The Last of Us 2 Story Explained

An exploration of the main theme in The Last of Us 2, The Last of Us 2 Story
Let me tell you a story, kid...

Being a sequel to one of the most beloved and generation-defining video games of all time is no easy task in and of itself. To count as “successful’’, such a follow up must achieve a few things: reach the same emotional and storytelling heights of its legendary predecessor, then also surpass them (to justify being the 5 years younger sibling), and all that while refraining from venturing too far away from the course already set. Yeah, it’s kind of tricky…

The structure of The Last of Us 2 mimics that of the first game, with linear, fungal-infested levels which constantly test the player’s awareness; followed by profound, dramatic interactions between the main cast of characters.  

Although it puts more emphasis on the ruthlessness of human nature than one might expect, it’s nevertheless a story that boldly aims for exactly that: to subvert the player’s expectations. To achieve this, the game usually presents the result of what’s been brewing in the soul of one character prior, and then, subsequently draws a full circle back to that decision via playable flashbacks and alternative viewpoints.

It may be a little bit hard to follow – that’s why we’ve prepared a 10-point plot summary for The Last of Us 2, explaining the characters’ motives in the timeline of events.

SPOILERS ahead (duh!)

1. Prologue – Part 1

Smoke on the water

In the opening 2,5 hours of the game, we learn that Joel and Ellie (the protagonists of the first game) joined a group of survivors in Jackson, Wyoming, where they’ve built a walled-off settlement. Their lives are starting to resemble living in a typical rural American village: Ellie even finds time for the occasional party in the evening, while Joel commits to teaching her to play the guitar, etc. However, since the fungal epidemic still rages on just outside those walls, the group sends a couple of armed scouts from their ranks on daily basis, to survey the vicinity and keep the infested in check.

One such task was given to Joel and his brother Tommy just two days before we see Jesse (a boy of a similar age as Ellie), waking her in a somewhat hangover state one early morning, and urging her to resume her duties. They then walk around the settlement to find Ellie’s partner for the day, a girl named Dina (Jesse’s ex-girlfriend). During this, they exchange friendly banter and Jesse comments that the two girls kissed in a (presumably) drunken state the previous night, to which Ellie replies that they were just “fooling around”.

Once they come face to face, we notice palpable chemistry between Ellie and Dina. That attraction grows even as they start battling groups of infested together. After they clear out many half-frozen and abandoned buildings overrun with clickers, they fall asleep together in a vacant basement.

After several hours, they learn that Joel and Tommy are still missing, and once re-grouped with Jesse, they start riding to Joel’s last known location.

The game then switches to the other payable character, Abby, who resides with a lot smaller group of survivors. Accidentally, they’ve found shelter not far from Ellie’s settlement, a fact soon alluded to Abby’s attention by Owen, one of the members of her group. As they travel to a survey point in the mountains, it is revealed that they’ve been lovers in the past.

The moment Abby spots the settlement; she is convinced that “the person they are looking for” might be there. Owen doesn’t concur with this assessment and informs her that he must go back to his pregnant girlfriend, Mel.

Abby becomes somewhat angry with him but is determined to follow her instincts. She starts approaching the settlement when suddenly finds herself surrounded by dozens of infested. Unable to fight her way out, she is almost overwhelmed when suddenly, Joel and Tommy arrive at the scene. They kill off all adversaries just in time to save her life.

Still surrounded by hordes of runners, they somehow manage to reach the house and join with the rest of Abby’s group. United with 10-15 armed comrades, they are successful in fighting them off. After the dust is settled, Joel and Tommy introduce themselves to the strangers.

For some reason, this prompts all members of Abby’s group to turn to anger. In the very next second, two of them overpower Tommy to the ground, while Abby shoots Joel in the knee with a shotgun.


2. Prologue – Part 2

Coup de grace

A snowstorm develops when Ellie arrives near the house where Joel is held. She silently makes her way in, and with every step, she hears louder and louder sounds of someone being brutally tortured. She takes a stairway towards the basement to what seems to be their origin point and opens the door.

