The Last of Us: Plot/Ending Discussion

Raggedstar

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Pretty much everything I would've said has already been mentioned regarding who was right/wrong. I was discussing this game a lot with friends and other forums, and I ended up just repeating a lot of interesting points here. Really had a lot of fun reading everyone's responses though, as I have with a lot of other responses with games like Bioshock Infinite.

I honestly don't know if I was ok with the decision. I was sitting around afterwards trying to think about it. As mentioned, this is a really bleak, open-ended ending. I'm sure Joel wasn't 100% ok with how it turned out either, but the difference is that regardless whether it was "ok" or not, it was the right one to him (and it was totally in character). Since this game is all about Joel , I can accept that. Glad this didn't end up as some random, shoveled in moral choice for dual endings. But still, even after nearly a week of completing it, I'm STILL not sure what I would've done. I know most people here say that Joel was justified, but at least can acknowledge that it's a shitty situation no matter what.

As a kid (I'm talking about the late 90s) I've always been more attached to Insomniac than Naughty Dog. More love for Spyro than Crash, Ratchet than Jak, and...er...Ratchet than Uncharted (well, I prefer Uncharted over Resistance). Insomniac had the better story and gameplay, while Naughty Dog was always absolutely stellar in colour and animation (look at Daxter move when Jak moves, especially when he spins. LOOK!) The first half of this generation has been pretty much the same affiliation, but then starting after All 4 One came out and Insomniac continuing to not want my money, I've been looking more fondly at Naughty Dog and is the reason why I bought this game full price on release day. And damn it, I'm impressed. I guess gameplay is the weakest part of the game, but only because it's good/functional while the rest is fantastic. Throughout playing their games, Naughty Dog has never really wowed me for writing (outside of entertaining banter and one-liners like in the Jak and Uncharted games), but this shows me what they're capable of. I actually doubted them weeks before I bought this game ("Well, I'm sure this is going to be just like The Walking Dead meets Uncharted but none of the former's gripping story") and I love being wrong in cases like this. Job well done, you Naughty Dogs. Well done.

But I will never forget how shitty Jak 3's story was.
Never.

Brown Cap said:
When I got the the operation room, I actually tried for six minutes to just leave. As if I had a choice, I just wanted to walk away. But the doctor wouldn't move, and no door would open...
I'm thinking - Joel, you selfish sack of shit...
I actually felt something similar. I was faced with the doctor and nurses and I didn't know what to do. I tried to trigger something with Ellie and it didn't work. Pulled out my gun, and they stayed. Shot the air and ground with a pistol to scare them off, but nope. I had a bit of that "sack of shit" realization too. I also tried to shoot them in their feet, but they died (and reacted as if I shot them in the head or chest). It would've been hilarious if this situation wasn't so emotionally tense.

I guess another question would be if you're able to spare the two nurses. I tried to press buttons near Ellie after I killed the doctor, but nothing happened. Worked after I killed the nurses. Is that how you're supposed to play or am I just a horrible person? D:
 

gyrobot_v1legacy

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FoOd77 said:
I am A-OK with what Joel did, because really what good would a vaccine be anymore? Even thinking way down the road, how the hell would the Fireflies, who are just barely hanging on themselves, be able to distribute enough of a vaccine to make a real difference? And that's considering they could even make a working vaccine, which I doubt.
Resistance 3, note how hopeless it was while the Chimera converted everyone, when Hale gave his life and a vaccine was made, humanity actually had chance knowing that they wouldn't have to worry about being turned into biological components for an unfeeling war machine and do what they do best: fight.
 

mbarker

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gyrobot said:
FoOd77 said:
I am A-OK with what Joel did, because really what good would a vaccine be anymore? Even thinking way down the road, how the hell would the Fireflies, who are just barely hanging on themselves, be able to distribute enough of a vaccine to make a real difference? And that's considering they could even make a working vaccine, which I doubt.
Resistance 3, note how hopeless it was while the Chimera converted everyone, when Hale gave his life and a vaccine was made, humanity actually had chance knowing that they wouldn't have to worry about being turned into biological components for an unfeeling war machine and do what they do best: fight.
TLoU was man versus man not Man vs. beast like in Resistance because of this I could see how such a vaccine would cause even a larger collapse of society, especially if the fight is between the established government and a rebel group.

If a cure was made I don't think it would bring a world in this condition together. There is no outside force to make everyone rally together.
 

MustardTiger

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See, I don't think Ellie would have sacrificed herself at the chance to make a vaccine. Not only do i fully agree with everybody else in this thread with their given reasons, but there is another part in the game i noticed on my second play through.

