Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for The Last of Us Part II.As any singular story should, The Last of Us: Part II ended in a way that feels contained and conclusive, with Naughty Dog’s developers changing the characters (and the players’ perception of them) through the course of their actions. Should there be no next entry, then it’s a befitting, bittersweet end that posits that the characters simply continued on living, trying to find some kind of peace. But of course, fans like myself can only beg to know what else is in store for the likes of Ellie, Abby, Dina, Tommy, and the rest of the characters we have come to love. In my time pondering possibilities (i.e. staring at a blank space on the wall), and with a full year since Part II to mull everything over, I will share where the possible Last of Us Part III – a likely trilogy-capper – could go.
Stopping myself from getting too into the weeds that is my theorizing brain, I’m not as interested in discussing the location setting and types of gameplay we could see for a third go. We all know Naughty Dog will knock the visuals and gameplay out of the park using this next-gen hardware, and as for location(s), who knows? Maybe they’ll go anywhere from post-apocalyptic New York to now-more-interesting Delaware.
My thoughts tend to circulate more around story and character than anything else, in large part because of where we last left the main cast of characters at the second game’s end. Ellie’s (Ashley Johnson) final time in the game finds her leaving behind her peaceful life with Dina (Shannon Woodward) and their child, all in the name of heading off to California to track down Abby (Laura Bailey) once again – even if it means losing Dina completely in the process. Having found Abby, and after nearly killing her in the final fight, Ellie lets Abby go with Lev (Ian Alexander). Facing the consequences of her actions, which includes two severed fingers, Ellie returns to Jackson to find Dina and the baby gone, with nothing but her own possessions crammed into a single room. Trying to play guitar but unable to hit the right notes, this seems a straight tragedy for Ellie. But what makes the ending bittersweet, and one of the best moments in the game overall, comes soon after in a final flashback with Joel (Troy Baker). The two have a conversation where Ellie once again takes Joel to task for the lies he told, telling him her life “would have mattered” before he took that chance from her. She then says she would like to try and begin forgiving Joel for what he did, putting them on a path to amending their bond, which they never got to fully do together before his death cut their time tragically short.
While her time with Joel is done, it’s in the rest of that conversation where the themes of Ellie’s story could make up her journey in a Part III. Her arc in the first game was about the loss of innocence and coming to terms with what she needed to do with her immunity. In Part II, she’s angry and lost, feeling like all meaning from her life has been stripped from her. I believe Part III could be a continuation of that path, with Ellie’s journey hinging on her search for meaning, realizing that meaning comes not in what you’re able to achieve but in simply living your life with the people you love. She can’t fulfill the sense of purpose she thought she had before Joel did what he did, but she can now find purpose somewhere else, perhaps in life with Dina. A third game could continue right after the ending of Part II, with Ellie heading back into the world, possibly back to find Dina and make amends. Again, where this physically and literally takes Ellie in the game, I do not know. But in terms of theme and character exploration, much of Ellie’s story could likely center on a quest for inner peace and love – a 180 from the spiral of anger and revenge she was on in Part II.
While shifting to her perspective required time getting used to, I ended up loving Abby’s arc by the end, and wouldn’t be shocked if she came back for a Part III as well. Last seen fighting Ellie, she ends up escaping the beach with Lev, and the new title screen upon completion is their boat docked on land with the supposed Firefly headquarters across the water – hinting that the two made it. Much like Joel in the first game, Abby’s story in Part II finds her taking on a sort of guardianship role, setting her on a path toward redemption and leaving her old life behind. Her arc feels more concluded than Ellie’s, but there’s still room for a story with her, one that could find her once again coming face to face with Ellie, both of them in less angry places by the end compared to where they began in Part II. The two have more in common than they think, and perhaps a story could bring them together as they work towards an ultimate goal of forgiveness; maybe their respective partners, Dina and Lev, could make them cross paths and force them to learn to work together. But maybe that’s just my “MCU brain” going off.
Game director Neil Druckmann has talked about how both games are about love, and the many cycles – some violent – love can put a person through. I keep coming back to a third game’s theme that could continue this examination of love by emphasizing forgiveness. Ellie was never able to fully forgive Joel while he was still alive, but maybe she will be able to get that kind of closure with his killer, and in turn seek forgiveness from Dina (who may not be ready to give it). In turn, maybe Ellie is a final piece of Abby’s past she needs to reconcile to truly move on. The second game’s large focus on revenge and general grimness weren’t always easy to handle, and while it’s safe to assume a third game will take place in this established world of violence, there’s plenty of room for a Part III to, more than ever, emphasize love, peace, and the strength of humanity overcoming the darkest times.
He also teases a bigger season that hints at an ending.
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