Immediately someone subdues her and puts his knee on her neck. Then, she notices Joel all in blood, beaten severely, and lying on the floor. Standing next to him is a muscular girl wielding a golf club (this is Abby). Ellie in desperation threatens her to let him go, promises to kill them all, but soon realizes the desperation of her predicament.

She then starts to beg them not to kill him, but to no avail – Abby lets her hate take over, and lands a defining blow to his head. Blood sprouts from the wound immediately.

Ellie breaks up in tears, asking them why they had to do that. Few members of the group (other than Abby) take action towards ending her life as well, but Owen urges them to let her go, as she “hasn’t done anything wrong”.  Instead, they kick her in the head, leaving her unconscious.

The game skips forwards a few days, once Joel has been buried and Ellie, Tommy, Jesse, and Dina are all back in their settlement. Ellie and Dina explore Joel’s home, reminiscing on the past. Then, they learn that Tommy has found a lead as to the whereabouts of the murderer. According to his findings, the perpetrators were a group connected with the Fireflies (the organization that Joel fought against in the original game).

Presumably, after killing Joel, they’ve head towards Seattle – where Tommy has already left for. Ellie tells Dina that she doesn’t have to follow her in her revenge, to what she confirms that she’ll go wherever Ellie is. Against the advice of the elder members of their group, they start their voyage to the city of Seattle, searching for the girl who killed Joel.


3. Ellie: First two days in Seattle

Back to “civilization”

Once in Seattle, they learn of the Washington Liberation Front (AKA WLF or “Wolfs”), a military group associated with the Fireflies. All around they see signs left by these soldiers, who established various quarantine zones around the city. Utilizing a map procured on sight, they head towards what must be the headquarters of the WLF.

After an overheard WLF radio communication, they start searching for Nora, a medic that might know where her friend Abby is. In the meantime, they find shelter in an abandoned theater, when Dina’s condition suddenly worsens. Succumbing to Ellie’s inquires about her health, Dina admits that she is pregnant with Jesse’s baby.

Dina remains bedridden for their second day in Seattle, so Ellie continues alone. After many hardships and a dozen encounters with another group of armed forces, the religiously-focused Seraphites (AKA “Scars”), she manages to find the hospital where Nora is.

She engages in a gunfight with the WLF, before finally chasing down and trapping Nora in a room. She still refuses to speak, though, which forces Ellie to resort to torturing her.


4. Ellie: Important Flashback 

Digging up the past

The encounter with Nora has serious implications for Ellie’s mental health. Before she returns to the theater and reunites with Dina, she thinks back on the day when she intentionally went back to the Firefly hospital (the one where the first game ended).

Inside, she learned that the team of doctors were almost certain that they may produce a vaccine from her blood and organs. Of course, that’s not what Joel has told her upon leaving the hospital.

After acquiring this knowledge, she confronts Joel and gives him one final chance to come clean with her. Under such duress, Joel admits that he couldn’t let them kill her for an uncertain outcome, and escaped the hospital with her still on anesthetics, killing all Firefly members present there.

This enrages Ellie, making her push him away and demanding that he stop caring for her. She expresses utter disappointment with him, saying how he robbed her of her chance to live a meaningful life, with a meaningful death.

This scene paints a different picture of their relationship immediately before the start of The Last of Us 2, and also defines Joel’s attempts to teach Ellie how to play the guitar, as a sort-of-a apology note.  


 5. Ellie: Third Day in Seattle


Before dying, Nora revealed Abby’s current location: The Waterfront aquarium. Aided by Jesse (who secretly followed them in Seattle), they start heading there through intense rain, which has left many streets almost completely flooded. 

During one encounter, they discover that Tommy has successfully infiltrated their territory, becoming quite the thorn in their eye. Hearing this, Jesse and Ellie split way: he decides to find and help Tommy as fast as possible, while Ellie continues towards Abby.

