Maybe one of the characters more human that have ever been created, Joel is an empty shell of the old self, a man deprived of the frenetic tranquility of a normal life and the affection of his daughter Sarah. What the Texan would never have thought of committing in the society of the past, has become his daily bread in the world folded by Cordyceps, which has pushed him to kill, torture and perform all sorts of wickedness to to survive. When Ellie entered his life, Joel found a part of himself that he believed he had lost forever and would not allow anything or anyone to tear it away from him.
To understand the evolution of this video game icon, we just have to start from that existence that no longer belongs to it. Born in the early 1980s in Texas, Joel grew up in close contact with his brother Tommy but we don’t know much about his childhood. The dream of becoming a singer and the prospect of attending college faded when he became Sarah’s father, a sweet little girl he had with a woman who would soon abandon him.
With a mortgage to pay and the ambition to found a startup – indicated by the presence of a book on the bedside table of his room – Joel led a life of ups and downs but illuminated by the presence of his daughter, to whom he managed to devote a lot of time despite work commitments. Between football matches and outings with Tommy, Sarah and Joel had developed a very special relationship, which made the tragic disappearance of the little girl even more unsustainable. Mercilessly shot by a soldier, the girl died in the arms of her father, who in a certain sense died with her.
The man who rose to his feet to escape the infected and executions of PHARA it was no longer the same of a few moments before and the acts he would have stained would have proved it. For several years, in fact, Joel has not hesitated to kill and rob innocent people, at the price of his humanity and his relationship with his beloved brother. After all, while Tommy joined the cause of the Lights, his older brother gave himself up to smuggling in Boston, first alone and then together with a woman named Tess, who, regardless of possible sentimental implications, has become her partner at work.
The lives of the two smugglers changed forever when – on behalf of the “queen of lights” – they agreed to bring a little girl outside the quarantine zone in exchange for a large batch of weapons. Being immune to the effects of Cordyceps, Ellie was the only hope for mankind and Tess was the first to realize it.
After witnessing to the death of the companionJoel has decided to complete the mission entrusted to him by Marlene, but closes himself to any kind of openness towards Ellie, who reminded him of his Sarah more than he wanted to admit. Without even realizing it, the smuggler ended up feeling paternal affection for the girl, who treading her path found herself experiencing the ugliness of a violent and ruthless world. Joining briefly with Tommy in Jackson County, Joel continued his journey in search of the Lights and in the meantime he began to open up more and more with Ellie, hoping in his heart to be able to give her a better life in the town led by his brother and wife. Maria.
Saved from certain death at the University of Eastern Colorado, Joel has definitively shown her attachment to the little girl in the closing acts of The Last of Us, first snatching her from the clutches of the mad David and then – in a tremendously realistic and understandable way – by choosing to sacrifice the future of mankind to save her life.
After eliminating Marlene and several members of the Lights in Salt Lake City, preventing them from killing Ellie to find a cure for Cordyceps infection, Joel may have done an even more serious act. He swore to the little one that it wouldn’t have made a difference, that the horrors he had experienced had been in vain and that there was no way to save humanity.
We don’t know if the weight of this lie will clearly affect the events of The Last of Us Part 2 but one thing is certain: the old killer will have a key role in the story of Naughty Dog and at some point will accompany Ellie on his long journey of vengeance. For completeness, as revealed during The Last of Us One Night Live event, the Texan passed on the girl’s love of guitar and may have had a brief affair with a woman named Esther.
Forced to resort to violence all the time, to be wary of others and never to let her guard down, Joel’s travel companion entered the hearts of enthusiasts both for her ingenuity, and for her resoluteness, a quality that pushed her to embark on a dangerous journey in the hope of saving mankind. Although miraculously immune to Cordyceps infection, Ellie led a difficult life like everyone else, as she lost many loved ones over time.
Focusing on the past of the protagonist of The Last of Us Part 2 was therefore a must, and we could only have started from the American Dreams comic series (retrieve our special on the prequel comic from The Last of Us). Giunta in a military institution in Boston at the age of only 13, Ellie got used to the ruthlessness of FEDRA and the executions in the public square, which she tried to forget with the music of her walkman. It is precisely within the walls of this school that he met the tireless Riley, a young girl who would have distorted his existence in every possible sense.
Escaped from the institute in an act of rebellion, the two reached the famous abandoned shopping center, the one where they would have consumed themselves the tragic events of Left Behind. After meeting Wilson, thanks to whom Ellie learned to ride a horse, her friends found themselves in the middle of a clash between the Lights and the soldiers of the FEDRA, who discovered them and forced them to flee. Shortly after Ellie and Riley dealt with a horde of infected and then ended up in the hands of the rebels, who stunned them and brought before Marlene.
