Absolute spoilers for Last of Us I & II
So listen, your boy was out here doing his virtual residency for grad school (cuz everything gonna be virtual for a while…stay your ass at home or at least mask up. You ain’t Ellie yo, stop acting like you can breathe spores). The Last of Us II dropped on the same Friday I started hanging out with my MFA cohort (Randolph College represent!) and sitting in on lectures and what not. So I would be sure to stay focused, I vowed that I wouldn’t touch TLOU 2 until I was done with residency (10 days later). But when I was done, cuz I too, have been waiting most of my adult life on this sequel, I dove right in and basically played that shit until I was hearing clickers in my sleep. What I’m saying is, I’m a little late to the party but at least I brought snacks.
Let’s get a few things established up front: The internet can be, and often is, a terrible, unintelligent, and inarticulate place. Before I started my playthrough, I did a damn good job of avoiding spoilers (I was also on Twitter hiatus to be more productive so I didn’t know all these things would work for me). But I still looked at my phone’s newsfeed and saw that the game was polarizing to folks. Which was intriguing but also a little concerning. Especially since the first one was just about unanimously loved. When I saw there was a change.org going around to change something in the story, I somehow dodged seeing what it was for, but I immediately had a suspicion. I figured Joel, the protagonist from the first game must die in some way, probably a sacrifice for Ellie’s sake. I was right, and I was very wrong at the same time of course. Especially since I had no idea who Abby was yet, or how she was as central to the story that TLOU 2 was telling as Ellie was.
I’ve talked enough shit to open, so let me say this before we go any further: Fuck these dudes, yes, dudes making death threats to actresses and occasionally actors who portray people you don’t like…in fucking fiction. There’s so many levels of distance these idiots have from this shit meaning something concretely in their life to threaten someone from a made up thing that was doing a job, like, what the fuck are y’all doing? What must your life be worth? I have a feeling there’s a Venn diagram between the people that would threaten a voice actor from a video game and the people that say Black on Black crime is the real issue that doesn’t overlap as much as it just makes a complete circle.
But let’s talk about Abby for a second, the daughter of the doctor that Joel killed mercilessly at the end of the first Last of Us. People HATE Abby and I would sort of get it if it were the reason folks should hate her. And to be clear, hate is hyperbolic here, it would be kill if y’all just didn’t fuck with her like that. But let’s cross off the dumb ass reasons that folks hate Abby where they shouldn’t.
Abby Killed Joel
Look, if you want to make the argument that Abby shouldn’t have tortured Joel, then I can hear that. That shit was ROUGH to watch. First, she took Joel’s knee away and then she “Would you Kindly” Joel all over the wall. I kind of wish I didn’t see that shit either but narratively, the brutality of that helps fuel Ellie being out for revenge and basically drives the whole plot of the game. Would a quick bullet to the head have done the job? Yeah, probably. But let’s be clear about something:
Joel earned the fuck out of that death. Hell yes Joel deserved to die and I hope he burns in hell. Yes, I played a lot of those stressful ass hours guiding Joel across the country while he covered, held and shielded Ellie through countless and terrible situations. I even wrote about one of my favorite sequences from the first game that includes my realization that shit, I think I (playing as Joel) am the villain?! And that was WELL BEFORE the end of the game. But Joel did what he had to do to survive. And then, Joel did what he wanted to do. And I’m not going to pretend that Joel’s emotional investment wasn’t a logical turn for him. I think it was. But you’ve probably heard this said about someone complaining about free speech lately: Actions have consequences. Your boy murdered a hospital full of people, a lot of unarmed doctors and literally doomed humanity for one person. You gotta live (or in this case die) with hard choices.
Having said all that, if you liked playing as Ellie in her quest for bloody revenge across Seattle (and beyond…don’t even get me started there), then you can’t be mad that Abby been hunting Joel for years. This is the game, yo (in principle and literally). Ellie can cry for Joel, I ain’t losing the hydration on that.
Abby is Unrealistic
This screams dudebro, so I’m not gonna spend too much time on it. Until the end of time, there will remain men who are very uncomfortable with brawny or muscle, thick women and I’d venture it has a lot to do with their own insecurity about how looking at muscles makes them feel…We gonna leave that right there. But as far as the realism of this, here’s what I know: On Instagram, I follow about four different types of accounts: personal friends, Black performance artists, Black visual artists, and fitness accounts. Let me tell you, Abby ain’t just realistic, in a even more resource rich area when she wasn’t spending days on patrol, Abby could be even more jacked. Abby could be out here doing the Rogue Fitness games if ya know, fuckin’ zombies weren’t walking around.
