The Sound and The Fury. Let's talk about The Last of Us

Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow,

She should have died hereafter;

There would have been a time for such a word.

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,

Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,

To the last syllable of recorded time;

And all our yesterdays have lighted fools

The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!

Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player

That struts and frets his hour upon the stage

And then is heard no more. It is a tale

Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury

Signifying nothing.

Be warned I will talk about The Last of Us in this post, if you wish not to be spoiled please move on. There are a lot of problems I've had with the Uncharted series. The games had dumb enemies, and despite the sheer amount of effort/money poured into them but the first game felt like the game equivalent of Matthew McConaughey's Sahara, second & third Nicolas Cage's National Treasure when they were clearly going for Raiders of the Lost Ark. Hardly generation defining as many people put them, but let me not keep kicking the horse. Don't get me wrong, I thought the games were good, just not great. Despite how much money is poured into those, it doesn't make up for how boring it is to press up to climb a cliff-face or how B-movie esque their stories were. Firstly, The Last of Us on the other hand is without a doubt better as a game to play than both the Uncharted games. Naughty Dog has riddled The Last of Us with a plethora of systems by expanding greatly on what Uncharted did well & creating altogether new ones for this game. From the awkward aiming mechanic, to the crafting to the stealth, all are vast improvements over its predecessors. While it still suffers from dumb enemies that seem to plague Naughty Dog games this generation, at least this time it had more actual game too it. That said the game did suffer from problems, namely leap in logic the game had you jump through. Your implicit goal was protecting this little girl with all my being, but she always seemed to be running into me awkwardly. She was invisible to enemies & immune to all harm it seems. This happened early on due to the cramp city dwellings, where bad pathfinding would have her constantly run in front of you and cling to the same bit of cover as yourself. But, as the game opened up with larger environments & often times had you playing as Ellie or Joel solo altogether there was less opportunities for bad AI partner pathfinding.

Secondly, and most importantly, Naughty Dog crafted a superior story than anything else they've put out. The Last of Us is telling the story of the villain from beginning to end but it's more than just that. I quoted Macbeth at the beginning of this post because throughout the game, Joel reminded me of a various characters the Compson family in William Faulkner's great novel The Sound and the Fury. There's something beautifully arrogant and domineering to their specific brands of southern chivalry both Joel & the Compson family express toward the equally selfish and blindness of the innocents that are important to them. It was Ellie's unrealistic expectation that Joel would deliver her to the fireflies to save humanity from the blight which drove Joel to eventually commit villainy. In that end we see that we've been playing as the villain the entire time and you get to see how truly barbaric and unyielding chivalry actually is. If only Ellie knew the truth, she would be devastated to know what Joel had done. But that's her critical error, she expects Joel to operate on the same level of innocence as her.

Joel's life is his survival, it is a motion that is concerned with what drives all men:

Ambition
Love

Power

What time Joel has to devote to morality he must take by force from the motion of which he is a part. He must eventually choose between good or evil, but only because his moral conscience demands that from him in order that he can continue enduring and surviving. His moral conscience is his curse he had to accept in order to gain the right to dream.

Naughty Dog has constructed a tragedy unlike any other I've played in recent memory. While so many games try to create a power fantasy, The Last of Us is swimming upstream in the opposite direction trying to deliver a game where the protagonist is trying to regain his innocence.

What did you think of The Last of Us? I'm interested to hear your thoughts.

15 Comments
15 Comments
Posted by wwweh

I think you're really wrong. Joels choices aren't about good vs evil. They're about having something to live for. If Elly died, he'd have nothing. He iterates over and over surviving is having something to aim for. He's final choice is one of complete selfishness. He can't lose his daughter again.

Posted by granderojo

@wwweh said:

I think you're really wrong. Joels choices aren't about good vs evil. They're about having something to live for. If Elly died, he'd have nothing. He iterates over and over surviving is having something to aim for. He's final choice is one of complete selfishness. He can't lose his daughter again.

I think you can read the reactions in a lot of other threads, and you'll see many posters in other threads treating him as such. One man's villain is another man's hero, etc.

Posted by Morningstar

There wasa few immersion breaking things and too much combat, but on the whole I ended up really loving the game. The game's strong sides are so strong that any gripes I have doesn't really matter that much.

Posted by RE_Player1

@wwweh said:

I think you're really wrong. Joels choices aren't about good vs evil. They're about having something to live for. If Elly died, he'd have nothing. He iterates over and over surviving is having something to aim for. He's final choice is one of complete selfishness. He can't lose his daughter again.

I think you can read the reactions in a lot of other threads, and you'll see many posters in other threads treating him as such. One man's villain is another man's hero, etc.

I don't think Joel is a saint but he's sure of a lot better than most of the people you encounter in the game. Even the fireflies are pieces of shit compared to Joel. With the disorganization, how they treated Joel and various notes and recordings you finds from them I highly doubt they would have rendered a cure from Ellie. They were just as shitty as any other gang you came across in the game except they acted under "we're trying to save humanity". That's my take away from it and here is my post about the ending from another thread discussing it:

Killing them off would have been predictable. This was the best thing they could have done and in way perfectly blends a happy and sad ending and speaks volumes about both character's growth.

On the one hand Joel saved Ellie, a girl he now treats as his daughter as evident through his conversation at the end saying how much they are alike and how they would have been friends. He sacrificed everything to get her back and finally he can do more than just survive. On the other hand Ellie knows full well what he did which could cause serious strains in their relationship going forward. Ellie also isn't very cheery at the end like Joel especially when his daughter comes up. She knows she is filling a void now.

