The Last of Us Part 2 Ending Explained

| June 22, 2020 |

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Photo: SIE/Naughty Dog

This The Last of Us Part 2 article contains spoilers.

The Last of Us Part 2 has quickly become the talk of the video game world. While that was almost inevitable due to the high-profile status of the sequel, the specifics of the experience have inspired a heated discussion between those who feel the game is a revelation, those who believe this sequel is a tremendous disappointment, and those left somewhere in-between.

For now, though, we’re going to focus on The Last of Us Part 2‘s ending. Much like the ending in The Last of Us (which some believe is the greatest video game ending of all-time), the final moments of The Last of Us Part 2 have inspired many to debate its meanings and implications. Others are simply left wondering what it is that they just saw.

So whether you’re left with unanswered questions or you just want a place to voice your own thoughts on The Last of Us Part 2‘s notable conclusion, we’re here to break down the final act of the game. This recap will pick up after the encounter between Ellie and Abby’s groups when their stories finally converge and Abby decides to let Ellie, Dina, and Tommy live.

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Why Does Ellie Leave the Farm?

The beginning of The Last of Us Part 2’s final act sees Ellie and Dina living on a farm with their baby, J.J. It’s never really said, but it seems likely that J.J. was named after fallen characters Jesse and Joel (it also seems apparent that Jesse was even the father of the child). The start of this scene likely occur several months after Ellie and Dina’s last run-in with Abby.

Ellie, Dina, and J.J. seem to be living a quiet, relatively normal life on this farm as they go about their daily chores and share intimate moments with each other. However, the uneasiness of their circumstances becomes apparent when a falling tool causes Ellie to recall a vision of Joel’s gruesome death at the hands of Abby. Soon thereafter, she endures what would seem to be a recurring vision of an imagined scenario in which she is unable to save Joel

Dina is able to calm Ellie down, but it’s clear at this point that Ellie is suffering through some form of PTSD likely caused by Joel’s death, Ellie’s belief that she is at least partially at fault for Joel’s death, and the general horrors she has witnessed in her life. While it seems she is genuinely happy with Dina, she’s also constantly fighting against the weight of the past.

The past quite literally comes knocking soon thereafter when Joel’s brother Tommy comes from the nearby Jackson settlement to visit Ellie and Dina. He informs the two that he believes he may have found out where Abby is after all of this time. It’s clear he still has revenge for Joel on his mind. Ellie seems conflicted about going after Abby, while Dina makes it very clear that she’s angry at Tommy for even bringing this idea to Ellie and trying to interrupt their life.

Not long after, though, Ellie tells Dina that she intends to hunt Abby down. Dina objects and even notes that she can’t put her and J.J. through this entire ordeal. Ellie decides to leave the two anyway, though, as it seems she not only wants to get revenge but may believe that doing so is the only way to end the nightmares and have any chance at a normal life.

Where are Abby and Lev Trying to Get to?

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After the events at the farm, we cut to Abby and Lev wandering through Santa Barbara, California. It seems that Abby is still following the tip that Owen gave her which he claimed would lead her to the location of the Fireflies.

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It’s clear that some time has passed since we last saw Lev and Abby as they’ve grown even closer and they appear to be somewhat physically different. However, it’s not immediately apparent exactly how far removed we are from when we last saw the pair battle Ellie and her band of survivors.

Abby and Lev find the home where Owen said some of the Fireflies still lived, but nobody is there. However, they do find a radio as well as a sheet of frequencies that the Fireflies were seemingly using to keep in touch with each other. Abby is able to use the radio to reach some Firefly members who inform her that she and Lev should head to Catalina Island in order to make contact with them.

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Abby and Lev leave the home and are immediately attacked by a group of survivors who seem intent on taking them alive for an unknown purpose. These survivors are part of a group known as The Rattlers.

Who are The Rattlers?

We’re doing some chronological hopping here since the Rattlers are introduced incredibly late in the game and we don’t get much of a detailed breakdown regarding who they are and how they fit into this story.

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Basically, though, it appears the Rattlers are slave traders. They round up wandering survivors to either sell or keep as slaves. Their exact intentions in that respect are somewhat ambiguous, but the game leaves no doubt as to the ruthlessness of their methods. We see them torture their victims with glee and even intentionally infect runaways.

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While we won’t editorialize much about The Last of Us Part 2’s ending and the overall experience in this breakdown, it should be noted that the nature of the Rattlers stands in stark contrast to the more complicated and morally grey characters and factions we’ve met throughout the game. They’re pretty much straight-up villains.

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Why Does Ellie Let Abby Go?

When we cut back to Ellie, we see that she appears to have roughly caught up with Abby’s location. In fact, she soon runs into two of the Rattlers who captured Abby and Lev. She manages to overcome the pair, though, and even gets one to reveal that Abby was taken to a nearby Rattlers camp.

At that camp, we see even more examples of the Rattlers’ brutality. After killing quite a few Rattlers (and infected), Ellie encounters a group of captured victims who reveal that Abby tried to escape and was taken to a location near the beach. They indicate that she is likely dead.