She survives a lot more encounters with the WLF, the Scars, and the Infected, but just as night falls, she makes it inside the Waterfront in one piece. As she silently scouts the building, she manages to get the jump on both Owen and Mel.

At gunpoint, she demands they tell her where Abby is. Seeing a split-second opportunity, Owen tries to disarm her, which forces Ellie to shoot him. Then, Mel attacks her with a knife, and after a brief struggle, Ellie stabs her in the neck. With his dying breath, Owen points to Mel’s stomach, thus letting Ellie know that she just killed a pregnant woman.

Seconds later, Tommy and Jesse arrive at the scene. They comfort Ellie saying how she didn’t have any choice. Next, they all head back to the theater, intending to return to Jackson on the following day - thus leaving Abby wherever she may be.

However, something entirely unexpected happens in the morning: Abby herself, aided by one member of the Seraphites, suddenly storm the building. She kills Jesse and wounds Tommy, before the game cuts to…


6. Abby: Important Flashback

Some fatherly advice

The game’s focus switches to Abby next, starting with a playable flashback for one of the last days she spent with her dad, some five years ago. Seeing this, we learn that Abby’s father was the surgeon leading the medical team responsible for Ellie’s procedure at the end of the first game – but got killed by Joel before they began operating.

Abby never managed to accept losing him. She adored her father, and in her eyes, Joel’s actions are horrific and irredeemable. By showing this to us, the game finally starts untangling Abby’s psyche, slowly addressing the trail of events that ended with Joel’s brutal execution.


7. Abby: First Two Days in Seattle

The stare

The game rewinds three days, setting the spotlight on Abby for that same period we’ve been following Ellie thus far.

The first thing we notice once controlling a grown-up Abby is her military upbringing. Waking in her bunk, she shares a meal with hundreds of other WLF soldiers in the canteen, before is given orders to make her way towards their leader, Isaac. 

Together with Mel, they try to establish a good conversation by avoiding speaking about Owen. Soon they are ambushed by a group of Seraphites but are saved by a squadron of WLF soldiers.

Once at the WLF HQ, Isaac invites Abby to a private chat. He informs her that Owen has practically defected, gone in hiding after he shot a WLF soldier to save one Scar (the term they use for the Seraphites). But, he orders her to not go looking for him because she’ll be soon given orders to raid the Scars’ main island.

However, since she still harbors feelings for him, Abby heads to the secret location where she knows she’ll find Owen – the aquarium near the docks.

Not long after, she is ambushed by a group of Scars, who leave her hanging on a rope, with just a small bucket to support her weight. Much to her surprise, just before her neck breaks, she is saved by two runaway Scars, who kill Abby’s captors and help her escape.

As they run through the woods, the two Scars introduce themselves as siblings, named Yara and Lev. Yara was also captured by them and her punishment was the breaking of her arm, all because she hid her brother Lev. It is explained that Lev’s committed a defiant act: he shaved his head (Lev is biologically a girl, but has always felt like a boy). That action is forbidden in their organization, but also by their mother, who is a high-ranking official in their cult.

Abby helps them find a safe spot before she continues heading towards Owen. At the Waterfront, she finds him preparing a small boat, equipping it with enough supplies for a long trip. They start remising of their past (they grew up together, and have shared many romantic moments right in the park). This results in them engaging sexually.


8. Abby: Final Day in Seattle

More than a jump scare

The next morning, Abby is woken up by a vision of Yara and Lev being hanged by the Scars, and immediately heads for the place she left them at the night before. She soon regroups with them, only to discover that Yara’s condition is critical.

She consults with Mel (who is a trained medic) as to what instruments and supplies are necessary for the amputation of Yara’s arm. Afterward, Abby and Lev head for the nearest WLF outpost, hoping that Abby will be able to sneak in and steal those items.

Surviving numerous encounters against the Scars and the Infected, they arrive at a WLF checkpoint. Then, Abby instructs Lev to hide and wait for her, while she, acting like she is still following orders, infiltrates the building. But, word of her insubordinate soon reaches the soldiers around her, who quickly tie her up in the basement.

