×
Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

The ending of The Last of Us 2 explained

The Last of Us Part 2 released on June 19, 2020 and instantly became a contentious piece of media. Some people love it. Some believe it goes too far in trying to teach players a lesson. Some feel it nails the tone Naughty Dog set with the original. Others believe this sequel strays too far from what made The Last of Us so good. Regardless of which camp you fall into, you're probably going to know someone who feels differently, or you may read something online that takes an opposing view. This is that kind of game.

All other facets of Naughty Dog's latest release aside, one thing people are definitely going to be talking about is how it wraps up. What does the end of The Last of Us Part 2 mean? What is going on? If you've played the game and aren't quite sure what to make of its final chapter — or aren't playing it but want to know the story — fear not. Below, we're going to hit all the key parts leading up to the end, and then explain what we think the ending means.

Let this be a warning: This is probably not something you should read if you haven't beaten the game and want to play it at some point in the future. There are heavy, heavy spoilers about the main plot of The Last of Us Part 2, and this is not a story you want to experience second-hand. Now, let's get to it.

The spark that started a wildfire

Less than an hour into The Last of Us Part 2, the game throws its first curveball. Many believed — based on Naughty Dog's few reveals — that Ellie's latest outing would have her either rescuing or perhaps avenging her romantic interest, Dina. This isn't the case at all. Instead, she's avenging Joel.

Early on in the game, Joel and Tommy (Joel's brother) are out on patrol in Jackson, Wyo. The two help a girl named Abby escape some infected, and Abby offers to take them back to the lodge her and her group are staying in. All seems well as everyone meets. When Joel and Tommy give their names, however, the mood in the room changes. Abby shoots Joel in the leg and has others hold him down. Tommy is knocked out. Abby then repeatedly beats Joel with a golf club.

Ellie and Dina, who are also out on patrol, are told that Joel and Tommy haven't reported to their next checkpoint. They go out looking for the two, and Ellie stumbles upon Abby's lodge. She sneaks in and eventually finds the room Joel is being beaten in. She rushes in to try and help, but is disarmed. Ellie is forced to watch as her father figure, Joel, receives one last fatal blow from Abby's golf club.

Just like that, the main character of The Last of Us is gone. And so the story begins.

A story of revenge

From here, you likely have some sense of where the tale might lead. Ellie wasn't killed by Abby and her group. Tommy was spared, as well. The two talk about tracking Abby down and getting revenge for what happened to Joel.

Some in Abby's group wore patches — Washington Liberation Front — that could indicate they're from Washington. Ellie wants to leave the next day and head to Seattle. Tommy talks her out of it, asking her to wait a day for him to talk to his wife, Maria, and make sure Jackson is still protected while they're gone. Ellie agrees to wait, only to discover the next day that Tommy left without her, presumably to keep her out of danger. But there's no stopping Ellie. Ellie and Dina — her now-girlfriend — head to Seattle to find Tommy and, more importantly, to find Abby.

And Ellie's time in Seattle is riveting. She creeps through abandoned buildings. She kills infected. She discovers Dina is pregnant, and is joined for some of her outings by Jesse, Dina's ex and likely the father of Dina's unborn child. She manages to murder almost everyone who was in the room when Joel died. She even manages to find Tommy. The person she can't find, though, is Abby.

But no matter — Abby finds her. And that's when The Last of Us Part 2 flips the script.

A matter of perspective

The Last of Us Part 2 then hands the story to Abby, who the player controls. Time does a little rewind, and suddenly players are back at day one in Seattle, experiencing the same days Ellie did but from Abby's perspective. And wow, does that other perspective help paint a very different picture of what's happening in the game.

Players learn that Abby's father was the Firely surgeon who would've operated on Ellie in The Last of Us. The two were close, and it's made clear through cutscenes that Abby cared very much about her dad. On top of that, it's shown he wrestled with the decision to take Ellie's life in exchange for a cure. He was not a monster out for an answer by any means necessary. He had serious reservations about doing it, but ultimately came to the conclusion that it needed to happen for the greater good.

Unfortunately, he was killed when Joel stormed the hospital in the first game to save Ellie. Since that time, Abby had been training and preparing. She knew if she ever saw Joel, she would kill him. When she got the chance, she did.

The hero

Abby's portion of The Last of Us Part 2 does more than just fill in some backstory. It also gives players a closer look at Abby herself. Abby isn't the militaristic villain she's made out to be in the first half of the game. She isn't bloodthirsty by any stretch. She doesn't go around torturing and killing everyone she meets. In fact, that's not her at all. She's a pretty typical girl in the world.

Abby has a favorite dog at the kennel. She has a complicated relationship with her ex-boyfriend. She has a crew of friends, who she is far more loyal to than the Washington Liberation Front they're all members of. And she cares about other people. In fact, when she goes to check on one friend who's gone AWOL, she's captured by another faction in the game — the Seraphites — and is nearly executed. She's rescued by two Seraphite outcasts named Yara and Lev, however, and decides to take the two under her wing and protect them — even if it means turning on the WLF.

The game goes to great lengths to show players that Abby's motivations aren't black and white. In fact, when you take her entire story into perspective — and you force yourself to choose a hero and a villain for the larger narrative — Abby might surprisingly be the hero. Needless to say, this is not what many people were expecting.

The villain

Abby's largest chunk of story comes to an end when she comes face to face with Ellie.

If there was ever a day from hell, Abby had just lived it. She woke up next to her ex-boyfriend. She helped nurse an injured Yara back to health. She watched Yara get gunned down by the WLF. She managed to save Lev from the middle of an all-out war between the WLF and the Seraphites. And then she returned to her ex-boyfriend's place to find he and his current (and pregnant) girlfriend dead — murdered by Ellie.

