Emotional Reckoning in The Last of Us Ep 9
Emotional Reckoning and Redemption in The Last of Us Ep 9: A Turning Point in Ellie’s Journey
The Last of Us Part II is a game full of emotional moments, but perhaps none is as pivotal and cathartic as Episode 9, titled “Santa Barbara.” In this chapter, Ellie leaves behind the ruins of Seattle and ventures to a new location that holds the promise of a cure and a new beginning. However, her quest is also fraught with danger and uncertainty, as she faces both old enemies and new allies who challenge her beliefs and her identity. What follows is a story of redemption, sacrifice, and reckoning that tests Ellie’s courage and conscience, and forces her to confront her past and her future.
The emotional reckoning in Episode 9 is a culmination of several themes that have been building up throughout the game. One of these themes is the cost of revenge, and how it can consume and corrupt even the noblest intentions. Ellie’s quest for vengeance against Abby, who killed Joel, has been the driving force of the story so far, but it has also led her down a path of violence and loss. She has killed dozens of former friends and allies of Abby, as well as innocent people who stood in her way. She has also alienated her remaining friends, including Dina and Jesse, who refused to join her in her pursuit. As a result, Ellie has become more isolated and traumatized, haunted by flashbacks and nightmares that reveal her guilt and pain.
Another theme that is intertwined with revenge is the search for meaning and connection. Ellie has lost many people she cared about, including her parents, her girlfriend Riley, and now Joel. She also feels like a misfit in a world that has been devastated by a pandemic and overrun by violent factions. Moreover, she struggles with her identity as a immune person who might hold the key to a cure for the virus that has killed millions. All these challenges have made Ellie question her purpose and her worth, and left her feeling trapped and frustrated.
When Ellie arrives in Santa Barbara, she hopes to find Abby and finally get her revenge. However, she discovers that Abby has been captured by a group of mercenaries known as the Rattlers, who use slaves as labor and entertainment. Ellie is captured too, but manages to escape from her cell, thanks to an unlikely ally: a young boy named Lev, who is also a former member of Abby’s group and a trans person. Lev becomes Ellie’s guide and companion through the rest of the chapter, but he also challenges her assumptions and biases, and forces her to reconsider her priorities and values.
One of the most powerful scenes in Episode 9 is when Ellie and Lev rescue Abby from the Rattlers’ compound, after a brutal fight that showcases Ellie’s skills and rage. When they reach the beach, Abby and Ellie face each other again, but this time the dynamic is different. Abby is emaciated and weakened by months of captivity and torture, but she is also humbled and apologetic. She asks Ellie to spare Lev, whom the Rattlers intended to kill for being a “freak,” and Ellie agrees. However, Ellie cannot let go of her need for closure, and challenges Abby to a final duel. Abby accepts, but tells Ellie that they are both “broken” and that she does not want to fight anymore. Ellie, however, does not back down, and they engage in a brutal struggle that mirrors their previous encounters.
What happens next is a turning point in Ellie’s journey, and a testament to the power of empathy and forgiveness. As they fight, Ellie has more flashbacks that reveal the bond she had with Joel, and the guilt she feels for not forgiving him before he died. She also sees how Abby had a similar bond with her own father, who was killed by Joel to save Ellie’s life. In a moment of clarity, Ellie realizes that revenge is not worth the sacrifice she has already made, and that letting go of her anger and hatred is the only way to move on.
Ellie spares Abby, and Lev joins them in a boat that will take them to their own redemption. The scene ends with Ellie leaving behind her backpack, which contained the guitar that Joel had given her, and the symbol of their shared love and loss. The guitar had been broken in their last conversation, when Ellie confronted Joel for lying to her about the Fireflies and taking away her chance to sacrifice herself for others. However, Abby had fixed the guitar during their captivity, as a way of coping with her own pain and regret. By leaving the guitar behind, Ellie is also leaving behind her past and her grudges, and accepting a new beginning that might not be easy or certain, but is worth pursuing.
The emotional reckoning in Episode 9 is a complex and multifaceted event that showcases the strengths and weaknesses of the game’s storytelling and gameplay mechanics. On one hand, the scene is a triumph of characterization, dialogue, and acting, as it brings together the main protagonists and antagonists of the story in a way that challenges and deepens their motivations and conflicts. The scene also reveals the humanity and diversity of the game’s ensemble cast, as it introduces a transgender character who is not defined solely by his gender identity, but who also has a complex backstory and personality. Moreover, the scene showcases the game’s attention to detail and world-building, as it sets the action in a new location that feels realistic and immersive, and as it introduces new enemies and challenges that require creative solutions and stealth tactics.
On the other hand, the scene also highlights some of the flaws and limitations of the game’s mechanics and design. For instance, the fight between Ellie and Abby might feel repetitive or jarring to some players, who might also question the logic of their injuries and stamina levels. Furthermore, some players might feel that the resolution of the revenge plot is too easy or too unsatisfying, given the amount of violence and trauma that has been inflicted on both sides. Moreover, some players might feel that the game’s pacing or structure is uneven or disjointed, as it switches between different narrators and timelines, and as it offers multiple endings and epilogues that might not feel consistent or coherent.
Despite these criticisms, the emotional reckoning in Episode 9 is a momentous and captivating scene that encapsulates the heart and soul of The Last of Us Part II. It is a scene that challenges and rewards the player’s investment in the characters and the story, and that offers a glimpse of hope and healing in a world that is full of pain and loss. It is a scene that reminds us of the power of empathy and forgiveness, and of the dangers of revenge and hate. It is a scene that invites us to feel and reflect on the meaning of our own lives, and to find the strength and will to move forward and create a better future.