In The Last of Us, Joel Had It Right

meiam

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Joel is irredeemable, not because he killed the firefly but because he then took the only immune person that we know off and does nothing with her. Talking about Joel vs firefly ignore another faction, the government, they are still around, they have far more resource than the firefly and are most certainly trying to find a cure. He could bring her back to a quarantine area and maybe they'd find a cure without killing her, but instead he chose to take her to a small town where she'll probably die in 10-20 years.

On spec ops, the argument that you're suppose to stop playing has to be the worse interpretation of anything I've ever heard of, since it defeat itself. Either you only consider the game world, in which case stopping playing literally means the end of the world (the main character choose to end the world rather than using the white phosphorus). Or you accept the fact that its a game that you can just quite, which means you accept that the character are not real and there lives have no worth.
 

Flankhard

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"I think it's worth noting that the Fireflies came off as so dumb, useless, and evil that I had trouble feeling the outrage and sadness the writer probably intended."

I read the story differently. The possibility of finding a cure and "save humanity" seamed like a good cause. But through our jurney we had met very litle humanity and also lost alot of our own. I would say that the only thing left of humanity at that point was lying right there on the operating table. So in a sence, by saving Ellie we where saving humanity - atleast that would be how to justify it.
Not to mention she has become like a second daughter - heck if we are going to loose another one - no matter the cost.

I don't think the writers brands the Fireflies as good guys or bad guys. In the end they are just like everyone else, including ourself: willing to walk over dead bodies to complete their agenda. And in a world like that, the one who walks over the most bodies wins - and that would be us. But we can't tell Ellie about that, so we lie and hope she never grows up to find out the truht.
 

luckshot

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I loved the game right up to the point we finally caught up to the fireflies. Then i understood Joel's actions. It really bothered me they went with kill her without getting her opinion on it, or seeing some evidence beyond a bunch of people who don't understand how to not to get bit by the monkeys with the virus.



my ideal end to the game would not have been a combat scene, we have just played a game that was mostly combat. what we would need is a quiet conversation with Ellie, some kind of evidence that the fireflies can actually get the cure THIS TIME, and you have to make a decision to either go for the cure or run for it
The evidence could be vague enough to lead you to question it, but not so bad it makes it look like Dr Fantastic escaped from fall out.


The fireflies actions at the end just really bugged me, but still really enjoyed the game and Joel's character...and Ellie's puns
 

Animyr

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I disagree with Shamus's view on the ending. I feel it was clearly intended to be morally grey and ambiguous, at least in part, and I think it succeed. So while I agree with Shamus that Joel is by no means clearly in the wrong, I also think he portrays the Fireflies as more cartoonish and, well, evil then they really are.

Granted, this is a fuzzy area that can only really be explored though speculation, since the fireflies aren't in the story that much and we only ever really see them from a (neutral/hostile) outsider's perspective, but as I recall that the game clearly shows that defeat has made the fireflies are desperate and angry. Over the last year or so they've watched their comrades die by the hundreds as the military has stated stamping them out (culminating with Marlene's defeated march from Boston), and the cure research has flatlined. Remember that the Fireflies think they're salvation of the human race--(since they seem to be the only organized group still searching for a cure, at least in the US, this conviction is not without basis.) With their defeat looming increasingly large, humanity seems doomed by extension. This fatalistic mindset is heavily implied, and while I think it could have been made more explicit I still feel that it amply explains and justifies, from a storytelling and character perspective, the anger and general lack of respect for Joel's wishes among the fireflies.

Now Shamus interprets the above-mentioned defeats as a sign of general incompetence, but I think it's more a sign of impotence. Being defeated through incompetence implies that the fireflies could have succeeded if they hadn't made bad decisions, but it seemed to me that the game presented them as being more outmatched from the start, and increasingly driven to acts of desperate cruelty as a result. Remember, they've been operating for years and in the early days won several victories; it's mentioned that they successfully liberated multiple cities from the military in years past, and were conducting promising vaccine trials at one point. I got the impression that it was only over the last few years or so that it became clear that the Fireflies couldn't win, that the challenges facing them were greater then their early victories implied. So I don't think it's fair to portray them as pure failures.

