The Last of Us EP7: Shiv and a Haircut

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 16, 2014

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 95 comments

Link (YouTube)

Check out that little breath out that Joel gives when he sees the wound, like he’s just been punched in the gut. Again, I really don’t want to encourage this industry of motion-capture obsessed wannabe movie-makers, but that’s really something. It’s like… acting.


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95 thoughts on “The Last of Us EP7: Shiv and a Haircut

  1. Thomas says:

    Huh, the AI really bugged out more than it normally does during that last fight, I wonder why that was? Maybe it’s because the developers didn’t really expect fighting to be taking place in the outside area and so the cover distances were confusing the AI? That scene looked more like the atrocious Uncharted 3 AI (which somehow managed to be much worse than 2)

    I like how getting shot often knocks Joel to the ground, or he’ll clutch at his wound. It changes the tempo of the fights a lot

    1. guy says:

      Could be. It’s pretty computationally expensive to run an AI that behaves sensibly in any arbitrary environment, and it’s a lot easier to make an environment and then slap down markers in places where the AI should go.

    2. mixmastermind says:

      Could be because Josh was playing.

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Oh dear god!The dumpster mechanic in this game.And now that we know they can construct objects that do feel like they are heavy,its even more jarring.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I really dont like how “in the fridge” trope got pushed so much towards its crappy side.I mean,tropes are by definition neither positive,nor negative,its how you use them that matters.And yet this trope is (ab)used badly so often that people practically forget that it can be used in a positive manner as well.Both sarah and now tess were used basically just so our protagonist would have the motive and emotions to do this and act ike this,but they were used in a good way.

    EDIT:Oh,and she did actually take out 2 of the soldiers before they got her.Chris,pay more attention to the text on the screen[/joking provocation]

    1. nerdpride says:

      Err, what’s the positive side of it again? Maybe, because the story is told this way instead of starting about here, or with Gordon Freeman showing up, people feel more sympathy for this guy?

      The adults both appear pretty tough. If I were thinking of a trope, I’d be thinking more of the one where a tough-looking character is killed just to make everything more harsh. The majority of characters (not a large set) have died so far. Would it be the same if the genders were switched? Dunno.

      As far as motivation goes, at this point I’d be like, “cool, let’s run around and have adventures with this kid and do the zombie disease main quest later”.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        “Err, what's the positive side of it again?”

        Neutral doesnt mean just “has both positives and negatives”.

        “Would it be the same if the genders were switched? ”

        Does tom braider apply?The old dude(roth was his name?)is a tough old mentor figurine,and when he dies shit just gets real(once more).

        1. nerdpride says:

          You said it can be used in a positive manner. No?

          I think it’s fair to say that some tropes can be just bad.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Again,Ive mentioned the two examples this game gives.Another is alyx vance in episode 2.

            Heck,it doesnt even have to be a woman.For example,ned stark got publicly executed and his body mutilated(head mounted on a spike,which is also how this trope was usually done in real life),which sparked a massive rebellion and is an inigo montoya moment for arya.

            1. I agree that the (slightly) more neutral fridge trope can be applicable in ways that the explicit cultural critique it derives its metaphor from isn’t. Still, your additional examples seem to be trying to cram more into the fridge than it can really hold, when more applicable tropes already exist.

              Alyx Vance in particular seems like the opposite of a useful example of a character put in a fridge. She’s an archetypal Action Girl, who sometimes becomes a Damsel in Distress for reasons of gameplay and/or plot, but who remains the most active, powerful and skilled human NPC in the series. Not to mention that she can’t be “fridged” in any lasting sense: if she dies, it’s a Nonstandard Game Over. She’s not the analogue of Tess or (despite the shared actor) Marlene, but rather of Ellie.

              Ned Stark isn’t a great example of a “fridge” character either, and not just because he’s not a woman. He isn’t an incidental or unimportant character, nor does he exist primarily to be a source of easy pathos. Rather, Ned’s psychologically valid, dramatically compelling, and self-inflicted tragic fall demonstrates Martin’s conception of Westeros as a place where Anyone Can Die because it’s Darker and Edgier than your typical fantasy world. His actions and his death both matter—within the narrative and outside of it—in ways that “put in the fridge” doesn’t readily convey. Stark’s downfall is rapid and cruel, but hardly perfunctory or arbitrary. And, as you note, the consequences of that downfall reverberate throughout the entire fictional world, rather than acting solely as the catalyst for Arya’s Inigo Montoya complex.