Eager to join the cause of the lights, Riley tried to impress her but the woman was more interested in her friend and for a specific reason: In fact, Ellie was Anna’s daughter, who before dying had asked Marlene to watch over her. After receiving her mother’s knife and a letter written in her own hand, Ellie has discovered some more pieces of her past and in the meantime has made a precious bond, destined however to crack. Following a quarrel with Ellie, in fact, Riley decided to abandon the institute to escape military life and become the architect of her own destiny.
When she broke into Ellie’s room at Left Behind, she wasn’t greeted as expected: Anna’s daughter believed her friend had been killed and needed time to digest her return. Go back to that damned mall to “fix things” between a drink, a few carousel rides and a fight with water pistols, Ellie and Riley have allowed themselves the luxury of spending a few moments as innocent girls, forgetting that ruthless world that had forced them into a life of hardship.
Conscious of the fact that her friend would have to reunite with the Lights – of which she was now a part – Ellie kissed her gently to push her not to leave, but the music that had made that kiss so magical had also attracted the Runners. Hunted down by the infected, the girls were bitten and decided to wait for the end together, which for Ellie as we all know has never come.
Left Behind’s past scenes alternated with The Last of Us’s uncertain present, with a frightened Ellie attempting to save a seriously injured Joel. At that point in history the little girl had already become attached to the anticipated smuggler but her heart was now broken: the disappearance of Riley, Tess, Sam and Henry, had marked her deeply and – as if that weren’t enough – she would soon be captured by a group of cannibals. Having escaped that nightmare thanks to Joel’s intervention, Ellie was “betrayed” by the smuggler, who after killing her mother’s friend and slaughtering the Lights, told her the biggest lie.
Convinced that her efforts had been futile, Ellie “dragged” into adulthood to then meet Dina, the brave girl she fell in love with in The Last of Us Part 2. When the two lovers kissed for the first time we wholeheartedly wished that Ellie would be able to close the most painful chapter of her existence but we were immediately proved wrong. Perhaps precisely because of Dina, the fighter will be dragged into the spiral of violence at the center of the events narrated, in a revenge campaign that could cost her her humanity.
Tommy and his corner of paradise
Tommy is what Joel could have been if he hadn’t lost his daughter in a horrible way, and that is a man tried by the apocalypse Cordyceps who has not lost the desire to hope for a better future. Born in the 1980s in Texas, he went through a difficult childhood with the constant support of Joel, who passed on his passion for football and two-wheeled racing cars. As a testament to the solid bond that united them, the brothers traveled to America aboard two Harleys and even when Joel had Sarah they never stopped dating.
Destroyed by the death of his granddaughter, Tommy suffered in silence to try to force Joel, which after the fall of civilization began to stain itself with tremendous acts. Although he had been his accomplice for a certain period of time, Tommy didn’t sleep at night because of what he did with his brother, which made him want to get away from him. Tired of Joel’s inhumanity and of the harassment of FEDRA, he approached the Lights and Marlene, who finally convinced him to join the cause. After a heated quarrel with Joel – who in no way appreciated the choice of his younger brother – he abandoned him with the intention of never seeing “his ugly face” again.
Tommy stayed in the Lights for some time and even went to their research laboratory at the University of Eastern Colorado. Over the years, although he highly valued Marlene, he slowly lost faith in the group’s work, who left to reach Jackson County. It is here that he discovered the settlement born from the efforts of Maria and her father, who wanted to create a community based on altruism and cooperation.
Struck by the woman’s intentions – which differed so much from her brother and Luci’s violent methods – Tommy fell in love with her and decided to marry her, effectively becoming his right arm. Thanks to the help of the community, he has equipped this small corner of paradise with comforts such as electricity and has not hesitated to defend the nearby plant from the attacks of the bandits. At one point the Texan traveled to the city where he lived to recover Joel’s belongings, including a photograph that portrayed him with Sarah during a football game.
Meeting with his brother during The Last of Us events, has proven to have overcome the ancient disagreements, offering him all possible help and even a roof over his head: after the traumatic journey ended, in fact, Joel and Ellie settled in Jackson County to begin a new life, made of hard work and sacrifices but also of relative tranquility. As highlighted by the trailers, Tommy will play a more or less important role in the second chapter and will try to support Ellie in the most difficult moments, just like she would have done with the little Sarah.
