Just finished the last of us and had to write my thoughts down when I probably should be sleeping instead.
Soooo gameplay and visually aside, narratively speaking "the last of us" is a brave venture (got ballzzz). It's not that the narrative is super rich in hours and filled with depth. Much time is spent killing waves after waves of enemies while collecting supplies, and also many things are left vague as the story moves from one "unimportant" event to the next. I know by saying unimportant, I'm possibly pissing a few people off. I don't mean that these events aren't powerful on an emotional level, because they sure as hell effected me. What I mean is that most of them serve only as tools to progress the character development, but all this adds up to why the conclusion of the game is so powerful and brave.
You see Joel, quite possibly one of my favorite video game protagonists of all time, is not your regular hero, nor is he really a bad guy. I think most people will agree on that. As mentioned before most of his nature is left intentionally vague and becomes more and more apparent as the game moves forward, that he's not a selfless hero. I think it was pretty smart of the game to open the way it did, with him losing his daughter in that fashion cause you enter the game pretty much on his side, how can you not feel for the guy? But it dosen't take away from the fact that he will torture, lie and kill without a moments hesitation if he feels it is required and is also quite selfish.
Fast forward to the ending of the game. Many players seem to believe that Joel rescued Ellie out of pure love and that her tragic fate didn't seem fair to him. Maybe? Though I think his actions were based mostly on more selfish motivations though. It's pretty clear that Ellie has filled the void Sarah left him with and in my eyes he's developed a very unhealthy obsession with Ellie, he needs her now. Like Joel said the key to survival is that you keep finding something to fight for, something he's been struggling with up until that point, up until Ellie. It comes down to his survival here and now vs. that of possibly mankind. On a side note I also found the "You and Sarah would have been good friends" one way conversation very eerie, if not borderline creepy sounding, I wonder if I'm the only one?
To summarize.. Joel dosen't rescue Ellie because she is in need of him, he rescues her because he needs her. There is no betterment of his character, like you see in so many other similar protagonists. Joel is not here to save the world, but he has always longed for someone to care for since his loss, someone to fight for, so he has a reason to stay alive. Thats why I find the last of us so strikingly brave, cause Joel dosen't do what we would like him to. He dosen't allow the story to end on a happy note, the world is as tragic as it was when we first stepped into it, it's covered in so much grit and blood and it ends with a lie.
Thats my view on Joel and the ending. What is yours? Is he a hero yay or nay? Or is he just a human being caught in circumstances beyond his control?
Btw: Troy Bakers voicing Joel is amazing, you can hardly recognize him. To think it's the same guy playing Kanji is baffling.