Fans went wild this weekend at the PlayStation Experience 2016 when Naughty Dog unveiled the long awaited sequel to #TheLastOfUs, titled The Last Of Us Part II.
The moody, tense trailer has set the scene for a bloody sequel focused around an older Ellie and her mysterious quest for vengeance. On the surface, it looks like we'll be taking the role of a wiser and more callous Ellie, while Joel takes a back seat. But what if the trailer holds more secrets than it lets on?
Is Joel Dead in The Last Of Us Part II?
One of the biggest reactions that the trailer received during #PSX was when we first saw Joel appear, confirming his presence in The Last Of Us Part II. It looked like while Ellie may be the protagonist of the new game, Joel would still be her companion through the story. But take a closer look at the way he enters the trailer:
As Ellie sings bitterly about how goodness and mercy will follow her, Joel emerges from a blinding white fog, appearing out of nowhere. Despite the scenes of bloodshed and carnage, he's spotless, and as he takes his first steps from the pristine grass into the house, Ellie sings about dwelling on the earth forever.
We never see Joel's face, or indeed anything but his silhouette and back, where it appears as if he's not really aged since the last game. What if Joel isn't really there, not physically at least?
As I Walk Through The Valley: What Happened To Joel?
The grim but catchy song that Ellie sings in The Last Of Us Part II trailer is a piece by folk/blues band Shawn James & The Shapeshifters called Through The Valley, and has some pretty revealing lyrics based off a fairly well known verse from the bible.
The song's a pretty ironic take on the verse, trading the faith in god and a guiding staff for stubborn blindness and a gun. Rather than being about the constant comfort of religion, Ellie's song hints at abandonment and loneliness. In fact, there's one more verse that is pointedly cut off by Joel's arrival into the scene:
Well I came upon a man at the top of a hill,
call himself the savior of the human race.
Said he come to save the world from destruction and pain,
but I said how can you save the world from itself.
Remind you of any group? Perhaps some self proclaimed saviors that Joel wronged in the last game? judging by the Firefly logo on this town filled with freshly dead bodies, Ellie may not be on the best terms with the group that believes themselves to be humanity's last hope.
Is Ellie responsible for Joel's Death?
Okay, we're going to get kind of deep into some symbolism on this one. Ellie's new tattoo was a major focus of fan attention after the trailer reveal. The tattoo was designed specially for The Last Of Us Part II by artist Natalie Hall and features a pair of ferns overlaid by a moth, which symbolise guidance from a spiritual or otherworldly source.
It's not just any moth though, it's an Antheraea polyphemus, or Cyclops moth, named after the mythical cyclops that was struck blind and punished because of his impious behavior that broke the laws of hospitality. Blindness seems to be a pretty major theme in the new teaser, occurring coming up multiple times in the scant four minutes of the teaser:
- Ellie sings about fearing no evil because she's blind to it all.
- As Ellie sings about killing her enemies, blood trickles down her forehead, creating a track of blood over one eye that's revealed at the exact moment that Ellie declares vengeance.
- Joel passes by a body with an eye blown out, just before entering Ellie's bedroom.
It's not definite by any means, but this blindness motif could be a hint as to what happened to Joel and Ellie prior to the start of the sequel.
We know already that the focus of the story will be an inversion of the first part. instead of love bringing two people together into a family, The Last Of Us Part II will focus on how hate destroys. So what if hate has already destroyed someone? What if Ellie, blinded and made short sighted by anger, was partly responsible for Joel's death and is now on a quest for vengeance to alleviate her guilt?
Perhaps the spiritual guidance of the moth is there to represent that Joel's presence in the game is not as a living person, but rather as a ghost. Not a literal one maybe, but as a guilt induced vision that guides Ellie. It's certainly food for thought.
Do you think Joel is dead in The Last Of Us Part II? Got your own theory? Share it in the comments.