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Ellie’s Age in ‘The Last of Us 2’ Is More Than a Number

Ellie in The Last of Us, standing in the woods holding a gun, with an unhappy look on her face.

Spoilers ahead for both The Last of Us games and potentially the HBO series.

If The Last of Us was a game about innocence, then The Last of Us 2 is a game about experience.

Nasty, brutal experience.

In the first game, Ellie is 14 years old. A kid. She is at an age where she is just beginning to be independent. She is seeing the world as it is for the first time. Besides a romantic, fateful trip into an abandoned mall with a childhood friend, Ellie has never left the Boston QZ. She is curious, adventurous, and altogether naive. She experiences the world in a different way than the cynical, battle-hardened Joel. Where Joel sees an abandoned hotel lobby, Ellie sees a stage where she can act out the role of a fancy hotel guest. Where Joel sees bookstore with no supplies worth taking, Ellie sees a place where she can find a kick-ass comic book. Where Joel sees a murder weapon like a gun, Ellie sees a cool prop used in action movies.

During the events of The Last Of Us Part 1, Ellie is exposed to the cold and brutal realities of the world. She is nearly torn apart by zombies, and eaten by cannibals, and left to fend for herself when Joel is injured. Her greatest and most painful loss of innocence comes when she is forced to kill a man in the ruins of Pittsburg. During the events of the “Winter” chapter, Ellie has to rely on a newfound savagery that no child should ever have to experience. After all, she opens a man’s head with a machete like a watermelon. You don’t exactly walk away from that without an issue that needs to be discussed in therapy.

But not for long.

How old Iis Ellie in The Last Of Us 2?

At the beginning of The Last Of Us 2, Ellie’s childhood innocence is all but gone. Five years have passed since the ending of the first game, and Ellie is now a young 19-year-old woman, with 19-year-old concerns.

She is navigating love, sexuality, and her strained relationship with her father figure, Joel. The second game is the perfect metaphor for adolescence. Where once Ellie looked up to Joel for paternal protection and guidance, she is now rebelling against him—with good reason.

After all, he took her from the Salt Lake City hospital without her consent and lied to her about what occurred there for years. There is even a sense that the pair have grown apart due to who they are as people. Ellie is a queer teenager born in the ruins of the northeast, and Joel is a 61-year-old man from Texas who still remembers the old world. He is well-meaning, sweet, and overprotective in the way father figures tend to be of their daughters. He is something that Ellie can’t help but resent, no matter the depth of her love for him. Nevertheless, she’s committed to trying to forgive Joel for his betrayal of her trust, even though she is unsure she will ever be able to.

This is perhaps why her hatred of Abby runs so deep, deep enough for Ellie to be incapable of letting it go, no matter how many people suffer because of it. There is the sense that Ellie and Joel’s relationship is still unresolved. It is better than it was, but there is still somewhat of an awkwardness underneath. A strain. Ellie may be close to forgiving Joel before he is taken from her, but it’s possible that she wasn’t quite there yet. When Abby murders Joel, she also murders Ellie’s ability to find true closure in their relationship. She had hoped that she would have the rest of her young life to forgive her father, but instead she was only given a few years.

Abby robbed Ellie of her ability to grow as a person. She is unable to let Joel go because her feelings towards him are still unresolved, and that emotional pain stokes the flames of the blackest hatred toward Abby imaginable. And yet the events of the game teach Ellie a powerful lesson that she is once again too young to learn: one must sometimes create closure for oneself. In the real world, familial conflicts are often left to fester. Oftentimes, difficult emotional conversations between family members are postponed, or sometimes not possible altogether. When a family member, particularly a parent, dies suddenly, the children of that person are robbed of the ability to resolve any issues they had with that parent in life. The possibility for closure dies as well, and this can cause an even more devastating grieving process for a child than if their relationship with their parent was completely healthy.

More often than not, this sort of trauma occurs in people who have reached middle age, people whose elderly parents have died. While the loss is devastating, a middle-aged adult likely has developed more coping strategies than someone who is very young. However, when a young person loses a parent, the grief is often magnified. Joel simply wasn’t supposed to die yet, and so Ellie had no time to emotionally prepare for his death and take the steps necessary to ensure that she found closure after he was gone.

Similarly, Abby goes through a parallel circumstance. Abby lost her father when she was around 14 or 15, the same age that Ellie was in The Last Of Us Part 1. Unlike the 19-year-old Ellie, Abby still depended on her father for love, protection, and emotional support. To be robbed of a parent so young causes a similar darkness to fester in Abby’s heart. After all, she spends five years hunting for Joel. Her quest for revenge leads to a similar emotional devastation that Ellie experiences and yet, surprisingly, Abby’s capacity to forgive seems to exceed Ellie’s own.

Unlike Ellie, Abby experienced the death of someone she loved wholeheartedly, someone that she did not resent in the slightest. After all, she was simply too young and too dependent on her father’s love to rebel against it. Ellie is not given the same closure when her father is taken from her, and so finding forgiveness for Abby is that much harder. Because of that, it is all the more powerful when Ellie is finally chooses to forgive her at the culmination of the story.

(featured image: Naughty Dog)

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