When you're in Pittsburgh, and you reach the highway with all the jumbled up cars, you can trigger a conversation with Ellie where she asks what happened. Joel explains that it was most likely the military that killed them, as the couldn't let everybody through, and dead people don't get infected.

Then they say:
Joel: "You Sacrifice the few to save the many"
Ellie: "That's kinda shitty"
Joel: "Yeah"

So given that, its more reason to believe that Ellie wouldn't have gone through with it had she been given the choice at the end.
 

gyrobot_v1legacy

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And the worst part is that The vaccine doesn't so much as end the Clicker problem as merely neutralize the threat well enough so they can focus on what's more "important". Namely killing Raiders and Military.

@mbarker

I can see your point, worst case scenario, they send the Clickers on the military.
 

OldDirtyCrusty

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I really dig all these discussion threads and i`d like to point out that Ellie never knew that helping the fireflys would mean sacrificing herself. There is this discussion shortly before they reach the hospital. Joel says that they don`t have to do this, they can turn back and go back to Tommys place but Ellie wants to get to the fireflys ("...it would have been for nothing."). She also says that they can do wathever they want after they are finished. Both aren`t aware of what Marlene is planning.

I`m still not sure if Joels lie would have been necessary. Ellies greatest fear was being by herself.
As for saving/ rebuilding humanity: the world seems to be doing just fine without humans. Besides it really looks like the last of humanity is doing a mighty fine job on destroying itself for the most part. Thommys people seem to be the only ones getting their act together without fighting for power like the military and the fireflys or turning into killermachines (hunters, Tess and Joel). There doesn`t seem to much worth saving, sure as hell not the great cause of the fireflys.
 

Gethsemani_v1legacy

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Juan Regular said:
What does the title mean for you by the way? Is Ellie the Last of Us, meaning she is the last hope or the last innocent or something along those lines? I can't really come up with a satisfying explanation for it.
I've taken it to be a literal The last of Us Humans. As several posters have pointed out already, we are consistently shown how humanity is singing its' swan song while it seems nature is slowly reclaiming all that humanity once laid claim to. The title is only informing us about what the game is already showing us.

Is the ending bleak? Yes, kind of. But it also possesses a hint of a potential positive outcome. Joel and Ellie might have forsaken the vision of a grand future with a vaccine but they are trading it for what might be seen as a sustainable alternative: A place in a community that is actively trying to adapt to the new situation. Instead of trying to go back to the things they can't have, they accept the situation and are ready to make the best of it.
 

Zenn3k

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I agree with what Joel did to save Ellie, because the chances that would have worked, given what little they had to work with...this isn't a polio vaccine in the 1950 difficult, this is creating a cure for The Black Death if it existed in 3000 BC. Little to no power, little to no working medical equipment, little to no doctors (and at least 1 less...my bad).

The chances of a cure being found and working? Almost zero. To sacrifice this girl that he had grown to love as his daughter, she looks up to him as a father...someone who if you remember, JUST saved his life (for the 2nd time).

There was no choice, of course Joel had to save her.

Lying to her about it afterwards? Little grey for me. I get why he did it, as she wasn't awake at all and held a high opinion of these people. I don't know if it was really required, Ellie seems like a tough girl...had he explained the truth, I think she might have been okay. She MIGHT have been willing to sacrifice herself...but I kinda doubt it. Either way, Joel didn't let her have to make that choice.

Either way, I loved the game and the ending a lot.
 

Zenn3k

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Juan Regular said:
What does the title mean for you by the way? Is Ellie the Last of Us, meaning she is the last hope or the last innocent or something along those lines? I can't really come up with a satisfying explanation for it.
Pretty sure the title doesn't refer to anyone specifically, and is meant to be a broad way to saying "This is all we have left".
 

Xathos

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Raggedstar said:
I guess another question would be if you're able to spare the two nurses. I tried to press buttons near Ellie after I killed the doctor, but nothing happened. Worked after I killed the nurses. Is that how you're supposed to play or am I just a horrible person? D:
Actually, you ARE able to spare the two nurses. I was trying to look for a way out of that room without killing everybody, and after stabbing the head surgeon with his own scalpel, I getting worried because it looked like I had to kill them. Luckily I saw the triangle prompt over Ellie's body and I just picked her up and left them.

Reading how one of the nurses literally crawls under a table in fear of you and you still shoot em is really disturbing to me for some reason, and I'm glad I was able to just get Ellie and go.