As for the CPR scene, the fireflies do have reason to view Joel as a threat. As someone else mentioned, they possibly behaved so callously to Joel because they were suspicious it was a trap (he is a trespasser on their secret base, after all). Also keep in mind that even when they realize who Joel is, they still see him as a low-life mercenary in it for the money--and indeed he was, when the Fireflies saw him last. And besides that, the simple fact that he's not a firefly makes him a threat--as far as they know, he might alert the military if they let him escape. So that might explain why they treat him as a threat even when he makes no hostile move.

Concerning the hasty decision to extract the brain, even if the previous cure research has failed, we know the fireflies have conducted many tests in the past, and these experiments have convinced them that they know exactly what they're doing when they decide to cut open Ellie. Even if this isn't true, I think the Firefles actions are again at least explicable.

In short, I think the Firefly's ruthlessness is a mirror of Joel's own, rather then just a symptom of sloppy writing that has no basis in character. Joel is convinced that Ellie is his last chance to save his own humanity, while the Fireflies think she's their last chance to have humanity, period. I feel that to argue that the fireflies are acting irrationally is to miss the point; their actions make sense from an emotional perspective, as does Joels, and I feel that that's what counts the most.
 

Protocol95

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My main problem with the ending is this: It wants to remain ambiguous but that same ambiguousness becomes part of the 'rules' of the universe. I think different people get different questions for the game. Let's assume this part: The fireflies apparently will successfully create and distribute a cure by sacrificing Ellie. Then most people would form the answer: Joel is selfish by choosing Ellie over humanity. People will then start bringing up arguments about sacrificing her without consent, ruthlessness in wanting to kill Joel, etc. It becomes a question of whether the ends justifies the means right?
Now let's take a look at another interesting factor. The tape about test subjects. Does this imply Ellie could die for nothing? Does the ending then become a question about whether it's alright to sacrifice Ellie to save humanity with a 30/50/70/whatever percent chance of her dying and nothing being accomplished? But then again,

balladbird said:
The fireflies were greedy. If all they wanted was a means of using Ellie's body to inoculate the rest of humanity, it could have been done without killing her. blood or tissue samples are all that have ever been needed to create vaccines. They didn't want to stop at just that. they wanted the unprecedented scientific discovery of a human brain that had functionally created a symbiosis with the parasite, something that was certainly significant, but far from urgently pressing.
Why couldn't the fireflies run safer tests on Ellie? Is the implication meant to be that the fireflies are making a stupid decision or that the fireflies have no other choice to create a cure than to kill Ellie? Is the game trying to be ambiguous in a lot of these things or not? Is it deliberately trying to ask questions that are inherently flawed or not?

I've seen many debates on this and it seems rare to have multiple people in discussion with the same set of facts.
I don't just mean whether they found the tape or not but what they interpreted the tape to mean and it's not just limited to this one factor. I can barely keep track of what I'm saying anymore, (not that that's unusual for me) but do any of you see what I'm getting at? I apologise if my mannerisms seemed aggressive or confusing. I'm not even completely satisfied with the end result of this post but I hope some of it is understood.
 

Darkness665

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Another good read, Shamus. Thanks for that. Even though it is not about a game I am every going to play. If it hits $5 on Steam then maybe. But I would have to pause playing real games and I might not do that. The main problem with the game for me is the entire interactive movie business. I see no reason for it. Yeah, fine they made money and in this country there isn't a finer reason for anything, except punishing terrorists. Gotta have your priorities, even if they are screwed up. Then to have the final result be you MUST KILL EVERYBODY it puzzles me that they can make any claim for interactive at all. Okay, you pushed the button, pulled the trigger but you have no option to let the unarmed doctor survive. At least mutter, "No witnesses" while doing the foul deed.