Edited by Darji

@wwweh said:

I think you're really wrong. Joels choices aren't about good vs evil. They're about having something to live for. If Elly died, he'd have nothing. He iterates over and over surviving is having something to aim for. He's final choice is one of complete selfishness. He can't lose his daughter again.

I had the same impression. Especially the scene when he tries to escape with Ellie in his arms makes this even more clear. He does not want to see the same thing happen again to his "new" daughter Ellie.

Posted by RE_Player1

I also find it hilarious how people think Joel and Ellie will be back for a sequel. Their story is done. Naughty Dog and the actors have publicly stated that they won't be returning. This game was the complete package and in a sea full of games setting up trilogies and spin-offs it was amazingly refreshing to have a story start and end in one game.

Edited by Rasmoss
@wwweh said:

I think you're really wrong. Joels choices aren't about good vs evil. They're about having something to live for. If Elly died, he'd have nothing. He iterates over and over surviving is having something to aim for. He's final choice is one of complete selfishness. He can't lose his daughter again.

This. He'd basically lost most of his humanity through the loss of his daughter and doing heinous things to survive. Ellie awakens something in him, and he thinks she can help redeem him and give him a reason to live on, but his choice to save her is entirely selfish. Ellie on the other hand is realising that all the terrible stuff she has had to do has taken a toll on her humanity, and she feels the need to make up for that. She craves redemption. "It can't have been for nothing". But Joel takes the choice away from her (just like the fireflies did by not giving her the opportunity to commit to the surgery willingly). This is why he has to lie to her at the end, because he realises that she would not forgive him, if he told her the truth.

Edited by granderojo

@rasmoss: @msavo: @darji: Ellies choice to make it to Salt Lake City is as selfish as Joel's to save her. She's trying to save humanity out of the guilt of her dead friends.

Posted by Darji

I do not want a sequel to this game. It would kill it...

As for the Salt Lake city thing. That is what she has decided on while Joel takes her decision away. But I can feel with Joel.

Edited by Rasmoss

@rasmoss: @msavo: @darji: Ellies choice to make it to Salt Lake City is as selfish as Joel's to save her. She's trying to save humanity out of the guilt of her dead friends.

Sorry, but how is that selfish, exactly?

Edited by granderojo

@rasmoss said:

@granderojo said:

@rasmoss: @msavo: @darji: Ellies choice to make it to Salt Lake City is as selfish as Joel's to save her. She's trying to save humanity out of the guilt of her dead friends.

Sorry, but how is that selfish, exactly?

Ellie coerced Joel into taking her to UEC and later SLC. His lie would have never been effective to begin with without her initial coercion. Thematically in the story he's playing the madman and she the idiot. She's young and innocent, and not fully aware of the ramifications of her actions, like when she rides off with the horse. Joel is fully aware of the potential of his actions, he just starts on a false premise or false idea.

A madman puts wrong ideas together, and so makes wrong propositions, but argues and reasons right from them. Idiots make few or no propositions and reason scare at all.

Ellie made one proposition to Joel, part of it explicit and the rest is implicit through unspoken word: Take me to the Fireflies & I will love you. That proposition is an unfair one to Joel, it's selfish. While it's proposed with LITERALLY the best of intentions(saving humanity), as we know, the path to hell is paved with good intentions.

Posted by Rasmoss

@granderojo: I don't really see it in those terms. Ellie understands herself better than Joel understands himself. She is aware of the terrible things she has done, and what it is doing to her. She faces that reality. Joel on the other hand is a man who represses. He represses the significance of the loss of his daughter - he won't talk about it. He represses the significance of all the murders he has commited. And that is why he does the wrong thing in the end: He does it from a lack of understanding of his own motivations.

Ellie, on the other hand, knows she is probably going there to die. When near the hospital, Joel asks her why she is so quiet. It's because she realises what's coming. But she pushes on, because she knows it's what she has to do.

The Fireflies has lost their sense of humanity too though. In the eagerness to find a cure, they are able to murder an innocent. Marlene tries to justify it to herself, but again, her lack of understanding of herself, leads to the downfall of the fireflies. She lets Joel live. Because she won't fully realise what she has become, she wants to maintain the illusion of still having some humanity, and that makes her not walk completly down the road she has started on.

The "right" thing to do would have been to present Ellie with the choice with all the ramifications possible, and then let her make a concious decision to commit to the surgery or not. But neither side find themselves able to do this, and so it ends in tragedy.

Posted by FourWude

The Last of Us aka The Book of Ellie.

See what I did there. C'mon that was good.

Posted by Fredchuckdave

A guy who's trying to redeem himself wouldn't lie opaquely about what he's done; he's just surviving and protecting someone he cares about; no matter what that means for whomever is silly enough to get in the way. "Crazy man" is an understatement.

Posted by granderojo

@rasmoss: I agree with the body of what you said & your conclusion but your premise is way off in my opinion. Joel is completely aware of his motivation & Ellie only understands herself better than Joel because she's operating on impulse, emotions. She doesn't reason what her next decision will be she just does it. Like chasing the Deer, or running off at the Dam, or stealing from Bill. I don't think you can say someone is aware of what they're doing when they're operating on an impulse.

There's a saying. Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because it's excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.

Both their(Ellie & Joel) big decisions in The Last of Us are virtuous one, even if they could be argued to be selfish, coercive or deceitful, they operate on the best of intentions. You can make rules for vices like "Only take what you need" but what rule do you create to regulate a virtue?

That's the big idea of The Last of Us.