There’s no right way to view the ending of “The Last of Us.” To some of us, Joel’s actions are going to read as unjustifiably cruel, and his assertion over Ellie’s agency as selfish. To others, especially those who are parents themselves, it’s easy to empathize with his decision to choose his family first. There are no easy answers, and that’s what gives this story sophistication — but there are times when fans have unfortunately simplified Neil Druckmann’s writing into harmful black-and-white boxes.
Despite glowing reviews and successful sales, the second game in the series, “The Last of Us Part II,” was initially met with a harsh internet backlash. Some of it was partially manufactured outrage from toxic, bigoted communities that we’re not going to dignify. But — without spoiling the details for potential readers, since the sequel’s premise is so inextricably tied to Joel’s choice at the Firefly hospital — there existed a vocal minority of gamers that outright refused to engage with “Part II” from the get-go and were determined to see the game fail up until its release.
This close-mindedness was not trivial —it was vicious. A leaker spread out-of-context spoilers and clips on social media to sway passionate fans to not play the game. Druckmann, Naughty Dog staff, as well as lead performers like Laura Bailey, ended up as targets of internet harassment.
Ironically, the sequel would poetically explore the ugliness of blind hatred that these “fans” exhibited. Druckmann followed up his masterpiece with a challenging, ambitious piece of art that added even more layers of complexity to the original. Thankfully, no amount of death threats or hate speech could ruin that achievement.