So...maybe you are a horrible person? That or you were so enraptured in Joel's tunnel vision you were unable to see it. Simple Answer? Blame Joel, blame him for everything. That's what I've done. =P

But seriously, I understand what Joel did, but I will forever wish him to die.
 

FoOd77

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You know, reading all these responses, I'm starting to wonder if there's something wrong with me, because I did not hesitate at all to kill the doctors, I immediately melee'd the dumbshit who was waving a scalpel at me, and then bashed the hypocritical ***** who called me an animal's head against the wall (Really, you're going to murder a little girl and you're calling ME the animal???) I spared the guy who was pissing himself in terror though, kinda felt bad for him.

Either I'm utterly desensitized to violence in games, or the game just did a really, really good job of putting me in Joel's mindset. I went through the entire hospital playing like Rambo, killed every last one of those Firefly assholes standing between me and Ellie.

Honestly there were times in the game where I'd come upon two hunters having a really pleasant conversation, kill both of them and thought "Damn, I'm kind of a dick, I could have just went around them." No such thoughts in the hospital, I was angry, and still had a shitload of flamethrower ammo I never got around to using. They brought it on themselves, because nobody threatens Ellie, nobody.
 

Goofguy

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Just finished it myself, doubt any of my opinions or thoughts have yet to be mentioned in this thread but damn... I just have to talk about this game.

I most appreciated the changes both main characters underwent throughout the story. Joel starts as a grizzled, closed off man who treats Ellie like an errand and she's a spirited teenager who relishes the opportunity to see more of the world (particularly the world that was) despite the circumstances. During and after the events of the winter, she has become his surrogate daughter and he gladly takes on the role of protector. He also becomes much more willing to open up about himself and his former life. Meanwhile, she becomes much more reserved and closed off. We don't hear her singing anymore and we only get that glimpse of the former Ellie when they spot the giraffes.

All that rant to say, what a fantastic job Naughty Dog did with the characters. The game may be laden with tropes... so what?

One thing that I thought was open to interpretation (unless I missed something) was whether Ellie believed Joel or not at the end. It seems to me that either way works. She sincerely/naively believes Joel because of the trust they've developed for each other or she knows Joel is lying but she's ok with that because they've given each other a reason to live.

Overall, an incredible gaming deserving of all the acclaim it's been getting.
 

mbarker

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OldDirtyCrusty said:
I really dig all these discussion threads and i`d like to point out that Ellie never knew that helping the fireflys would mean sacrificing herself. There is this discussion shortly before they reach the hospital. Joel says that they don`t have to do this, they can turn back and go back to Tommys place but Ellie wants to get to the fireflys ("...it would have been for nothing."). She also says that they can do wathever they want after they are finished. Both aren`t aware of what Marlene is planning.

I`m still not sure if Joels lie would have been necessary. Ellies greatest fear was being by herself.
As for saving/ rebuilding humanity: the world seems to be doing just fine without humans. Besides it really looks like the last of humanity is doing a mighty fine job on destroying itself for the most part. Thommys people seem to be the only ones getting their act together without fighting for power like the military and the fireflys or turning into killermachines (hunters, Tess and Joel). There doesn`t seem to much worth saving, sure as hell not the great cause of the fireflys.
I think that even though Joel and Ellie didn't know what fate was in for them. I think the writers wanted to give the hint that Ellie would have been more than willing to sacrifice her elf to the fire flies. "it would have been for nothing" quote tells me that she is more than willing to sacrifice herself that's why she didn't want to turn around and leave with Joel.

Joel's lie was necessary to convince Ellie that her sacrifice ment something. Did Ellie belive him? Who knows, perhaps she wanted to belive him because he is giving her a reason to endure. Something she didn't have at the begining of the game. I'm of the belief that Ellie belived him because of the trust formed between them during the game.
 

balladbird

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Oh, Joel's decision in the end was certainly selfish. you can't take one man's relationship with one girl and call it of equal importance to the future of the entire species. Now, whether that selfishness is repulsive or not, that's more where the question lies, I think.

Personally, I enjoyed Joel. It's rare to see a game take on the amoral protagonist without doing it as either a parody of a villain or an excessively dark, sith-type character, and I found the realism in his portrayal rather refreshing. Honestly, cannibalism aside, there was nothing separating Joel from the enemies in the game, except player perspective.

Soldiers maintaining order in quarantine zones by cracking down on people trying to leave it? Perfectly reasonable, probably more noble, even, than Joel or Tess, though we don't see enough of the governance of the quarantine zones to be sure.

Brigands who scam and rob/murder passersby? Joel did plenty of this himself, by his own admission.