When Ellie reaches the beach area, she finds Lev and Abby strapped to large dock pillars. They look like they’ve been hanging there for quite some time and seem to be near death. It’s also immediately clear that quite a bit of time has passed since we saw the pair get captured. That seemingly confirms that Abby and Lev’s capture likely happened relatively shortly after their previous confrontation with Ellie, which means that they’ve probably been at this camp for months.

Ellie decides to free Abby and Lev and follows them to a nearby boat. While it initially seems like she’s going to let Abby and Lev escape, Ellie soon challenges Abby to finish their conflict. Abby initially refuses, but when Ellie threatens Lev, the two start fighting.

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During that fight, Abby bites off two of Ellie’s fingers. However, Ellie eventually gets the better of Abby and starts to drown her. It is then Ellie flashes back to a vision of Joel sitting on a porch which we have not seen before. Soon thereafter, she finally decides to let Abby and Lev escape.

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Why? Well, the answer to that question is not made immediately apparent at the time this event occurs, but one thing that does seem clear is that Ellie lost her desire to get revenge for Joel or at least no longer felt that it was worth it. Her decision to let Abby and Lev go also seemed to be at least partially influenced by the horrors that the two clearly suffered while they were prisoners at the Rattlers’ camp. Furthermore, it seems likely that life with Dina and J.J. on the farm may have taught Ellie something about the preciousness of life and the value of being able to start over.

However, understanding the deeper meaning of Ellie’s decision requires us to break down the meaning of that flashback to Joel we briefly see during the fight between Ellie and Abby.

What is the Significance of Ellie’s Last Flashback of Joel?

After she lets Abby and Lev go, Ellie heads back to the farm. However, she soon finds that Dina and J.J. are gone and that Dina has left most of Ellie’s things at the home. Ellie soon sits in a corner of a room by a window and starts strumming her guitar. She quickly realizes that her missing fingers mean she will have to re-learn how to play certain chords, which is a quick and effective way to convey yet another thing that her lust for vengeance has cost her.

It’s here that Ellie once again flashes back to Joel sitting on a porch playing that same guitar. Ellie confronts Joel over his continued interference in her life and constant need to protect her. It initially seems like an odd thing to challenge him over, but Ellie soon reveals that she now knows that Joel “rescued” her from the Fireflies who intended to let Ellie die in order to help find a cure for the infection that started this global crisis.

Ellie blasts Joel over his decision as she believes that dying in order to find a cure would have given her life meaning and purpose. Joel says that if he had to make that decision again, he’d do the same thing. Ellie informs him that she’s not sure if she’ll ever forgive him but that she’s willing to try.

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There are a few things to take away from this flashback. First off, this scene confirms that Ellie eventually learned about what happened at the end of the first game and that Joel lied to her about those events. It’s not exactly clear when she learned that information, but the ending of the previous game did leave some suspecting that, in a way, she always knew.

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This flashback also suggests that Ellie and Joel’s relationship had become fractured somewhere along the way and that Ellie was only just beginning to accept the possibility that the two could eventually repair the damage. It’s suggested this scene occurs not too long before Joel’s death at the beginning of the game, so it makes all the more sense that Ellie would take Joel’s death especially hard given that they probably didn’t have a chance to truly make up before it happened.

Some have speculated that Ellie recalling that moment with Joel during her fight with Abby may have indicated that she didn’t kill Abby because it’s not what Joel would have wanted. Given what we know about Joel, though, it’s likely he would have killed Abby, so that probably isn’t accurate.

Instead, Ellie probably realized two things at the moment. The first is that she doesn’t need to die or deal death in order to give her life purpose. She may think that she “owed” Joel and Tommy, or even herself, by killing Abby, but at the moment, her desire to return to J.J. and Dina was probably much more significant.

More importantly, it’s likely that Ellie realized that Joel’s decision to kill the Firefly doctors and take Ellie with him probably sealed his fate on some level. Joel did what he did knowing that there would be consequences. Abby killing Joel could easily be seen as one of those consequences. However, Ellie didn’t need to continue this chain of vengeance and violence by killing Abby and then potentially waiting for Lev to grow up and kill her. She chose to preserve some of the beauty in the world, which is arguably one of the reasons Joel saved Ellie in the first place (along with his own desire to not essentially lose another daughter).

What’s the Meaning of the Game’s Final Moments?

The final moments of The Last of Us Part 2 see Ellie leave her guitar behind and wander off into the woods. There’s no clear indication of where she is going.

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Some feel that Ellie is heading towards Jackson where Dina and J.J. have likely gone. Her leaving the guitar behind her could be a sign that she’s left the burden of Joel’s ghost behind her and won’t seek further vengeance.

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Others have argued that she could be wandering off to die (or start a new life on her own) and that her decision to leave the guitar behind is meant to represent that she doesn’t feel she can learn to play it with two fewer fingers or, for that matter, trust herself to truly ever change and grow.

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Personally, I’d side with the idea that Ellie is going to find Dina and J.J., but as Naughty Dog has indicated that they may one day make The Last of Us Part 3 if the right idea ever inspires them, maybe we’ll one day get a definitive answer to the questions raised by this game’s final scene.

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