              Speaking of Inigo Montoya, a major reason that character works so well for me is the way that a moment of genuine anger sells the pain which fuels an otherwise comic character. That moment of craft, made possible by everything which came before in The Princess Bride, makes me believe in Montoya, and share in the anguish of his loss even as he triumphs. The casual brutality of the fridge trope is the shorthand approach taken in the absence of that sort of artistry, and I think that’s a distinction worth preserving.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                A character doesnt have to be useless or non-developed for them to be stuffed in the fridge.Furthermore,a character doesnt have to be defined by a single trope(nor do all of their actions have to invoke precisely one trope and not a single more).For a character to be fridged,they need to be killed and gruesomely displayed in order for another character to get shaken by it,and gain motivation to XYZ.Thats it.

                Now,when you create a blank slate,and then fridge them because what else would you do with them?Thats bad usage of the trope.When you have a fleshed out character,especially if its someone that did important things already,and then you pose their desecrated corpse in front of another character,because you have a well established reason for that to happen,thats a good usage of the trope.

            2. Tizzy says:

              I think the name of the trope itself is negative (I know, the name references a specific incident), so, as far as I am concerned, I would only call a death “stuffed in the fridge” if I felt that it was a writer’s hamfisted way of creating motivation in the protagonist. YMMV, of course.

              To me, a key element of the poor execution (litteraly!) is the passivity of the victim. It often happens off-screen, too. Luke’s aunt and uncle in Star Wars is a good example.

              I don’t think Tess suffers a passive fate. Not so much because she goes out guns blazing, it’s a nice touch but not essential. Rather, the fact that she stands up to Joel and calls him out on his bullshit is what sells hernas fighting her status of victim to the end.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                “I think the name of the trope itself is negative”

                Plenty of tropes have names that imply something negative.For the evulz,for example,implies that the bad guy is just a cliche mustache twirling villain that the story is too lazy to think of some smart backstory for.But then we have the joker and the less well known xykon,who are this trope incarnate,yet they are still amazing characters.

                “To me, a key element of the poor execution (litteraly!) is the passivity of the victim. ”

                I agree.But one other important element is the necessity of the act.Brutalizing someone just because you had nothing else to do is bad.Brutalizing someone because a zombie apocalypse broke out,that is ok.

      2. Chamomile says:

        “Err, what's the positive side of it again?”

        Well, there’s two potential definitions to the women in refrigerators thing. The first definition is creating a character whose existence in the world seems to be limited purely to giving the male protagonist motivation. Your partner here flatly does not qualify for that, she clearly has her own emotions and ambitions and if she hadn’t gotten bit she totally could’ve been the protagonist of this game.

        The second definition is that it refers to a female character whose purpose in the story is to give a male character motivation, in which case the partner here does qualify, but that’s only bad after a certain point of over-saturation and it’s difficult to fault any individual work for using it, because if everyone else had gone with something different their using it would have been fine. It is totally fine to have a death of a loved one be used to motivate a protagonist and it is totally okay for that loved one to be female and the protagonist to be male. The only reason we have a problem is because the loved one is always female and the protagonist is always male.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      Probably because it’s used extremely frequently, and like 95%+ of those times, it’s done without much thought or out of sheer laziness or lack of imagination: i.e. for every Gwen Stacy, there’s about twenty Alex DeWitts. Which might be fine for some other tropes. There’s other tropes used just as often and thoughtlessly. But this one consistently portrays half of the population as nothing but props to motivate the other half. That’s why it gets so much flack.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Oh I get why it is so,I just dont like that it is.

    3. Naota says:

      Personally, I see it as a terrible waste of a good character. For them to die (and thus, live) specifically because another character needs easy motivation speaks to a lack of ideas and a very singleminded focus on the protagonist of the story as the only person who matters and gets to really engage the audience. Treat characters like props or game pieces rather than human beings and that’s what they’ll turn out to be, basically.