In the end we can fight with Joel because we know what he's fighting for, which is fun, provided you don't ask too many questions about who it is you're killing, what they're fighting for, or why. I admit, during the last area of the game, where I was helping Joel sneak and slaughter his way through a small army of people who were probably the most sincerely altruistic group in the game, certainly more farsighted than he was, and it gave me a sense of guilt I hadn't gotten while gaming since "Spec Ops: The Line"

Still, I don't fault Ellie, and I don't fault Joel. We're only human, and few of us are noble enough to say we could continue to care about the well-being of a world that is now devoid of anyone we care about.

That said, there is ONE thing about the ending that ticks me off: the entire thing about cutting Ellie's head open. hogwash. Fungal infections aren't far divorced from viral infections. Immunity comes from benign strain infections, and inoculations based on them can be created without such an invasive process. Hell, a vial of ellie's blood could probably be cultured and administered to people, giving them her benign-strain infection, and likewise giving them her immunity.

I'm not necessarily complaining about a videogame not being medically accurate, but even a layman knows the story of smallpox and cowpox. it just came off as a cheap device to create conflict.
 

gyrobot_v1legacy

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Gethsemani said:
Juan Regular said:
What does the title mean for you by the way? Is Ellie the Last of Us, meaning she is the last hope or the last innocent or something along those lines? I can't really come up with a satisfying explanation for it.
I've taken it to be a literal The last of Us Humans. As several posters have pointed out already, we are consistently shown how humanity is singing its' swan song while it seems nature is slowly reclaiming all that humanity once laid claim to. The title is only informing us about what the game is already showing us.

Is the ending bleak? Yes, kind of. But it also possesses a hint of a potential positive outcome. Joel and Ellie might have forsaken the vision of a grand future with a vaccine but they are trading it for what might be seen as a sustainable alternative: A place in a community that is actively trying to adapt to the new situation. Instead of trying to go back to the things they can't have, they accept the situation and are ready to make the best of it.
I can actually see it now, I mean the vaccine will simply become another contested resource. If it relies on more immune humans like coal to an electric facility. How many would it take for society to be like it was before? How much more blood would be shed in the fight for another source of scraps? And more importantly, would the clickers become another 'nuclear' option. Withheld until needed to unleash on your enemies?
 

Sonntam

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balladbird said:
That said, there is ONE thing about the ending that ticks me off: the entire thing about cutting Ellie's head open. hogwash. Fungal infections aren't far divorced from viral infections. Immunity comes from benign strain infections, and inoculations based on them can be created without such an invasive process. Hell, a vial of ellie's blood could probably be cultured and administered to people, giving them her benign-strain infection, and likewise giving them her immunity.

I'm not necessarily complaining about a videogame not being medically accurate, but even a layman knows the story of smallpox and cowpox. it just came off as a cheap device to create conflict.
This part pissed me off too.

Why on earth would you waste such an specimen? Make a small hole in the head, take out the fungus and cultivate it. If things do not go as well then you can just go and take another sample from Ellie's head.

But killing her is wasteful and risky. Some scientists those Fireflies are, really.

I raged at their shitty practices perhaps even more than about their lack of moral standards or Joe's rampage.
 

Gethsemani_v1legacy

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balladbird said:
That said, there is ONE thing about the ending that ticks me off: the entire thing about cutting Ellie's head open. hogwash. Fungal infections aren't far divorced from viral infections. Immunity comes from benign strain infections, and inoculations based on them can be created without such an invasive process. Hell, a vial of ellie's blood could probably be cultured and administered to people, giving them her benign-strain infection, and likewise giving them her immunity.

I'm not necessarily complaining about a videogame not being medically accurate, but even a layman knows the story of smallpox and cowpox. it just came off as a cheap device to create conflict.
Unless, you know, the Fireflies were interested in more than just making a vaccine. Removing the entire thing while still attached to her brain would have opened up for a whole host of interesting scientific finds about both the disease and what made Ellie immune in the first place. Marlene even lampshades this in one of her logs at the hospital where she wishes there was another way to make the vaccine but the head surgeon insist that there is no alternative to cutting Ellie open.

Considering how the fireflies have been presented throughout the game, it doesn't seem far-fetched for them to want to find a way to control the infected or just take the chance to further their own goals by gaining more understanding of the infection. Even if that means the death of a 14 year old girl.
 

