Abby is the Most Important Character in The Last of Us Part II and Here’s Why
Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us Part II was one of the most highly anticipated and controversial games of 2020. Strangely, it spawned a divide between those who absolutely loved it and those who felt disappointed by its direction and even hated the game. Despite this discourse, that did not stop The Last of Us Part II from becoming the most awarded game of all time.
With the game heavily discussed and dissected over delays and controversial characters, the main topic always relates back to one character: Abby. However, now that we have had time to process the game as a whole and replay it with some much-appreciated hindsight, it needs to be said that Abby is the best character in The Last of Us Part II.
**The remainder of this article contains spoilers for The Last of Us Part II**
It seems like everyone has an opinion of Abby; some loved her and some really hated her. It sparked a huge debate as to how women “should” appear in video games with much of the critique focusing on Abby’s muscles. Abby has been training her whole life to complete her singular task, she has been focused on this one goal of facing her father’s murderer. And let’s be honest here, she looks damn good.
Naughty Dog really pulled a fast one on players’ expectations as everyone assumed that Part II would focus on the adventures of Joel and Ellie. Instead, players spend half of the game with an entirely new character, Abby, who does not leave a great first impression given the fact that she brutally murders Joel in front of Ellie at the very beginning of the game. This visceral, disturbing act is all we know of her until halfway through the game when we switch perspective to playing as Abby. The game then has us replay the past three days in Seattle that Ellie just experienced but from Abby’s perspective. The resentment and hatred towards this character was already there and then forcing the players to now play as her, I can see why so many were outraged at this narrative decision, but this is why the game is so brilliant.
Once Abby’s revenge has been taken, she finds herself not knowing her place in the world. She seeks meaning to her life now, and she finds that with Lev and his sister, Yara. While she is captured by Seraphites they come to her rescue. We learn that Lev and Yara are runaways – exiled by their family and religion due to Lev wanting to be a male in their society. It is important to note that it appears that Lev is a trans character without coming out and saying the word. This relationship between Lev and Abby begins to show her changing. Lev does not want to seek revenge, he just wants to live his life, and in turn, she becomes a protector to Lev. The two of them decide to become a family of sorts. This whole journey allows players to grow and learn about Abby just as Lev does.
Abby is the opposite of Ellie. We learn she was the daughter of one of the surgeon’s that Joel had murdered in the first game to rescue Ellie. While Ellie’s story is about wanting justice, Abby’s story is about redemption; she has already received her justice. The common misconception is that Joel and Ellie are the main protagonists of the game, but really it’s Abby. While Joel is a beloved character, he has done some terrible things, including murdering tons of Fireflies and Abby’s father to save Ellie while simultaneously destroying the only possibility of them developing a vaccine.
It is important to take a step back and look at Ellie and Abby as juxtaposed characters. Ellie has done things just as awful as Abby, the difference being that Abby becomes the moral ambiguity of the game; she is trying to redeem herself as the justice she took out did not solve her inner problems. Ellie is so blinded by her revenge she is willing to give up everything, including her own happiness with Dina, to carry out this revenge.
By the end of Abby’s arc in the game, Ellie has become the clear villain in Abby’s eyes. But what does Abby do when she gets the upper hand? She lets Ellie go. Again. Abby would be justified in taking out Ellie, wouldn’t she? From her perspective Ellie has killed dozens of WLF members (who Abby might have known), Abby’s ex Owen, Owen’s pregnant girlfriend Mel, and even Abby’s dog Alice. How many of Ellie’s friends has Abby killed? Only Joel, which she did out of revenge for her father’s death. Abby did hurt Tommy and kill Jesse, but Ellie has done a lot more damage if we are counting. Abby has changed, she does not want to act this way anymore and lets Ellie go. Things could have ended here, but Ellie is so blinded by her rage she seeks Abby out again, giving up her “perfect” life with Dina on a farm.
When Ellie finds Abby she is at one of her lowest points, having been captured by the Rattler gang and defeated. Ellie then forces Abby to fight her in a last-ditch effort to get her revenge. While we can understand her justification of revenge for what happened to Joel, it just comes off as Ellie being the villain again. Thankfully, Ellie does not kill Abby which is arguably her only redeeming quality in the game.
What makes Abby the true protagonist is that she is the polar opposite of Ellie; she got her revenge and it did not make her feel any better or make things right. It is through her search for redemption and her relationship with Lev that players learn that revenge is not what you might think it is. Ellie and Abby are two sides of the same coin. What makes Abby such a complex character is that she changes the most throughout the entire series.
She changes for the better once she meets Lev, learns empathy and discovers how to move past her hate towards Scars. At the beginning of the game, we can feel what Abby and Ellie have felt; we want revenge on Abby for what she did to Joel, but we also want to find serenity for Abby. By the end of the game, we learn through Abby that revenge is not what it seems. The focus and transformative given in Abby’s perspective is why she truly is the main protagonist.
It is natural to assume that Ellie is the hero and the main character in the game, we have lived through so much of her struggle already. But the Last of Us Part II shows us the complexity of the human condition under duress. We accepted what Joel did in The Last of Us because we saw it through his eyes. Abby shows us what it’s like to be the victim of someone else’s actions and what it means to turn over a new leaf. Her story of revenge and forgiveness comes full circle. Her motivation blossoms and grows, making her a better person the more time we spend with her. This is why Abby is the most important character in The Last of Us Part II.