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How a video game may have saved an estranged friendship

MAJOR SPOILER ALERTS for “The Last of Us: Part I” and “The Last of Us: Part II”.

You have been warned.


In an earlier blog post, I wrote about the fallout of a long term friendship resulting from the manipulations of my ex-boyfriend and the colossal argument that followed. Since writing that post, I thought a bit about her. I didn’t want to admit it, but I missed her. The problem was I couldn’t trust her. At first, I thought the issue was all the nasty things she called me in the argument. It took a while to figure out the real issue was her friendship with my ex-boyfriend.

I could probably forgive all those things she said in the argument, but I had lost trust in her after I found she told my ex things about me (after being told not to do so) and was still willing to believe him and giving him the benefit of the doubt despite proving multiple times how much of a manipulative, lying scumbag he is.

My husband was pushing me to make amends with her and that she was willing to make things right. Eventually, I realized I wanted to try to resume our friendship, but I insisted on some boundaries. I stipulated that we couldn’t be friends unless she cut off all contact with him and never have anything to do with my ex ever again or else our friendship will be done for good. It maybe sounds drastic, but she had shown me that I couldn’t trust her as a friend as long as she associated herself with him.

Surprisingly, she agreed. She apparently didn’t even tell him she was blocking him into oblivion. I suppose it was easy for her to ghost him considering my ex hadn’t spoken to her in several months due to throwing one of his classic pity parties where he feels sorry for himself and refuses to speak to anyone—just like he did over a year ago when we had our big fight.

Even after making up, I was still a little apprehensive about talking with her. When she expressed plans to visit the area, the idea of hanging out with her filled me with anxiety and I didn’t want to see her. I thought I had missed her and here I was trying to avoid her.

A few days after she cut off all contact with my ex for the sake of repairing a friendship, The Last of Us Part II came out.

To summarize the previous game, Joel is tasked with bringing Ellie to a rebel militia called the Fireflies, who hope Ellie’s immunity to the Cordyceps fungus that plagues humanity will help create a vaccine. When they finally reach the Fireflies, Ellie is prepped for surgery and Joel is informed that creating a vaccine will involve removing the infected portion of Ellie’s brain. Refusing to let Ellie to die, Joel fights his way to the operating room, kills the lead surgeon, carries Ellie out of the hospital, kills the leader of the Fireflies, and drives back to his brother’s settlement. Joel lies to Ellie when she wakes up, claiming the Fireflies found other immune people like her but failed at creating a vaccine so they stopped trying.

Part II takes place a few years after the first game. Joel is brutally murdered by Abby within the opening hours of the game while Ellie watches helplessly. Ellie swears revenge and hunts for Abby.

As the game progresses, it becomes less clear as to why Ellie wants to avenge Joel’s death. In a series of flashbacks leading up to the end of the game, Ellie questions what was told to her for a couple years and it leads to the end of her relationship with Joel once he finally admits he hadn’t been truthful. One flashback is from the night before Joel is murdered and Ellie is still extremely bitter towards Joel even though he came to her defense after a homophobic drunk calls her a “loudmouth dyke”. Why would Ellie want to avenge Joel’s death if she felt so negatively about him?

Ellie nearly gets her revenge at the end of the game, but ultimately lets Abby go when she recalls a glimpse of a memory of Joel. The full flashback reveals that Ellie went to Joel’s house almost immediately after the incident at the bar. After Ellie expresses frustration that she felt her life would have mattered if she had been allowed to die in that hospital for the creation of a vaccine and Joel took that away from her, she says something that was rather enlightening:

“I just…I don’t think I can ever forgive you for that. …But I would like to try.”

But I would like to try.      

It brought a lot of perspective to the game’s themes of revenge and forgiveness, but also to me wanting to try trusting someone who hadn’t been my friend for the past year. It doesn’t mean I’m going to put up with toxicity and I will absolutely stand by my word that our friendship is finished if she ever choses to have anything to do with my ex-boyfriend. But something about Ellie admitting she would want to try to forgive Joel helped me feel less apprehensive about repairing things with my own friend and at least get over the hurt feelings enough to see her.

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