I was staying FAR away from spoilers until I played the game (and the first one) for myself. I had already seen the BrainScratchComms playthrough of the first game, so I already knew, or at least had a good idea, of what to expect. So after beating the first game, I dove straight into the 2nd one, completely new territory.
...Wow, this game.
This fucking game...
I have never, NEVER played a video game that GOT to me and got me as emotionally invested in the story and the characters like this game did. And man do I have a lot of thoughts.
Let me just start off by saying this. As far as the whole "political agendas" deal is concerned.
Now that that's out of the way let's get into the game.
Starting the game with Joel telling Tommy what happened at the end of the first game let me know right away that it was going to be a brutal ride. And personally, I didn't agree with Joel's decision. I'm going off the idea that if Joel had let Ellie go and let the Fireflies kill her to get a vaccine, it would have worked and they could have helped give humanity a chance to save itself. But even if the chances of that happening were slim to none to begin with, I thought it was worth taking. "Needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few." So, I don't agree with what Joel did. But as an uncle and someone who hopes to be a father one day, I certainly understand why he did it. If my brother and I were in the same situation, I know for a fact he would've done the same thing... And maybe I would have to. I certainly hope neither of us ends up in that situation, but it's why, while I don't agree with Joel's decision, I certainly don't fault him for it. It's why I connected to him, and to Ellie as well, more than any other protagonist I've ever played as in a video game. You're either the 'knight in shining armor, goody-two shoes, hero' or the 'evil, heartless, cold-blooded, bad guy'. Joel and Ellie are, by far, the most relatable ones I've played as, because they're just like me: HUMAN. And as humans, every choice we make has consequences that we eventually have to answer to...
And oh my God, did Joel have plenty he had to answer to...
...Which leads me to Abby.
To bring up a big flaw this game has in its story telling. I think it would've served the developers' purpose better if they showed us Abby's upbringing and journey with her group, her place in the Fireflies, and her dad BEFORE the events of Jackson take place, not after. It would've helped a lot of people come around to her much easier and see where she was coming from rather than what we got where the very first thing we see her do is kill Joel. You only get one chance at a first impression: And HOLY SHIT, was that a BAD first impression. Made it REALLY hard for me when they started having me play as her in Seattle and all I wanted was to throw myself into a hoard of infected and watch them rip her apart. As for her group, I did come around to some of them, including Abby herself (Thanks in large part to Yara and Lev). I did come around to Owen, Mel, and Alice (the dog: I love dogs. I'm a dog person!) But, as for Manny, as a fellow latino, I would just like to say FUCK THAT PUTO! "Chinga tu madre, pinche pendejo." Is what I thought every time I saw him and I was grinning from ear to ear when Tommy blew his head off. And Nora for what she said about Joel. I mean, she was right... Still made me want to bash her brains in, which Ellie did for me.
It was made in purpose that you don't get to know Abby until you play with her, just so you can better see and feel those emotions you had and also evaluate differently what you did as Ellie. And sure hate to play as Abby on the start.
As far as Joel's death is concerned. As gruesome and as heart-wrenching as it was. You can't deny that he pretty much got what was coming to him, given the circumstances. Like I said before, as humans, we make choices, those choices have consequences, and eventually, we have to answer for them. So I'm not as enraged over Joel's death as a lot of people I've seen in YouTube comments about the game (Seriously, Jesus Christ.) As I pretty much knew it was coming... But I certainly wasn't expecting it in THE FIRST TWO HOURS OF THE FUCKING GAME! Man, that REALLY caught me off guard. This whole time, I thought Ellie's quest for revenge was because some people killed some of her friends, like Jesse or Dina. She'd set out on her own, run into Joel, and he joins her... I didn't think it would be BECAUSE of Joel that she sets out for revenge. But you know what, that makes a lot more sense and carries more weight for Ellie AND the player, if it's Joel who bit bullet as opposed to some unimportant minor character we're not nearly as attached to. So looking back on it, to really make the game's theme of revenge, hatred, and forgiveness work, it HAD to be Joel.
If you had played the original game when launched and kept track of the discussions for the sequel, and seem that all trailers and discussions only showed Ellie, with Joel only been shown recently you would have expected Joel to die early on. There were even theories that Ellie had discovered about the hospital and either killed Joel due to being pissed or just left him behind.
