We Can’t Wait for ‘The Last of Us’ To Introduce This Brilliant Antagonist
She's gonna hit a Joel-in-One. Too soon?
If you’ve been watching The Last of Us on HBO without ever playing the game, you’re lucky! Enjoying the amazing narrative of Naughty Dog’s award-winning game series for the first time is such a joy. Or a sob-fest. Or a panic-induced emergency call to your therapist, depending on the episode. Those of us who’ve played the games know what’s coming. Or, rather, who’s coming. Abby Anderson—one of the most compelling, complex, and divisive characters in video games.
So, who is she and why is she so important? We’ll start with the basics for those of you who are exclusively enjoying TLOU as an HBO series. I’ll let you know when we’re headed into Spoiler Town so you can get off this train.
Who is Abby Anderson?
Abby Anderson (voiced by the brilliant Laura Bailey) is introduced in The Last of Us Part II, which was released in the summer of 2020. It was the perfect game-about-a-post-pandemic-world to play in lockdown during a pandemic.
She’s a muscular, sturdily built young woman camped out in a house with a small group of people. It’s clear she has a mission, but we don’t know what. Unable to sleep one early morning, Abby talks with her milquetoast friend/love interest, Owen. We learn that she’s looking for someone.
It turns out she’s looking for Joel, and it’s not to give him a belated birthday gift.
Owen leads her on a mysterious hike through the snowy woods to a cliff overlooking a sizeable, working town. That alone would be a miracle in the post-apocalypse. It becomes more miraculous when Owen tells her that this is Joel’s location.
It’s Jackson, the town where Tommy and Maria live. So, yes, we’ll likely be seeing more of Jackson in season 2!
Abby goes off to track Joel down on her own, and is swarmed by a bunch of infected. Who jumps in to help her in the nick of time? Joel and his brother, Tommy, who happen to be out doing a routine sweep.
What happens when the universe throws Abby and Joel together? We’ll leave that there for now.
Playing as Abby when she first appears is an emotionally effective introduction that allows you to get to know her. However, the camaraderie you begin to feel with her will become increasingly disturbing the more you learn.
Quick facts about Abby:
Throughout the game, we learn the following about Abby:
- She’s a member of the WLF (Washington Liberation Front), a group based in Seattle that formed to oppose FEDRA. Like many such groups (Kansas City, anyone?), they fought fire with fire and basically became FEDRA Lite.
- She’s an orphan. Her mother has already died (likely during the initial cordyceps outbreak), and her father was killed years earlier. We see the close relationship Abby has with her father in flashbacks.
- Abby collects state quarters the way Ellie collects comics and trading cards. So, throughout the game, there are opportunities to pick them up. She does this to honor her father, continuing his collection.
- She’s a True Believer in the WLF, but she’s not a true believer in anything spiritual. Thanks in large part to two kids Abby meets—an older sister named Yara, and a younger brother named Lev—her beliefs change during her search.
Abby—a fascinating character mysteriously connected to Joel—is nearly guaranteed to appear in the second season of HBO’s The Last of Us.
Those of you who don’t want story/game spoilers, now’s the time to get off this ride. We’ll wait.
A mirror of Ellie
So, now it’s only those of us who’ve played the games, or don’t care about spoilers, right? Good.
Abby also serves as a mirror of Ellie.
At first, fans had a negative response to Abby when TLOU Part 2 came out, thanks to what happens when Abby finally finds Joel: She brutally beats him to death with a golf club in the first part of the game. Why? Her father was the surgeon set to operate on Ellie at the end of TLOU. Joel killed him.
As The Last of Us Part II progresses, and you play half of the game as Abby and the other half as Ellie, you realize these two vengeful, violent young women have more in common than they’d ever admit:
- Both are reacting viscerally to the murder of someone they love—their father (or father figure).
- Both are hypocritical. Each believes her bloody revenge is righteous. But when others want to reciprocate? That person’s always “wrong,” or “crazy.” Someone close to each of them asks, “Aren’t you worried that if you go after her, people are going to come after you?” Each one responds, “This is different.” It isn’t, but they each need to believe their violence is justified.
- Both are unable to let things go and move on.
Ellie and Abby’s inevitable showdown in The Last of Us Part II is surprising and beautiful in depicting how wounded and tired these young women have become, both literally and spiritually, in pursuit of revenge. They don’t end the game “fixed,” but they have each grown somewhat, and that might be all one can hope for.
Knowing how wonderfully complex Abby is in the game and how beautifully showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have adapted The Last of Us as a TV series, I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing how they bring this powerhouse character to life—and who they get to fill her shoes.
(featured image: Naughty Dog)
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