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How Did (Spoiler) Survive Being Shot In The Head In ‘The Last of Us Part II‘? Answered and Explained

Someone call a doctor!

A close up of Ellie with tears in her eyes

In case you’re wondering who I’m talking about, it sure isn’t Manny.

***Warning: spoilers for The Last of Us Part II and talk of gun violence ahead***

The creators of The Last of Us Part II really had me sweating bullets when they put this character in danger. I thought this is was it for the DILFy Miller brothers. Joel’s beautiful face was caved in by Abby and I thought for sure that Tommy wasn’t going to make it through to the end.

For those of you not in the know, Abby and her new lil’ bro Lev get the drop on Ellie and her friends while they’re hiding out in an abandoned theater in Seattle. Abby manages to ambush Tommy, and Ellie and Jesse run to the rescue. As Ellie and Jesse bust through the door, Abby shoots Jesse in the head. Right under the eye. It’s awful and he dies instantly.

Tommy eventually attempts to struggle free from Abby, but is shot in the leg by Lev with an arrow. Tommy falls forward and Abby ends up shooting him in the back of the head with her handgun. That’s it for dear old Tommy, right? He went out the exact same way Manny did earlier in the game when Tommy shot him in the head. The exact same way Jesse did. The exact same way ol’ Honest Abe did just after the Civil War. Shot in a theater. I’m sensing a theme.

Except, Tommy didn’t die.

How is this even POSSIBLE?

But … Jesse and Manny both died! Instantly! They were dead before they hit the ground! How is this possible? Why couldn’t sweet best-boy Jesse have lived? Was it simply because Tommy was equipped with bullet-proof plot armor? Well, yes and no. To answer your question, we’re gonna have to break things down with that thing that nerds love. Science! We’re gonna explain why Jesse and Manny both died, and why Tommy survived a wound that should have been fatal.

Why did Manny die?

Manny stands in front of Abby

If you remember, Abby’s friend Manny is shot in the head by Tommy while the pair are attempting to ambush him on the other side of a door. Tommy pops out from a different door and puts a rifle round into Manny’s head, killing him instantly. But, why did it work? To answer that question, we’ve gotta examine the weapon used. In this case, a high powered hunting rifle.

Bullets are not all the same. Some are short and fat. Some are long and thin. Some are as thick as your thumb and nearly the size of your hand! Big bullets like that tend to be found in military rifles, but Tommy wasn’t carrying anything like that. He was carrying a standard hunting rifle, meant primarily to take down animals. While the game never specifies what type of gun he’s using, we know in the show that the Miller brothers use a Remington 700 BDL, which is uses .308 ammo. This is a BIG bullet. Bigger than what comes out of most military rifles currently being used in combat in our world today.

The bullet also comes out of that gun FAST AS HELL. Far faster than a handgun bullet. The size of the bullet and the muzzle velocity form a deadly combination and create what’s called the “ripple effect”. Essentially, when a bullet like this passes through flesh, the sheer momentum of the bullet causes the surrounding tissues to “ripple” and take even more damage. This is why rifles are so exceptionally dangerous and, tragically, why they are so popular in mass shootings. A small and comparatively slow handgun bullet passing through an internal organ will put a hole in that organ. A large, fast rifle bullet causes that organ to explode. While Tommy’s rifle is technically not an assault rifle, the effect is comparable. When Manny took that bullet to the head, it destroyed his brain entirely. The bullet was so powerful that some his brain matter landed on Abby who was standing a few feet away. Horrifying, right?

Why did Jesse die?

A close up of Jess from 'The Last of Us Part II'

Jesse was hit with a handgun bullet in the face. People can survive this—in fact, it’s more common than you might think. Surprisingly, some regions of the brain are less vital to our survival than others. After all, Phinneas Gage nearly his entire left front lobe destroyed after his head was impaled with an iron rod during a railroad accident. The rod actually passed through his his left cheekbone (perfectly mirroring where Jesse’s entry wound was on his right cheek)) and went out the top of his skull. He was even conscious and able to speak after the accident, but fell unconscious 10 days later. Doctors thought he would die, but he recovered within months. He had no loss of speech or motor movements, and his memory was intact. Wild, right?

Jesse was not so lucky. While the bullet entered his skull in the same place that the rod entered Gage’s, it was shot at an angle, and likely passed straight through and severed his brainstem, which would kill him instantly. Your brainstem is what keeps your lungs breathing and regulates your heartbeat. Without that, you are dead. Poor Jesse.

Why did Tommy survive?

A close up of Tommy Miller

So, we know that it’s basically impossible to survive a rifle bullet to the head, but a handgun bullet (or even a metal rod) don’t necessarily mean a death sentence. Tommy was facing downward when Abby shot him with her handgun, and the bullet passed through the back of his skull and blew out his left eye. Now the good people at LiveScience tell us that a bullet passing through one hemisphere of the brain tends to be less lethal than a bullet that passes through both. Unlike Jesse, Tommy was shot straight on and only took the bullet through one side of the head. It also missed his brainstem, which we know from Jesse’s unfortunate example is essential to survival. Now, just because the bullet went straight through Tommy’s brain at this angle doesn’t guarantee survival. Bleeding, swelling, and risk of infection also contribute significant risks. Without immediate medical attention, chances of survival are slim. As far as we know, Tommy received almost no medical attention. Ellie and Dina were beaten half to death by Abby and I doubt that Dina would be able to perform a brain surgery anyway, even with the medical knowledge she possesses.

Like Phineas Gage before him, Tommy simply got extraordinarily lucky. In Gage’s case, the hole in his cheek allowed fluid to drain out from his brain and prevented it from swelling too much. Perhaps something similar happened here? The best explanation I can find is from MedicineNet, which explains that some people are just built different. Gunshot wounds are a case by case basis. Some people survive the wound that kills another, it’s simply “luck of the draw.” And Tommy just so happed to draw lucky card this time.

(featured image: Sony)

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