      Tess is perhaps a more positive example – she gets her own motivation and character moments up until the point where she’s sacrificed to put Joel on the right path for a compelling story. The only reason it even counts as this trope is the heavy focus on Joel as the character everything must revolve around. The fact that naturally, no matter how things might have gone, Tess is the one who gets bitten and he’s the one who has to deal with it and carry on.

      1. Benjamin Hilton says:

        I think there is another reason Tess’ death works, which is that it’s not the sole reason for everything Joel does.

        Arvind pointed out that often a character’s death and the need for revenge or justice is a way to give reason for the violence found in many games. However in this game the reason for violence is survival, and Tess just didn’t survive.

        Joel is a rough guy in a craptastically dangerous world. Even without her death he probably would be fighting someone, somewhere. This event merely informs the way he travels down his path, not the path he takes as a whole, which is true of any major life event.

    4. MrGuy says:

      I mean,tropes are by definition neither positive,nor negative,its how you use them that matters.

      I’d like to see your definition, please.

      I think a given trope can absolutely be inherently positive or negative.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        A narrative tool used to convey a story.Therefore,as any tool,its neither completely neutral on its own,and its only how you implement it that makes it ultimately good or bad.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,youve messed up the tagging.Youve tagged this one with “last of us”,but the rest of the episodes are “the last of us”.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Wow: that one got sorted fast. I clicked on ‘last of us’ … OMG it’s fulla dice.

  5. Isy says:

    The worst thing about this Let’s Play is I really want to discuss the ending, and we are maybe months away from any reasonable point to do that.

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      I know. It’s killing me.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Ok,new rule:If youre going to have enemies with helmets,use different animations for punching them to death,and if you are going to use just one animation,dont have enemies with helmets.Especially if said helmet is a freaking riot helmet that was specifically designed to withstand such things.

    1. Alexander The 1st says:

      It’s been a long time – perhaps these are just very old and weary helmets.

    2. The Rocketeer says:

      You misunderstand. Those helmets can easily stop a rifle bullet, but they protect the face by absorbing that kinetic force and flying off. When you ground the enemy and stomp their face, the helmet has nowhere to go, so it just transfers all the force directly into the face.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        First of all,very few(if any)helmets can stop a direct bullet shot from a hand gun,let alone a rifle.What some helmets can stop is a glancing shot and shrapnel.

        Second,riot helmets(as all of riot gear)is not designed to be used in a firefight,but in a riot environment(as the name suggests),which means it is designed to withstand rocks,bats,fists and feet.

        1. Eric says:

          I believe rocketeer was making a joke by pointing out the absurdity of helmets stopping bullets, but not fists.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Oh..My bad,I havent noticed the helmet flying off that dude.

            1. The Rocketeer says:

              Yep. Jump to 20:10.

              Josh stomps the guy through his helmet, and Rutskarn snarks about it. Then Joel immediately blasts someone point-blank in the face with the rifle, and the helmet perfectly blocks it (and flies off). I cracked right up at the extreme gamey-ness of it all.

              Bonus points for Rutskarn going right back to talking about the useless helmet!

        2. Chamomile says:

          Riot helmets are great for rocks and shrapnel. They’re better than nothing for fists and baseball bats, but they still suffer from exactly the problem you’re dismissing: No matter how strong your material is it will never cause a fist to ricochet. All of that energy is going into the shield, and if that pushes the shield into contact with your face, that energy is then going into your face. It’ll be spread out over a flat plane rather than concentrated into a few points on the knuckles, but it’s still going to hit. And when it comes to boots, that energy was spread out to begin with, so it doesn’t really help at all.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Sure,but helmets (and riot helmets as a subset) are designed to absorb most of the impact force.Thats why they are usually layered,so that the outer layer absorbs most of the force,the inner layer the rest,and the head nothing at all(for low forces,a bike crash or a sledge hammer will still hurt and probably injure).And the face shield will crack before it buckles enough to touch your face.And cracking that thing with a boot is way harder than it seems.It may look thin and flimsy,but it is a durable material.

            I mean you could argue that after 20 years the helmets they have are in poor condition,and the joints between the face plate and the helmet are loose enough to pop out under pressure,but even then the face shield would eliminate enough of the force to only slightly injure instead of being fatal.