OldDirtyCrusty

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mbarker said:
"it would have been for nothing" quote tells me that she is more than willing to sacrifice herself that's why she didn't want to turn around and leave with Joel.
Yeah, that`s what many People say and that`s the point were i tend to disagree. To me this sentence doesn`t stand for "i`m willing to give my life" because the game already indicates more than once that both protagonists are clueless about what happens when they finally meet up with the fireflies. "It can`t be for nothing." does stand for the hope to get something out of Ellies immunity that actually helps.
But who knows, opinions right?
 

tendaji

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Raggedstar said:
Brown Cap said:
When I got the the operation room, I actually tried for six minutes to just leave. As if I had a choice, I just wanted to walk away. But the doctor wouldn't move, and no door would open...
I'm thinking - Joel, you selfish sack of shit...
I actually felt something similar. I was faced with the doctor and nurses and I didn't know what to do. I tried to trigger something with Ellie and it didn't work. Pulled out my gun, and they stayed. Shot the air and ground with a pistol to scare them off, but nope. I had a bit of that "sack of shit" realization too. I also tried to shoot them in their feet, but they died (and reacted as if I shot them in the head or chest). It would've been hilarious if this situation wasn't so emotionally tense.

I guess another question would be if you're able to spare the two nurses. I tried to press buttons near Ellie after I killed the doctor, but nothing happened. Worked after I killed the nurses. Is that how you're supposed to play or am I just a horrible person? D:
Actually you don't have to kill the nurses, I know I didn't when I was in the room. I didn't want to. I was actually hoping to disarm the doctor, but then Joel goes in with that surgical knife to his throat and I panicked and quickly picked up Ellie without even addressing the other two nurses within the room. Not sure why it was different for you than me. But the ended felt a bit powerful for me, and I did feel like crap for Joel not being able to give up Ellie for a chance to help fix the world.


Sonntam said:
balladbird said:
That said, there is ONE thing about the ending that ticks me off: the entire thing about cutting Ellie's head open. hogwash. Fungal infections aren't far divorced from viral infections. Immunity comes from benign strain infections, and inoculations based on them can be created without such an invasive process. Hell, a vial of ellie's blood could probably be cultured and administered to people, giving them her benign-strain infection, and likewise giving them her immunity.

I'm not necessarily complaining about a videogame not being medically accurate, but even a layman knows the story of smallpox and cowpox. it just came off as a cheap device to create conflict.
This part pissed me off too.

Why on earth would you waste such an specimen? Make a small hole in the head, take out the fungus and cultivate it. If things do not go as well then you can just go and take another sample from Ellie's head.

But killing her is wasteful and risky. Some scientists those Fireflies are, really.

I raged at their shitty practices perhaps even more than about their lack of moral standards or Joe's rampage.
I thought the same thing at first as well. But then you have to remember, it's been 20 years since the fall of mankind, most doctors were probably the first to actually die (due to being in hospitals during the initial infection), as well as most of the scientists that would work on these. Even though they only truly needed a sample. These guys probably weren't real doctors at all, but maybe some guys who might have been studying medicine 20 years ago with no experience, or not have any idea what they were doing to begin with. It's hard to tell with the masks on their face an estimate of how old they were, but I don't think they truly knew what they were doing to begin with.
 

quinquecirrha

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I didn't even stop to consider if Joel was right until the game was over. I heard that Ellie was in trouble, and just steamrolled through everyone until she was safe. I guess I suppose that's probably pretty similar to what Joel was thinking too.He didn't stop to consider the ethics, he only cared about saving his daughter. With that in mind, I can't call him selfish, or a bad person. Whether or not his decision was the right one, he didn't choose it. He was just acting on instinct.

As far as whether or not Joel should have taken Ellie, I lean towards yes. Of course, there are all the doubts concerning the Fireflies' ability to make, manufacture, and distribute the vaccine, and whether or not it change anything. However, I say yes simply because I think killing a 14-year-old girl is too high a price for any possible benefit there would be. I realize that this is dooming countless lives to save one, and perhaps I'm just letting my emotions get the better of me, but I can't convince myself that the surgery would be the better choice.

While it's a bit of a stretch, this conversation keeps reminding me of the short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas," by Ursula K LeGuin. Basically, Omelas is a city that's perfect in every way, but it's all dependent on the constant suffering of a young child. Admittedly, there's not much of a connection between it and The Last of Us, but it and the question of Ellie's surgery have several similarities, such as the question of whether the needs of the many always outweigh the needs of the few.

There's another question that I've been thinking about as well. Regardless of whether or not Ellie would want to sacrifice herself, should she be able to make that decision? She is only 14, albeit very mature for her age. Still, she's only a child, and I'm not sure if she should be able to give up her life. Then again, in an environment like that the age of adulthood is most likely quite a bit lower. I haven't been able to make up my mind on this. Any opinions?