Folks that have a problem with the existence of Abby and her aesthetic (and how dare she still be a sexual being) really need to get out of their parents’ attic, off their Alienware laptop they bought with the rent they aren’t paying, and visit a gym.
The folks who have listed these reasons as to why they don’t like Abby are probably hiding from the actual reason they should not like her, which leads me to confirming some theories of the demographic of people spewing the hate. If you don’t fuck with Abby, it should probably be for this reason:
Abby is a Bigot
Even though the books began to dip at Feast for Crows, something that was always good and fascinating was the change in our expectations by the time we got to book four of A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones). Even hated characters from the first books end up getting their own Point of View chapters and you end up sympathizing with the character more when you learn their interior. So you expect this with Cersei Lannister when we finally get her chapters. Ok, she been evil af so far, but I’ll learn more and understand her better. Except nah, you learn more and she still a terrible fucking person.
I had a somewhat similar feeling with Abby. You play as Abby for a brief stretch early in the game and even are saved by the dude you end up beating to death. By the time you play Abby again, she is the boogeywoman, the jacked WLF soldier that you (as Ellie) watched beat your pseudo father figure to death not more than six feet from you. But a funny thing happened, I understood why she so desperately wanted revenge on Joel, but I didn’t like her for an entirely different reason. Abby’s faction is WLF or the Wolves involved a bloody territory dispute with the Seraphites. Them whistling muthafuckas. Abby is radicalized, maybe from her father’s death, maybe she joined paramilitary group, probably both. Through her travel to find her ex, Owen, she comes across Seraphite camps and people. Calling them savages and fanatics and backwards every chance she gets.
She mocks their faith, she mocks their aesthetic, and blames them for everything (even though its becomes clear through the narrative that the WLFs broke or gladly accepted the breaking of the treaty over some reckless kids from the other side, killed their leader, torture their people, etc). Abby would’ve continued on that path unless she literally had her life saved by two defectors. And even then, the fact that they are defectors allows you to still kill Seraphites mercilessly. Abby still calls them Scars, a derogatory term for about another two-three hours of gameplay despite the constant reminders not to call them that.
Let’s call a modified melee weapon, a modified melee weapon. In today’s world not only does Abby exist, Abby is the one that shows up on universities after a mass shooting to counter protest with her AR-15 screaming about her Second Amendment rights. Abby thinks the police are keeping us safe and that …let’s call them Scars…hurt their own protest by destroying “their own neighborhood.” Its laughable that folks think Abby doesn’t exist, cuz you KNOW Abby. A few of them. They are on the other side of the spectrum from Karen. Abby doesn’t call the cops on you in the park. Abby got a badge a long time ago and thinks chokeholds are absolutely necessary.
The elephant in the room is yes, the Seraphites are shitty folks too. The game is really committed to “some bad on both sides” narrative as the Wolves are the manifest destiny group of aggression an annihilation, but the Seraphites are the evangelical religious nuts with an extreme intolerance of how people self-identify. The Seraphites make women into concubines and breeders against their choice. Yeah, we get it writers, fuck those people too (very interesting how Abby has a learning curve with calling the group by their actual name but never slips up and misgenders Lev). But let’s be clear, Abby don’t know any of that when she was trampling through their camps and condemning them. They were just different than her and her people, so it was fuck them on site.
In a weird way, because apparently in TLOU 2 world, factions matter but race does not, we get to see Abby’s rehabilitation as a human taking care of two Asian characters. And she becomes a white savior. Literally, doing everything she can to save them…even though she hated them five minutes ago. But not because she had an epiphany about the hateful war they were part of (no, Owen had that epiphany), but because they saved her life and now, they became her people.
Let me be real with y’all, I was over the reformed bigot story a decade ago, let alone in this hellscape climate of 2020. I’m not trying to hear this sympathy for the devil shit now, let alone play through a game that forces that narrative and calls itself clever. I’m glad that Neil Druckman and the rest of the TLOU 2 staff believe that A) Bigots just need the right motivation to become more accepting people and B) Once bigots are shown the way, they will do anything for the people they previously hated. Me personally, I’m over that shit. Marginalized folks don’t get the luxury of epiphany. We conform; either understand the landscape earlier or we suffer mightily for it. I ain’t fuckin’ with Abby like that man, but she earned that revenge. And when she gets to the Firefly camp, I hope they got some whey protein for her put that muscle back on.
If you want an overall review of the game, check out this post from another BNP member.