          2. The Rocketeer says:

            Bare kevlar is actually pretty dangerous to punch. Kevlar has quite a bit of give to it, and when you throw a punch into it, that force rebounds and gets directed right into your wrist.

            That bit of give is why they make kevlar drumheads. And I know that trying to punch through a kevlar drumhead will annihilate your arm, because I saw someone try.

  7. background_nose says:

    I have to disagree with you on your comments around the 19 minute mark. This comes with a personal preference warning.

    I like the awesome dude who kills the stuff much more than I like a developed character. I can imprint myself on the awesome dude and have some agency, real or otherwise, over the motives. By comparison the story driven character is a robot I am barely in control of. If I want that I can go to non interactive media. Games to me are all about my involvement. I struggle to get involved when I have no say over why my avatar does what they do.

    1. Ambitious Sloth says:

      That’s a fair preference to have. Really it comes down to what kind of character -or if there is any characterization at all- that the designer wants you play. Either can end up having just as much agency from the player. With a story driven character you can still imprint yourself in their head. It’s arguably the same space you just don’t get to decide where all the furniture goes and who’s cooking dinner.

  8. SpiritBearr says:

    Hey, I got stuck on the corner of that tunnel just trying to escape that stupid fight too.

  9. MichaelGC says:

    OK: not sure exactly how to phrase this without sounding a little like a “where’s my free content? And why isn’t my free content EXACTLY IN LINE WITH HOW I ORIGINALLY ENVISAGED MY FREE CONTENT ITS MINE YOUR FIGURATIVELY HITLER” moron, but … it’s nice to see Spoiler Warning back!

  10. djshire says:

    Josh Viel: Best survivalist

  11. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I was listening to your show while walking and it got me thinking, “what if those two were both guys?” There would be less women in the game and I also think at least the adult male’s death would have had less impact. Guys are disposable. We mow down hundreds in shooters and send thousands to their deaths in strategy/war games.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      “I also think at least the adult male's death would have had less impact.”

      Nope.The same scene,but played out with joels brother,would still have the same impact.

      1. Shamus says:

        For me, I find it much more interesting that Tess was a female, and I would indeed have found the scene to have less meaning if Tess was a guy. (Swapping her with his brother would break the story in other ways, since Tommy’s family life is used to contrast with Joel’s inability to connect with people.) I do find myself with a bad case of “videogame bro” fatigue. There are so many, they all look alike, they’re all voiced by Nolan North, and they’re all so badass and stoic. Tess’ personality, put on a guy, ends up being the most stale archetype ever.

        Tess’s gender also serves to show Joel’s character: He’s kind of cold to her, showing that in all their years together Joel has never formed any familial bonds. They’re not a couple and there’s no romance. If Tess was a guy, we might have the impression that Joel could live a normal life if he could just settle down with a nice woman.

        I think TLOU did a pretty good job with its characters, and I’m glad Tess wasn’t another dude. The fact that OTHER stories use “YOUR GIRLFRIEND DIED” the way Mass Effect 3 used “SOME KID DIED” is annoying, but I don’t want to hold that against TLOU.

        1. Isaac says:

          I remember reading somewhere, probably on the wiki, that Tess and Joel were in a relationship at one point.

          1. Peter H. Coffin says:

            If that’s the case, then it simply underscored Shamoose’s point: Any romance or attachment Joel would be expected to have completely washed away in the ebb and flow of however-not-that-long-ago it might have been. Usually people that HAVE attached, even if it subsequently blew up, will still share some kind of … importance bond of some kind. They may not like each other, but even the acrimony shows how important they were to each other. Joel and Tess have a modicum of professional respect, but there’s no affection, no comradery, no nakama, at least not from Joel’s side. Tess’s sacrifice might support that there was the ghost of it from her, but it’s mostly just practical.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I meant just this scene,not the characterization as a whole.Of course the brotherly bond should be different for us to like a male character,and of course we should have him be something other than just another dudebro.But with a likable male character,this scene would have the same impact as with a likable female character.