Le Luci, Marlene and her “other mission”
When the social fabric of the United States disintegrated and FEDRA took control of the country, many other organizations were born, driven by the most disparate intentions but characterized by a common element: maintain independence. We think of hunters, of David’s crazy cannibal followers but also of the larger groups that Ellie will face in Seattle. The Washington Liberation Front militia – made up of individuals ready to eliminate innocent strangers – will stand in the way of the Seraphs, a group of religious fanatics dedicated to self-harm.
Among all these organizations, however, there is one that has tried to do more, which has attempted not only to oppose the military but also to find a cure to eradicate the CBI (Cordyceps Brain Infection). We are talking about the Lights, a group that we will most likely find in The Last of Us Part 2. Instead of “dragging forward”, the men and women of the Lights wanted to rediscover an existence worthy of the name and represented the most idealistic part of humanity post-Outbreak Day. Driven by the idea of restoring normal government bodies, the group has changed its goal over the years, focusing on eliminating FEDRA.
Thinking about the high ranks of the organization we could not fail to mention the late Marlene, who thanks to her strategist skills sent her men to specific quarantine areas to push the desperate population to rebel. Slogans like “remember who we were” they began to appear on the walls of militarized cities and, net of the ferocious repression of the army, discontent resulted in real acts of revolution.
In Pittsburgh, for example, the Lights achieved a great victory against FEDRA but after some time they were driven out (or massacred) by those same individuals who had freed. Aided by the heavy defeats suffered in Boston and other key points, the goal of wiping out military tyrannies has taken on the traits of a distant utopia, which prompted Marlene and her friends to focus on finding a cure for Cordyceps infection.
Thanks to the contribution of doctors and scientists, the organization has conducted several tests and experiments, reaching promising results in 2028. Unfortunately, the research came to a standstill when the laboratory at the University of Colorado was occupied by the infected, with the Lights that – at the cost of numerous human lives – settled at the St. Mary hospital in Salt Lake City.
When all hope of finding a cure seemed lost, fate knocked on Marlene’s door and asked her a terrible question: what are you willing to do to save humanity? To better explain what we mean, we need to travel back in time, until before the CBI, that is when the future Queen of Lights met a stubborn nurse. Anna and Marlene have made a beautiful friendship relationship, although they often quarrel, and they have lived together the fall of humanity.
Following Outbreak Day, Anna became pregnant and then gave birth to little Ellie in early 2019. Before dying – just a day after the birth of her daughter – she wrote her a beautiful letter and asked Marlene to take care of her, a task that guides the Lights has never stopped honoring.
Although remotely, the woman monitored Ellie’s activities, made sure she was well and could never have imagined that she would soon meet her in person. During the events of American Dreams, Marlene introduced herself to Ellie and handed her her mother’s belongings, and then forced Riley to never see her again.
When the two friends were bitten at the mall and Riley lost his life, Marlene has discovered Ellie’s immunity to the effects of Cordyceps and asked Joel and Tess to take her to the headquarters of the Lights, knowing – in her heart – that she should have broken the promise made to her friend. Destroyed by pain at the thought of having to take Ellie’s life to get the cure, Marlene tried to console herself knowing that, very soon, Anna and her baby would reunite. As we all know, Joel “stopped” that painful surgery and sent the queen to her friend.
The new characters: Dina and Jesse
The Last of Us Part 2 will introduce many new faces to Naughty Dog’s imagery, starting with Dina and Jesse. In specific points of the adventure – as highlighted by the gameplay trailers – they will alternate alongside Ellie to provide support and fight alongside her, that’s why we could not have avoided talking about it, albeit briefly.
On an evening of dancing and partying, we saw Jesse approach Ellie to talk to her about “her old man” but above all about Dina’s prowess, who was stealing the show from whoever was dancing. Jesse and Dina had recently broken up and the boy was talking to Ellie about it trying to find out if Dina had said anything to her friend. Suddenly his ex came up to him, took Ellie with him and took her to the center of the room. Her “interest” in the protagonist became clear when she kissed her, leaving everyone (including Jesse) out of breath.
We do not know how this “love triangle” will affect the relationship between the characters but Naughty Dog is used to leaving nothing to chance, which intrigues us even more. We also know something else about Dina and Jesse: perhaps thanks to Joel’s teachings, they have become two excellent fighters and should not be a burden for the expert Ellie. To fully discover the characterization of the new characters and the evolution of the existing ones, we just have to wait anxiously for the release of this blockbuster, which has all the credentials to become the great work of Naughty Dog also on the narrative front.