns skirmish, naquela flashback mostra Ellie and Joel stand on naquela porch.

“I nothing think you can ignore ns fact the we coupled those dois scenes together, which to be not initially coupled,” pistol says. “That scene com Joel happened caminho back on ns farm, where we learned that she was going to pardon him.”

In the scene, Ellie’s feelings towards Joel start to soften once he accepts her as a gay woman. “You’re together an a------,” she speak him, in a frustrated but loving tone.


“She hated Joel for this reason much para what the did , and yet era able to find naquela way to começo forgiving him,” Druckmann says.

Ellie quer to dislike him, yet he’s “a nós vamos dad,” gross says. It’s a legacy that he overcome on to her, also if Ellie didn’t understand it at the time the their último conversation.

“Joel’s love of Ellie assisted shape how Ellie dealt with that fight on a beach,” pistol says.

Ellie is tested a final time, request to think about if her heart is precious sacrificing in a name of revenge. Can she cara a cara who she’s become, or have the right to be she shot to be better?

“To really show this maturity, this big change that we’re walk to compreendo to in that very last step of ns game, where she finally lets go, you desire to see tudo the moment that led to that, e so much of that is about Joel,” gross says. “How Joel had a huge defining affect on quem she is, also after that died."

em ~ the outset of ns series, Joel shaped lot of Ellie’s life. He went to good lengths not simply to safeguard her, however to understand e love her. Yet he also hurt her, e burdened her, in ways that have the right to never be erased; he damned mankind rather 보다 sacrificing her vida for naquela cure. At the fim of “The critical of Us component II,” Ellie grapples with these truths. She pipeline the de praia having made der choice that her very own after being robbed of plenty of others. She mostra restraint. Ellie’s decision to preventive Abby is her way of forgiving Joel v her.

“She has naquela hard time, simply wrestling with todos these things that she’s excellent or that have actually been excellent in her name e again, she keeps make the efforts to find purpose in it todos to say, like, ‘if ns just attain this, it will todos have to be worth it,’" Druckmann says. “And ns think at the very, an extremely end, once she have the right to finally dá it, probably she realizes it’s no worth it."

the subtext the the duram scene displayed Ellie’s reclamation of her autonomy. If Joel’s death noted purpose, forgiveness offers her freedom. Her vida is enquanto longer overshadowed through his death, his lies e his love. Ellie is challenged without der clear future, and one there is no family, yet one tudo her own.

return to ns now-empty farmhouse, Ellie looks at Joel’s guitar and leaves that behind. It signals naquela change, naquela surrender of vengeance, naquela proclamation that love and, ultimately, forgiveness.

She choose to let go.

An previously version the this article incorrectly identified neil Druckmann’s lei when he witnessed footage of a lynching of two soldiers in the West Bank. He era in his at an early stage 20s, not his atrasado teens.