The goof ball David Cage miserable games and now TLoU are interesting but mostly boring. I read your takes on them and very few others. They are expensive, short and offer very few outcomes, mostly one. Even Heavy Rain has only the one actual ending. At least they didn't shoot the final with different filters for Red Button, Green Button, Blue Button endings.

Now, if you could mix in the AI from MOAR DUMB ORCS with a more open world with flexible endings then you might actually have something worthwhile. Until then, no not really for me.

Also, I wish they would drop the freaking over-priced motion capture. But that's just me and I solved it by not buying those games. The only noticeable difference is in my wallet.

Later Shamus, you keep writing and I'll keep reading.
 

Fox12

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Well, the whole point was that the fireflies were evil, and that they had become the thing they hated. Maybe they had noble goals at one point, but by the end of the game everyone is just so broken that it doesn't fucking matter. I don't think you were ever supposed to sympathize with them.

If they got the cure, then it's clear that they would use it as a propaganda weapon against the various surviving city states and raiders, not as a boon for all mankind. Like real governments, they would probably try to justify their actions, but in the end it would all be about power. Ellie would become a martyr for their cause, even though she had never been allowed to make an actual choice (though she probably would sacrifice herself if asked, it was heavily implied that she knew she would die). The real question asked, at this point, wasn't whether humanity could be saved, it was whether it DESERVED to be saved. Joel's decision wasn't noble, but it was honest.
 

Kinokohatake

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As a father, I had no qualms mowing down any and all who stood between the two. If the game had let me I'd have burnt the building down too.
 

Lil_Rimmy

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One of the biggest reasons I think even letting the fireflies access Ellie was stupid is because of the reasoning of just how shit they are at everything, and how they are basically ruthless terrorists.

Put it this way - the Fireflies are basically done and dead, their power is nil and their science and engineers are almost non-existent. They take Ellie, and they want to kill her almost instantly to get at some fungus. Which means that not only will they have killed the only immune person known to exist at the time, but there's the chance that they won't get anything close to a cure out of it, and even if they do, they then have to mass produce it and somehow get it around the country. And that's all considering if they DON'T restrict access in order to give a big middle finger to the government.

Whatever way you look at it, they are incompentant and cornered. It would honestly be better to give Ellie to the government, at least they have a chance to form a cure.
 

Soviet Heavy

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I honestly don't think that Ellie being the cure would have made a difference anyways. Humanity lost twenty years ago, all that's left are, well, The Last of Us. Those left behind. Say they do get a cure from Ellie. Hell, lets say she even survives their tests and they get a cure. Congratulations, now what? Is that just going to make the zombies go away? Is that going to stop twenty years of raider violence and government crackdowns? No, Humanity is dead, and those left are just limping towards a grave years down the road.

It fits with Joel's philosophy of doing what you need to survive, even if its at the expense of others. You don't try to save the world, you just try to make life a little less shitty for yourself before you die.
 

Vault101

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I never bought that Joel was THAT bad

yeah he's a little grumpy but he doesn't go out of his way to do questionable things ESPECIALLY when most others are marauding raiders

its sort of faux "complicated" morality.....that is until you get to the last part obviously

Soviet Heavy said:
Congratulations, now what? Is that just going to make the zombies go away? Is that going to stop twenty years of raider violence and government crackdowns? No, Humanity is dead, and those left are just limping towards a grave years down the road.
.
by minimizing the risk of zombies you makes things safer for people in general, so they can get on with surviving

Fox12 said:
Well, the whole point was that the fireflies were evil, and that they had become the thing they hated. Maybe they had noble goals at one point, but by the end of the game everyone is just so broken that it doesn't fucking matter.
that sounds familiar...

...like every other friggen cliché

[quote/] The real question asked, at this point, wasn't whether humanity could be saved, it was whether it DESERVED to be saved.[/quote]
of coarse it fucking does....there is no morality in the universe except survival

even if they Fireflies created a dystopia...it would have been better than utter chaos (not saying they were in the right...again lots of factors here)
 

Gladion

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Darkness665 said:
The goof ball David Cage miserable games and now TLoU are interesting but mostly boring.
TLoU and Quantic Dream games are not similar at all. Having well-produced cutscenes doesn't make a game a treacherous "interactive movie". Check out the E3 gameplay trailer from 2013: pure, unscripted gameplay.