I mention the themes of the game being revenge, hatred, and forgiveness to highlight my biggest and most important point. While we all knew that revenge and hatred were going to be two big themes heading into this game "I mean the developers and Neil Druckmann said as much." But, I think those two were the secondary themes behind THE main theme: Forgiveness. Which is no more apparent then how the game ended... Specifically, why Ellie decided to let Abby go.
It had nothing to do with forgiving Abby.
She didn't forgive Abby, she will NEVER forgive Abby. It goes beyond that. Ellie hates Abby with every fiber of her being and can't forgive what she did. She also couldn't forgive Joel for the longest time for what he did at the end of the first game. But the one person Ellie hates more than anyone else, the one person she cannot forgive more than anyone else... is herself.
For a lot of things: Her immunity and the pain and suffering it has caused (Tess, Sam, Henry, Riley, the Fireflies, etc.), the people she slaughtered and tortured (Nora, Mel, and Owen in particular) just to get to Abby and exact revenge, which made her into someone she was not and made her just as bad as Abby was. And finally, above all else, how she treated Joel after she found the truth.
This entire time, it wasn't revenge she was seeking; It was forgiveness. Forgiving herself for how coldly she treated him, even if he deserved it, because she loved him. Joel was her father. The one person who loved her unconditionally. And she was downright cold to him after she found out what he did. She basically disowned him and didn’t give him the time of day for years after that. She never even tried to reach out and put it past them until the very end when they were finally starting to pick up the pieces and she felt like she was finally ready to forgive him. But by that point, it was too late. She never even got to tell him how much he meant to her. Or say "I'm sorry for how I treated you." Or "I love you." Now she'll never get that chance. Because she threw that opportunity away for years. Long before Abby ever entered the picture.
I'm pretty sure her PTSD after some of the killing and her emotions were mainly due to her already having forgiving Joel without noticing, but having not told him and used the chance to bond again, it is a common exploitation in stories the "I didn't get the chance to give goodbye".
This entire game is Ellie trying to fill that giant black void in her heart left by Joel’s death and the overwhelming guilt she feels. She was trying to fill it with hatred, vengeance, and bloodlust for Abby and her friends. And look where that got her. Lost two fingers, more emotional trauma and suffering, not just for her, but Dina as well and it turned her into something she’s not. You ever see Avatar: the Last Airbender? The episode where Katara wants to go after the man who killed her mother and Aang sees right through it and knows she just wants revenge? “Revenge is like a two-headed rat-viper, while you watch your enemy go down. You’re being poisoned yourself.” There’s no better example of this than when Ellie savagely tortured and beat Nora to death. The same way Abby did to Joel. In her obsession with revenge, she became the very person she set out to kill.
Killing Abby wouldn't have changed a God Damn thing. It wasn't going to make her feel better. It wasn't going to bring her peace of mind. Just like it didn't make Abby feel any better or bring her any peace of mind. And it wasn't going to bring Joel back or give her that chance to reconcile that she wasted all those years. All she would have done was take Abby away from Lev, just like how Abby took Joel away from her, continuing the never-ending cycle of revenge and poisonous hatred. Who's to say that if Ellie finished the job and Lev somehow made it out of there, he wouldn't have set out to avenge Abby and kill Ellie? Like... When does it end?
It just wasn't worth it anymore. She was done. She realized it. And she just wanted to put Joel's death behind her and move on with her life, and the meaning in it she was searching for and finally found. That thing that she could "keep fighting for" like Joel said at the end of the first game: Dina and JJ.
It wasn't revenge she was searching for, it was forgiveness. She needed to find that within herself. She hates Abby for sure. But nowhere near as much as she hates herself for what she did to Joel. And she may never forgive herself for how she treated him...
"But I'd like to try."
And she started trying to forgive herself by finally, FINALLY forgiving Joel.
That’s why she let Abby go.
If they had TV in TLOU they would never got the sequel, they just needed to watch "chaves" or "chavo del otcho" and the phillosopher Seu Madruga "Vengeance is never fulfilling, it kills and poison your soul" or in portuguese and ryme "A vingança nunca é plena, mata a alma e envenena". @BraLoD