You can understand why Abby wasn't going to let this slide.

Abby uses a map left behind by Ellie to trace her back to the theater her, Dina, Tommy, and Jesse are in. Abby breaks in, pulls a gun on Tommy, and has him captive when Ellie and Jesse burst through the door. Abby shoots and kills Jesse. Tommy tries to make a play for Abby. She shoots Tommy in the head. Ellie retreats to the backstage area of the theater, and after a brief fistfight, gets the upper hand against an unarmed Abby. From there, the player controls Abby as an angry Ellie stalks around in the shadows with a shotgun. All the sudden, Ellie is the villain.

The two scrap once more, and despite an attempt by Dina to save the day, Abby is in a position to kill both. Lev, however, talks Abby out of it. Abby and Lev leave, with Abby telling Ellie she never wants to see her again.

Almost a happy ending

Time passes, and The Last of Us Part 2 shows us that Ellie and Dina have returned to Wyoming. Dina gave birth to her baby, and the three now share a farmhouse. Everything seems peaceful. Ellie and Dina are very much in love. They have a beautiful baby to look after. Ellie even seems to have taken up art, as one room in the house is full of her drawings. The game allows players to believe that everyone will get some kind of happy ending.

That's not to say Ellie isn't still affected by everything that happened, however. When Ellie goes to get a stray sheep in the barn, the little critter knocks over a shovel, and the clang instantly sends some terrible thoughts rushing back to her head. She remembers Joel being beaten with the golf club. She recalls every scary moment she's endured, hiding from infected in dark, flooded basements. She clearly has some kind of post-traumatic stress issue that takes hold now and again, and only when Dina comes to help can she pull herself out of it.

It can't end this way

Ellie also can't seem to let go of revenge. When Tommy comes and visits the farmhouse — yes, he survived again — he brings word of where Abby and Lev might be, claiming he may have tracked them to Santa Barbara, Calif. Dina wants to let the entire situation go and move on, and wants Ellie to do the same. For a time, Ellie agrees with Dina. The two now have a baby, after all. They're a family. They have that to think about. Unsurprisingly, this causes Tommy to leave the farmhouse in a huff.

But it turns out that Ellie can't leave the past behind. If Abby is still out there, in Ellie's eyes, she's getting away with it.

In the middle of the night, Ellie proceeds to pack her things, only to be discovered by Dina. Though Dina does her best to convince Ellie to stay — and all but says it'll be over between them if Ellie goes — it's not enough. Dina cries as Ellie walks out the door to once again try and find Abby.

Letting go

Ellie eventually makes it to Santa Barbara. She learns from a member of another faction — because all that exists anymore are groups who want to kill each other — that Abby and Lev were captured. They're being held in a prison of sorts a bit further down the road. Before you know it, Ellie is back to her old ways again.

She explores houses, opens drawers and takes whatever she can find. She battles infected when they appear. She guns down armed men and women she personally has no beef with, but who stand in her way of getting to Abby. And finally, after shooting her way through a building and releasing some other prisoners, she learns where Abby is.

Abby had tried to escape. As punishment, she and Lev both were strung up by the beach and left to die. Ellie locates them, and upon seeing the two in such poor shape, it seems that she might let go of her grudge and allow the two to leave. But she can't.

Ellie forces Abby to fight her, threatening to kill Lev if Abby doesn't comply. So the two go at it one more time.

Ellie and Abby battle back and forth for quite a while, both weak and tired. At one point in the fight, Abby bites off two of Ellie's fingers. Ellie, however, manages to get the upper hand, and is in a position to drown Abby. Then she has a memory of Joel playing his guitar on his porch. This causes her to let up.

Ellie tells Abby to take Lev and go as she weeps on the beach.

Losing yourself

Ellie returns to the farmhouse in Wyoming to find it's almost entirely empty. Gone are the decorations. Gone are Dina and the baby, and all of their things. All that remains is what belongs to Ellie, including the guitar Joel gave her.

There is a song that appears time and time again in The Last of Us Part 2. It is "Future Days" by Pearl Jam. It's the song Joel plays when he first gives Ellie her guitar. It's the song Ellie plays when she gets into a fight with Dina at the theater in Seattle. It starts with, "If I ever were to lose you, I'd surely lose myself." And it seems to take on different meanings depending on who is playing it and when. For Joel, may have been an admission about how much he cared for Ellie. For Ellie in the theater, it likely represented the same — how Ellie felt about Dina.

In the farmhouse, Ellie tries to play this song once more on her guitar, but she's unable to. Her two missing fingers make it impossible for her to play the chords. It's here that the song makes it past the "If I ever were to lose you" part and finally hits "I'd surely lose myself." Ellie lost herself in her quest to avenge Joel, and lost everything important to her. Not only that, she lost two fingers because she couldn't let it go. She literally lost a piece of herself.

Second chances

The final scene in the game is a flashback to the night before Joel was killed. It takes place on Joel's porch as he and Ellie talk. By this time, Ellie is well aware that Joel had saved her in The Last of Us at the cost of a cure for the rest of the world. She hates him for it, as she feels dying in the hospital would have given her life meaning.

But that night on Joel's porch, Ellie tells him — with some of the last words she ever gets to speak to him — "I don't think I can ever forgive you for that. But I would like to try."

The game then returns to the farmhouse, where Ellie leaves her guitar behind and walks away. Where she is going is certainly up for debate, and there will undoubtedly be many discussions about this topic as time goes on. But based on what she said to Joel, one could make the argument that Ellie is off to find Dina. If Ellie was willing to forgive Joel, perhaps Dina will be willing to forgive Ellie.

Looper Newsletter
Endless Entertainment In Your Inbox
By submitting my email, I agree to the privacy policy