        3. Wide And Nerdy says:

          I was thinking about it more from the “He’s a guy, of course he’s supposed to sacrifice himself” angle that a male Tess would have evoked. But I haven’t played the game and your reasons are better.

    2. Isy says:

      Technically they’re both disposable, the game just tries to tell us to care if it’s a woman (as opposed to actively encouraging you to shoot guys). It doesn’t seem to work most of the time, because most of the time the woman has all the personality and function of a smartphone: something nice that the protagonist owns that then gets taken away.

      Guys don’t even get that much most the time, except for the weird times where they do. (Arkham City, anyone?) I’m thinking of that Trope where the “hero” mows down hundreds of guys just doing their job, then tries to save the jackass who started this whole mess to prove what a great guy he is. You lost your moral credibility five-hundred mooks back, Grizzled McBeardJaw, just kick the guy off the cliff and let’s be done with it.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I know we like to pick on that trope and it is a big problem but in all fairness, in the situation where we’re mowing down the hundreds of mooks they are usually shooting and we do have to kill them to stop them (because all we have is a gun) while the big bad is usually defeated and at our mercy when we decide to spare him making it less a combat kill and more murder/execution.

        And you’re right, human life of both genders is somewhat disposable in video games. I was speaking in relative terms which you seem to acknowledge. I think we both mean about the same thing.

        1. Isy says:

          A lot of games gleefully tell you to hit triangle or whatever for an execution style move on the mooks – in all fairness, I agree with you, because if you don’t execute them they stand right back up with no discernible injuries. But it really looks ridiculous, especially since most the big bads you try to save were trying to kill you as well, right up until they fell off a conveniently placed cliff.

          Ace Combat Zero had a system in place where crippled enemy jets turned yellow on your radar, meaning you could let them go if you wanted without having to kill them to proceed. Kinda wish more games gave you similar options.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            “Success. We’ve increased the enemy’s maintenance budget by 500%.”

            Sorry, you’re right but I couldn’t help thinking that.

            1. Isy says:

              Your employers payed you more if you killed them dead, probably for that reason.

              The number of crippled planes you shot down was kind of their “morality system”, except it wasn’t hamfisted like some other games. It mostly affected how other people reacted over the radio when they saw you, as well as how the people you fought would talk about you when they were interviewed later.

    3. Joe Informatico says:

      They used to use the male friend as a motivator–either to be rescused or avenged–in a lot of 80s action films. I think what happened is that the emotional bonds between male characters in these films tended to be much more evident than any emotion shown towards any of the female characters (who were usually disposable–literally and figuratively–and just generally poorly written), and this came across as homoerotic subtext. Hell, sometimes it was just plain text. Today, the “bromance” is played for laughs or even held up as a badge of pride, and in much earlier times could be perfectly respectable, but as recently as 20 years ago it could trigger a mild gay panic–it was important the protagonist of an action or genre film be a Real Man(tm). It might still be, he’s just allowed to be a wisecracker or a nerd instead of a square-jawed muscle-jockey.

      Captain America The Winter Soldier is a recent example of a man trying to save his male best friend from the brainwashing that’s turned him into an assassin, but it’s telling Captain America invokes a lot of oldschool sensibility intentionally.

      1. Isy says:

        Patroclus and Enkidu were totally stuffed in the fridge.

      2. I think it was a combination of factors leading up to that. In the 80’s, about the only action-movie stars I can think of were Linda Hamilton (Sarah Connor) and Sigourney Weaver (Ellen Ripley), and both of them were thrust into their action movie roles rather than starting out the films as ready to rock ‘n’ roll. On the male side, you had loads of actors who were known for swinging fists and pulling triggers (see: just about everyone in the Expendables), and they were all box office draws. Casting two of them as buddies, partners, etc. was just doubling the potential for your ticket sales.

        Nowadays, I think it’s not only done because audiences aren’t going to get the heebie-jeebies, a lot of them are embracing or on the lookout for potential bromances. Shows like Supernatural practically revel in the effect they have on Tumblr. Their last few shows have had enough subtext to get its own credit in the closing titles, and the fandom just eats it up and posts loads of GIFs about it.