OT: Somebody please correct me if I'm mistaken, but I was under the impression that it'd been clear from the beginning that Ellie wouldn't survive the operation. It's the reason why she's all slow and pensive right before the two actually reach the fireflies, so at least she herself seemed to know what was about to happen.
 

JohnnyDelRay

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Thanks Shamus, for that excellent read, and the many other arguments and counter-points brought up here. As I was playing the game, the first thing I thought was "is there a way I can opt out of killing all these people?" After the final scene I wondered how is he going to live with this, risking everything to protect her and obviously caring more for her than anything else in his world, yet at the same time knowing he lied to her about the one thing she really wanted to do with her life, having the guilt of being the only survivor of her friends and all. But it seemed he didn't believe much in the Fireflies anyway. The audio logs are a way of balancing out the guilt I guess, but one can still argue that nobility of "sacrifice one for many" principle.

There was a theoretical questions my friends and I had discussed since the 9/11 incident, which was:
If you're in an airplane, a hijacker grabs someone and has a gun to their head/knife to their throat, but you were in a position to save the entire plane by tackling this guy, but risking pretty certain death to that person, would you act? If that person died, would you be able to look at her family and loved ones in the eye and say "I did it for the rest of us?" In principle it should be easy, but then again it isn't, otherwise it wouldn't be easy to hold up a plane/bank/school/restaurant.
 

JohnnyDelRay

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"Right thing" refers to saving the life of the young girl whom he cared for, more than anything else in the world at that point. There's no arguing that. But the "right reasons" I would say are definitely the opinion of the writer, stated as such or not, that's a given. In this day and age you have to understand that in literary and other media analysis and interpretation, everything is going to be opinion.

In the general scheme of things, there's a legal system for that, as everyone's morals are different and judgement and justice are very malleable things.

Now if you refer to "right thing" as being the massacre of everyone in that facility in order to save that girl, how do you think that would go down in court...the point to argue is whether the Fireflies deserved it for their actions or not. It's a fragile point because they are trying to save humanity after all, but unless you know their ulterior motives (or if they even have any), it's impossible to judge.

Kaulen Fuhs said:
medv4380 said:
Joel, objectively, does an immoral act.
Only if you abide by a moral code in which the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. That it is 2015 and people still believe in objective morality flabbergasts me.

OT: I responded directly to the article, but I'll repeat it here for potential discussion purposes.

"I don't understand this "right thing for the wrong reasons" mentality. Who are you to decide what the "right" reasons are? Who are any of us?"
 

MirenBainesUSMC

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I thought it was the right choice only because I wasn't really convinced that the Fireflies were really up to the task of curing the disease. When you got to the operating area, it didn't look like some advanced medical facility, it looked like a chop shop with minimal elements of tech to do the bare minimum.

Then there was the not so great reception that was placed upon Joel after surviving that dreadful portion of getting through that terrible tunnel. They didn't act any different than the cliche denim jacket wearing thugs whom wanted to eat, kill, maim, or sell you.

So you might as well have saved Ellie and went back to the slowly growing new civilization his brother started. Who is to say she won't grow up to do so any way or that any off spring she may have, or some other person that may be immune will come about? Certainly if you did show signs, the people " in charge" would only end up killing you through their inept leadership and chaotic forms of broken government.

It was hard core though to blast the chick right between the eyes.

The world of Joel was a little too chaotic, I kind of refuse to believe everyone you meet would act like a psycho.
 

MirenBainesUSMC

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I don't believe the Fireflies were doing anything --- certainly they weren't an answer to the broken systems of authority that the safe zones were turning out to be. Its just a bit much to say they were trying to save Humanity.

