So I guess now we’re duty-bound to come up with more euphemisms for toilet paper. Do your best!
The game improves so much the moment we rejoin Ellie. I think one of the reasons that I can tolerate Joel being a heel is that we aren’t given any agency at all over his actions. If the game gave you a BioWare / TellTale style dialog choice once in a while, or offered you a “Press X to punch Bill in the face, square to give him a high-five”, then we’d resent all the other occasions where the game didn’t give us a choice. Being offered meaningless choices is more annoying than having no choices at all.
I suppose it also helps that we have a character-based reason for Joel’s behavior. We can see he’s wrong, but he’s wrong because of personal problems that are central to his character. He’s not just denying her a gun because the game designers didn’t think it would work from a gameplay perspective.
If I can bring up Mass Effect 2 without opening old woundsActually, those wounds never closed. But whatever. then it provides a good contrast. Shepard makes TONS of galaxy-changing decisions, so us not being able to refuse to work with The Illusive ManThere are some who call him… TIM? feels really out of place. Worse, he doesn’t have a reason that works for usOkay, it works for some players.. He’s enslaved by the plot, which means we’re enslaved by the plot, which means all those other little choices feel frustrating and condescending. Like, I can’t refuse to work with this crazy terrorist moron, but I’m allowed to be a dick to Veetor for no reason.
Because of this difference, Joel’s reluctance to give Ellie a firearm feels like narrative tension and not railroading. And when he finally breaks down and trusts her to protect him, we understand he’s taking a huge step. It’s entirely possible this is the first positive step he’s taken in 20 years to cope with his daughter’s murder.
 Actually, those wounds never closed. But whatever.
 There are some who call him… TIM?
 Okay, it works for some players.