      3. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I hate that personally. The idea that two guys aren’t allowed to care about each other that much without it being considered gay. As if men can only care that much if there’s sex (or at least sexual attraction) involved. As a fan of Lord of the Rings, its long bothered me that we joke so much about Frodo and Sam being gay. It cheapens the friendship and the bond between these characters.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          But come on,the movie does portray them as pretty gay.The book was much better in showing them as just good friends.

          Personally,I dislike that most modern media completely forgoes friendship.You either have to be family or partner in order to be cared about by the other character.Which is sad.

        2. Isy says:

          I think there’s a mess of conflicting issues there: first, that men should be allowed to care for other men without being called out as gay; second, that “gay” is still treated as an insult, which is the only reason the first issue is an issue; third, that homosexual people are hungry for any form of representation, even implied; and fourth, media creators have figured out they can bait audiences with implied homosexual relationships, but not actually have to commit and take a stand on it.

    4. To be fair, if your strategy/war game is an historic one, of course all of the units are going to be mostly if not exclusively men. And before one counts that as sexist, it’s not like a WWII action or strategy sim is going to have a twist ending where the opposing side is made up of women.

      The other difference is that even when disposable for mook purposes, said mooks aren’t helpless. They aren’t portrayed as lacking any quality to make them a potent foe.

      Contrast that with games where the warfare is more fictional, and you can have a setup where gender roles aren’t really important unless there’s a romance option. Take Fallout New Vegas. Two of its fighting factions have a pretty even mix of males & females (the NCR and the Fiends), and it works, not seeming odd in the least.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Oh I don’t criticize the use of that trope (especially in modern military or historical games). I just think that and a host of other tropes that prime men to make the heroic sacrifice have led to a male supporting character’s sacrifice having a different impact than a female one. If she sacrifices herself, its sad and tragic (if done right anyway), if he sacrifices himself I think at least the male audience is often thinking “awesome, I wish I could go out like that.” Or something kind of like that.

        Also note that the NCR are kind of sort of the good guys (I know its debatable but they’re about as close as it gets in New Vegas) so there’s already a built in reluctance to shoot them, and the Fiends are coked out of their minds and usually wear helmets that, if not face-concealing, at least make them look inhuman at a distance so its easier to shoot them whether they’re male or female.

  12. Toasty Virus says:

    I think Tess probably let herself get killed so that she wouldn’t turn.</strike.

    1. Sleepyfoo says:

      She explicitly says that. She makes a last stand knowing it’s hopeless, and still takes two of the guys with her in an attempt to give Joel and Ellie that better chance.

      Peace : )

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Well sure. Thats a common enough trope though “I’m doomed anyway. Let me go down fighting.”

      I love it in Armageddon when its subverted with the guy (I’m hating myself for forgetting the actor’s name, I know spoiler warning loves him) with wanting to die because of the giant debt he racked up right before leaving.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Thank you. Yes.

  13. MichaelGC says:

    I love how we’re debating the relative darkness of ‘dark’ and ‘after dark.’ Truly this does not occur elsewhere on the Intertubes.

    PS I thought we were supposed to give Josh advice he didn’t need and even if he had, would have disregarded (for one or several reasons) and even if he hadn’t, would have come a week or more late. Have I not been misinformed?


  14. guy says:

    Honestly, I’m not sure why it’s so blasted important to give personal motivation for helping to cure the zombie plague. That’s kind of obviously something you’d want to do.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Is it really?I mean sure,everyone wants the plague to be cured,but does everyone everyone want them to be the ones that put all the effort leading to the cure being found?

      1. Ringwraith says:

        You’d have to put a lot on the line personally for the chance something good might come of it, when simply surviving is hard enough.
        It often comes down to putting yourself first insofar you know can get by before you help others.

    2. MrGuy says:

      So, here’s another trend that really bothers me. The whole “we have the One Person Who Can Cure Us,” and, of course, we need to bring them to the scrappy, questionable labs staffed by the plucky rebels.

      Rather than say “Yo, government that presumably has all the best medical resources left in this distopian future! We have this person who is the key to the cure here! Maybe do some science and end our collective nightmare!”, we’re expected to believe and agree with “no, no, Government Bad! They don’t want the cure! We should clearly bring her to the makeshift lab in an old auto garage!”