You need security and stability before you can enact a cure. What civilization were they exactly trying to save at that point? The roaming cannibals, the urban clans that shot people to loot their bodies, or the people they were attempting to suppress with heavy handed DHS like authority?

The Last of US was more than just the terror of zombified creatures --- I think the real point of the game was the fact that the people themselves were more deadlier than the infected. Most of the bad things that happened to Joel and Ellie were because of other human beings -- if they weren't being a problem, they would have avoided a lot of the hairy situations concerning the zombies in the first place.

Kind of like the Walking Dead and The Governor scenario. Sure you made Green Acres in the middle of Zombieville....but at what price? You were most likely better off with the Zombies, at least you had freedom and a choice.
 

Silenttalker22

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Casual Shinji said:
I think the one recurrence in the characters of TLoU is not so much that they're evil and/or ruthless, but that they're lost. Everyone seems to be lying to themselves to make some sense of what's left of the world and humanity in it. Bill is lying to himself regarding how he left things with Frank, Ish is lying to himself when he says he still has faith in humanity, and Marlene and the Fireflies lie to themselves in thinking they can synthesize a cure with what little manpower and expertise they have.

The only person in the game that actually has his head on straight is Joel. He knows that humanity is screwed, there's nothing left to save, and he only survives for the sake of surviving. That is untill the end when he starts lying to himself, since he found a bit of humanity again with Ellie. Ellie in all likelihood would have wanted to die for the sake of a possible cure, because she's just that kind of person, but more importantly, she suffers from a major case of survivors guilt. Joel however takes that choice away from her, because he doesn't want to loose her at any cost. And he does it under the guise of a protective father figure, when really he is just hopelessly depended on Ellie now. It's remarkable how much The Last of Us has in common with the original King Kong.
That's a pretty good synopsis, that I can see eye-to-eye with.
 

CaptainMarvelous

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medv4380 said:
If they can kill Ellie because the life of one innocent girl is less valuable than the lives of all of humanity, then someone in Joel's position would be justified in wiping them all out for trying to stupidly waste the one immune test subject on bad science. After all, the lives of a bunch of belligerent asshole hack scientists are also worth less than all of humanity.
Bad logical flow.

The Fireflies logic is One life lost to save all of humanity it worth it. They're using the basic Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.

Joel isn't justified in killing them because the logic does not invert. Killing a few scientists that could save all of humanity so that he can save one little girl is not equivalent morally. Joel is effectively saying to hell with the potential of saving everyone.

Joel, objectively, does an immoral act. While the others are doing a morally dubious act by some standards they are doing a moral right act by their own morality "The needs of the many out weight the needs of the few."

All that is presented as to why the Fireflies are "bad" is little more than and ad hom, ad hitlerium, Godwin's Law fallacy. Unless you're willing to demonize Utilitarianism as well as a slew of other objective moral codes the argument is poor.
Counter-point: the scientists could POTENTIALLY save humanity but we aren't given any indication that they genuinely know what they're doing. They might crack open Ellie's skull and realise they have no means to replicate the effects now it's dead tissue and the cordyceps just starts growing again. If they know what they're doing they shouldn't NEED to yank out Ellie's brain, a spinal tap theoretically ought to be be sufficient.

So Joel is guaranteeing the saving of one life, Ellie's, as a certainty against the Fireflies POTENTIAL saving of humanity. And I'd say that's morally defensible, Joel doesn't believe in people in general so why would he think they could use Ellie's brain to cure the fungus?

Cos this is what I always think gets lost about the last of us, it's all from Joel's/Ellie's perspective. Maybe they know exactly what they're doing but they're too busy manhandling and threatening Joel to try and keep up their veneer of authourity to showcase it. Maybe Joel did a stupid thing saving Ellie, but from his perspective it's not immoral.
You guarantee one child lives and potentially doom humanity, or you guarantee she dies and potentially save humanity (because both of those are only potential outcomes, maybe Ellie's 'immunity' is an environmental thing that others will eventually gain: We don't know because the people of Boston try very hard not to get bit)