Skip to main content

‘The Last of Us’ Women’s Strength Is the Glue That Holds The Show Together

Anna Torv as Tess in 'The Last of Us'

Spoilers ahead for The Last of Us Episode 2.

It would be so easy for The Last of Us to be a boys club but it’s not. We get to see a range of characters from different backgrounds prior to the Cordyceps outbreak come together against FEDRA and try and live through the apocalypse. We have characters from across the United States offering fresh perspectives on what a post-apocalyptic America looks like.

But what is so fascinating is how the female characters are strong in their own unique ways, despite being faced with the same situation. Tess’ strength (thanks to Anna Torv’s performance) is different from Marlene’s presence in the rebellion (as played by Merle Dandrige). Then you also have the differences between Bella Ramsey’s Ellie and Nico Parker’s Sarah. Two teenage girls around a similar age would, in other media, be carbon copies of each other, especially in a genre piece.

HBO’s The Last of Us finds ways to make each of these women stand out and, with the death of Tess in Episode 2, it is frankly a nice feeling to know that we have other strong female characters to root for instead of just one.

We love a story with more than one female character

So often, we’ve come to know exactly one female character and are forced to love her in the sense that she’s the only one we have. What’s nice about The Last of Us is that not only do we have more than just one female character to look to but they’re all so incredibly different in their views and standings in the world of the apocalypse.

Marlene is the leader of Fireflies and there are multiple women on her team. Tess clearly has her hands in different things around Boston and while she’s aware of Marlene and vice versa, they don’t have the same belief systems. Ellie is who encourages Tess to have hope again in this world and part of that is because of her heartbreaking backstory that we don’t even get to see.

Even with Sarah and Ellie, we get to see how different they are. Yes, Ellie was not born in the world before the Cordyceps infection. But even so, Sarah was a teenager who was willing to do whatever her dad wanted while her interests (from what we could see) were in music. Ellie knows her music but her energy is just different from Sarah’s. Despite their similarities, they’re still too very different teenage girls and don’t fall into the trap of becoming 2D children.

All this is to say that all of our eggs are not in one basket. We have multiple characters to meet and fall in love with and are not limited to just one woman. Having that freedom makes this show so much more enjoyable to watch.

Pouring one out for Tess

While all of these women are incredible characters, it still hurts to say goodbye to them. There are obviously secondary female characters who we briefly see and move on from so when we do lose one that is in more of the story, we feel that loss.

With Tess, she was so strong and determined to help Joel get to Tommy that losing her before they even get out of Boston hurts. You feel for her and what she’s lost. Tess finally finds hope for the future, but won’t live long enough to see it come to fruition. In her final moments, she tells Joel to “save who you can” and sacrifices herself to make sure there is hope for the future. Frankly? That’s badass. What’s more, there are enough characters in the series, particularly female characters, that her death doesn’t feel fully like a woman dying for no reason.

Instead, it feels like a woman having agency in her own fate—and that’s something truly cool to see.

(featured image: HBO)

Have a tip we should know? [email protected]

Filed Under:

Follow The Mary Sue:

Resident Spider-Man expert, official Leslie Knope, actually Yelena Belova. Wanda Maximoff has never done anything wrong in her life. New York writer with a passion for all things nerdy. Yes, she has a Pedro Pascal podcast.