      There’s simply no reason is this game to bring Ellie to the Fireflies (it’s not like they’re super competent). The government is harsh, but not mustache-twirling evil. Why WOULDN’T we bring Ellie to them?

      Compare and contrast to the excellent film Children of Men, where your character actually advocates this position reasonably, and in a situation where there’s actually a good reason not to go to the government…

      1. Awetugiw says:

        Sure, at this point it seems likely* that the Authority would be more capable of researching a cure than the Fireflies. But taking Ellie to them is not really an option; by the time Joel and Tess discover that Ellie might be useful for finding a cure they have already killed several Authority troops.

        *I have no idea whether this changes later in the game, I haven’t played it. Maybe the Authority doesn’t want a cure because they are complete morons who think they might lose power if the world became safer?

        1. MrGuy says:

          Dead men tell no tales. WE know they’ve killed Authority figures. How do the authorities?

          Also, why should Joel and Tess need to do anything other than walk Ellie up to the door?

          Also, who cares? You can save the world, but it’s possible you get arrested in the process. So shooting dozens more dudes and risking the one plausible known hope for a cure is a better idea?

          I get it doesn’t make for much of a game, but the “let’s take her to the rebels, because reasons!” motivation is pretty weak.

          1. guy says:

            There is a pretty good chance that the Authority guys would see the bite and shoot her immediately. She looks like an extremely recent bite victim, and it would take some work to talk them into watching her for a couple days.

      2. Corpital says:

        Remember the second episode, when Joel and Tess walked around and passed a few people being scanned? That one woman was infected and they immediately put her down.

        She could have had pure magic cure-all coursing through her veins and they would not have cared.

        1. guy says:

          Well, they shot her because they figured she was going to turn. It is late enough into the apocalypse that they have reason to think everyone turns.

          Ellie has actually held out for much longer than usual. I figure that if they were convinced the bite was weeks old they wouldn’t shoot her.

      3. Thomas says:

        I’m late to the conversation, but, there is no government in The Last of Us. A bunch of towns were put under military order to try and confine the outbreak, but then as more towns went bad and communication broke up, more and more of the towns broke off into their only little isolated militia. By this point, there is no government and the milita’s are all that remains of it, but even they don’t work together.

        So the people we saw in the first episode aren’t the government, they’re the militia that rule the town they’re in.

        It’s a big deal that when the government collapsed all the militia’s stopped believing in a cure and started trying to manage the situation in front of them, whereas the Fireflies tried to preserve the government equipment in the belief that a cure was possible.

  15. Dirigible says:

    You guys missed it, but the captain of the armoured dudes says “She killed two of my men” – she DID take a few of them down with her.

  16. Sleepyfoo says:

    This may technically qualify as Woman in Refrigerator, but it doesn’t feel like it. Even aside from heroic last stand rather than “taken by nefarious forces to get at protagonist”, their dynamic is rather opposite from conventional gender roles. Tess goes out and gets jobs, has contacts in the world, keeps Joel around cause he’s useful, etc. She’s the driving force, boss, and face of their smuggling group, and even at the end there, she’s basically giving Joel his last command from your superior officer/boss more than anything else. It’s the Only Slow You Down more than anything else. Compare to Stuffed In the Fridge.

    She also took down 2 of the guys, as has been noted by others and the guards. : )

    Joel, on the other hand, is shown as basically having shut down since the death of sarah and is completely passive in his life so long as he’s alive. He has had, thus far, Zero agency, and no apparent desire for it. His objections have been noted, but basically overridden without further protest. Even at the end, both leaving and planning to keep going with Ellie are currently basically because Tess ordered him to.

    Peace : )

  17. Ithilanor says:

    All zombie viruses cause the skull to break apart, just like vampirism causes the collarbone and ribs to decay. It is known.

    1. IFS says:

      Given how the clickers look I think that might actually be true in the case of this one though :P

  18. Adam Phant says:

    Kinda suprised Chris is bothered by Ellie’s rafting mechanic.

    When would a child growing up in a military-run quarantine zone ever have the opportunity to learn how to swim? Anything that could act as a pool (like an in-ground pool) is likely either dried out or filled with dirty, unsanitized water. Regardless, I don’t think recreational pool time ranks very high on the usage of clean water. Clean water is usually reserved for things like, uh… drinking? People drink clean water, right?

