This year’s PlayStation Experience event went out with a bang when Sony revealed a brief trailer for The Last of Us: Part 2. Almost immediately, gamers around the world took to social media and online forums to discuss the upcoming game, despite the fact that it’s still in early development and undoubtedly a couple years away.
One of the most hotly discussed topics is whether or not Joel, one of the primary characters from 2013’s The Last of Us, is dead or alive in the sequel. Given that we only have a single trailer to work from, it’s difficult to make a definite assumption about Joel’s fate, but that hasn’t stopped many gamers from sharing their reasoning and evidence for Joel’s passing in The Last of Us: Part 2.
So is Joel alive or dead in The Last of Us: Part 2? Below are some of the arguments for each side.
The Case for Joel’s Death
The PlayStation Experience trailer for The Last of Us: Part 2, which can be seen above, is careful not to give too much away. Naturally, Naughty Dog and Sony don’t want to reveal any major secrets in the first trailer. That said, some gamers have pointed to particular sections of the trailer that seem to hint at Joel’s passing either before or during The Last of Us: Part 2.
One gamer, who goes by nerveonya on Reddit, pointed out a handful of moments in The Last of Us: Part 2 trailer that seems to hint at Joel’s passing. The Redditor points to comments by The Last of Us: Part 2 director Niel Druckmann, who revealed players will take on the role of Ellie in the sequel. This is significant considering The Last of Us focused heavily on Joel as the main protagonist, and while players spent a little time controlling Ellie, the story was told through Joel’s eyes. Granted, while that itself doesn’t mean Joel is dead, it’s part of a larger set of clues that nerveonya and others claim prove Joel’s passing.
Some gamers have taken to examining the exact phrasing in The Last of Us: Part 2 trailer, and claim Joel’s words hint as his departure. Joel very definitely says to Ellie, “you really going to go through with this?” The fact that he doesn’t say “we” is notable. After the events of The Last of Us, there’s no doubt Joel would be hesitant to let Ellie do anything alone, especially when it involves taking on the Fireflies, a tough group of enemies players first encountered in The Last of Us. So if he’s speaking as if she’ll be going alone, it can only mean that he won’t be joining her. And knowing Joel, the only way he wouldn’t go with Ellie is if he’s dead.
Another interesting bit of evidence gamers point to from the trailer is Joel’s entrance into view, which has undeniable afterlife symbolism. The rugged father-figure’s silhouette is bathed in light and is almost too obvious in its meaning, at least according to some gamers.
Gamers also point to Ellie’s motivations for taking on the Fireflies. In The Last of Us, the driving force for Joel was the loss of his daughter. It was that tipping-point moment that helped push him to escort Ellie across the country. Likewise, gamers predict that it’s the loss of Joel that drives Ellie on her quest. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Joel’s death play out in the opening sequence of The Last of Us: Part 2, just as Joel’s loss came during the prolog of The Last of Us. If that were to happen, it would be a tragic yet fitting mirror of the opening events of the two games.
Why Joel is Alive
While the arguments for Joel’s death are certainly compelling, they leave a few holes that are hard to explain away, at least right now. With that in mind, some contend that Joel is alive and well, and will play a big part in the story of The Last of Us: Part 2.
First of all, killing Joel would be too obvious. Naughty Dog is known for creating emotional experiences, and while Joel’s death would certainly be emotional, it would also be cheap. Rather, it would be the true test of a master storyteller to keep Joel alive and allow the dynamic relationship between him and Ellie to continue. In fact, it would make Ellie’s actions of going after the Fireflies more engrossing if she does so against Joel’s wishes and while he’s still alive.
As for the evidence, gamers claim comes from the PlayStation Experience trailer, many gamers have been quick to offer differing opinions. One gamer shared a lengthy post online recently sharing simple counterarguments to those claiming Joel is dead. In terms of the heavenly light encircling Joel, that could very easily be him coming in from outside and the camera focusing on the room, making the light outside seem brighter.
Many gamers claim there’s one major reason Naughty Dog will refrain from killing Joel, and it has to do with the biggest cliffhanger from The Last of Us. At the end of the game, Joel storms the hospital and kills the Fireflies and surgeon trying to operate on Ellie. After saving Ellie, Joel lies to her, claiming she wasn’t needed in the effort to save the human race from the virus. It would be a sin to leave this plot point out of The Last of Us: Part 2, and if Joel is dead, it would ruin the potential conflict it could provide the story. If Ellie learns the truth while Joel is alive and well, the revelation would undoubtedly drive a wedge between the two characters, making the story that much more compelling.
Druckmann’s comments seem to buffer this last point. The game director recently shared that “the first game was really about the love between these two characters, this story is the counter of that. This is story is about hate, through Ellie this time.” Based on the events of The Last of Us, the best fuel for that hate, especially between the Ellie and Joel, is the truth of Salt Lake City.
Many More Theories
There have and will be many more theories and arguments for why Joel is alive or dead in The Last of Us: Part 2. It will be interesting to see how these arguments evolve as Naughty Dog releases more information about the upcoming title.
What do you think about the above reasoning for why Joel is dead or alive in The Last of Us: Part 2? Do you have any other theories?