    1. Rodyle says:

      I don’t know. She looks older than ten. I know no-one who couldn’t already swim by that age, but take this with a pinch of salt, since I come from a country of which 40% is below sea level.

      1. Jake Taylor says:

        My uncle can’t swim, and he’s 53. Sometimes someone just doesn’t happen to learn something they never needed (like riding a bike or driving).

      2. Thomas says:

        The time skip at the start of the game was 20 years, Ellie is 13-16 kind of age. She never lived in the pre-apocalypse world, so swimming lessons have never been a thing for her. She’s never even been allowed out of the towns she lived in

    2. Ringwraith says:

      Pretty much, and there are certainly people who never learned to swim anyway for whatever reason. (Just that it doesn’t really come up in casual conversation).
      The fact there’s little capacity to do it safely in such a setting is only going to hinder it.

  19. Grudgeal says:


  20. MrGuy says:

    I actually think Arvind is on a really interesting point near the end. One big problem games have is that the gameplay core is “kill lots of dudes.” Going out and killing lots of dudes just ‘cuz in the real world makes you a psychopath. So, if they expect us to relate to the main character, games have to find a way to give the main character an identifiable “something you’d kill for.” It has to make sense – the player has to “get” the character’s motivation. They don’t have to be motivated in the same way, but they have to identify with “if I was this character, this would be my reason for shooting lots of dudes, and since I’m in this story it’s OK.”

    Some games (Saints Row being the shining example IMO) embrace the “because I’m a crazy psycho!” reason, but then they’re deliberately making an escapist, non-relatable character. If you want to have a main character that seems like an “everyday person” like the player, you have to find something that would motivate a normal, non-unhinged person to kill.

    And there are only a few relatable options. War games make this work by having “Duty, following orders, and faith in the greater good!” serve for this (bonus if you’re killing evil Nazi’s. In survival horror type games, it’s a “it’s them or me!” angle. But the only two other options that make a ton of sense to me are “for love” and “for revenge.” And losing your love interest ticks both boxes, which is why it’s such a tempting choice. Is it formulaic? Absolutely. Cheap? Sure. But it can be effective as a “somewhat relatable reason why your ‘good guy’ character just murdered 20 dudes.”

    True fact – had no idea you were bringing on a guest, so when Arvind introduced himself I thought it was Rutskarn trying to say “and I’m Mumbles” in a terribly Mumbles voice and deliberately trying to “mumble” her name for some reason. Welcome to the monkey house, Arvind!

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      There is also the option to deliberately distance the player from the protagonist,which very few games actually do(aside from spec ops,I cant think of any).

      And of course,theres the turning dudes into zombies/horrible eldritch abominations,so killing them in scores is a ok.

      1. Rodyle says:

        Hotline Miami, possibly?

      2. Thomas says:

        The Last of Us?

      3. syal says:

        God of War.

  21. MikhailBorg says:

    Still haven’t figured out how the shiv even kills the clickers. So what, you’ve cut off the blood supply to their brain – my friend, that was taken care of some time ago. All you’re doing is slicing shiitake.

    1. Corpital says:

      Maybe the mushrooms are hyperallergic to rusty metal?

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      The mushrooms still use the brain to move around.Its the higher functions that get destroyed.

      1. MikhailBorg says:

        It’s not obvious that they leave even the brain stem functional, assuming it even could be with half the skull missing and exposed to the world. But of course, once you’ve started really thinking about the biology of zombies, things get ugly quickly.

  22. Cinebeast says:

    Personally, I wonder what the game would be like if Tess were the protagonist instead of Joel. Or rather, if their sexes were swapped — “Jo” and “Tex” or something. The rest of the story might have to be rewritten in some places, but I personally would have been more invested.

    Mother/daughter stories crop up often in film and TV, even in horror scifi scenarios — Aliens springs to mind — but they’re still untapped in videogames, while father/daughter stuff has been done before.

    I might be considering this only because I’m biased against Joel, though. He’s one of the better written videogame protags, but he’s such an asshole I really can’t stand him. Oh well.

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