Abby manages to break free, and after enduring a nightmarish ordeal against a mutated clicker, is finally able to procure the needed medical supplies. Reunited with Lev, they make it back to the Waterfront in time for the procedure.

In the meantime, Isaac leads a big battalion of WLF troops on the final attack against the Sreaphites. Figuring this out, Lev doesn’t wait to find out about Yara’s recovery and attempts to get to his mother instead. Abby decides to help him, and together they steer a boat to the already burning island.

There they battle against both of their supposed comrades – when WLF soldiers who recognize Abby, try to shoot Lev, she opens fire on them, stating that he is her family now. Slowly, they make their way to the main Seraphite camp, where they find Lev’s home.

He enters alone and tries to reason with his mother, but to no avail. She attacks him straight away, and Lev kills her in self-defense. Though this leaves him severely distressed, with Abby’s help, they find a boat and escape the war-ridden island.

As they approach the entertainment park, they immediately notice that something is wrong. Minutes later, they discover the dead bodies of Owen and Mel – but also, the map of Seattle used by Ellie and Dina, with the location of the theater pointed out. Ellie never noticed the map falling from her backpack.

Thanks to that item, the next morning Abby and Lev break into the theater, seeking vengeance. After Abby kills Jesse and shoots Tommy, the fight against Ellie begins. She utilizes her skills well, but Abby is ultimately victorious. Just as she is about to kill her, Lev expresses his disapproval, which makes Abby change her mind.

She tells Ellie to walk away, live her life and never look for her again.


9. Epilogue – Part 1

An idyllic life?

Months have passed since the events in Seattle, and Ellie and Dina have started a simple life on a farm, together with JJ (the son of Dina and Jesse). Ellie seems to enjoy her everyday chores a great deal, especially bonding with JJ. But, she suffers from post-traumatic stress, experiencing visions of Joel’s death and other violent scenes.

She tries her best to bury her fears and focus on the joys her new life may bring. Yet, it all comes to an end when Tommy (now blind in one eye, with one stiff leg), visits them.

He informs them that he’s tracked Abby down, all the way to the city of Santa Barbara, where she’s left to search for the Fireflies. Dina firmly opposes them re-opening old wounds, and practically chases Tommy out of their home. Ellie remains silent.

That very night, though, she sneaks out of bed and recovers her gear. She makes preparations when Dina joins her in the kitchen. She cries and begs her not to go, but Ellie explains how she doesn’t have a choice. Then, Ellie equips her backpack and exits the house.

At the same time, Abby and Lev arrive at Santa Barbara and start searching for a way to reach the Fireflies. Soon they discover a secret radio base hidden in the basement of one of the houses there, and much to their surprise – make contact.

Successfully proving her ties with them, Abby learns the location of the last Firefly base. However, as soon as they reach the main street, they are ambushed by a different group of people. Known as the Rattlers, this organization of evil men has captured, tortured and enslaved many unsuspecting victims, now including Abby and Lev.


10. Epilogue - Part 2

Final fight

After a week or so, Ellie too makes it to Santa Barbara. Very soon, she is also captured by the Rattlers, but manages to fight her way out, and even extract information about Abby’s whereabouts before killing all of her captors.

She is seriously wounded in the abdomen, but presses on, towards the place where the Rattlers keep their cages. She infiltrates their base and succeeds in freeing the captives, setting them against the slave-mongering group. One former prisoner informs her that Abby is at the beach, but probably dead by now.

As Ellie heads there, she learns how the Rattlers deal with rebellious captives: they tie them to a tall piece of wood and leave them to rot in the sun. One such fate has befallen both Abby and Lev.

Thankfully, they are not yet dead (though severely weakened and dehydrated), so Ellie frees them both. The trio heads for some boats docked nearby before Ellie demands they finish their brawl. Abby refuses to fight her. Ellie keeps on insisting though and even threatens to kill Lev (who is barely conscious) if they don’t settle their score.

This results in Abby taking a swing at her. The fight rages in knee-deep water. They both lend vicious blows to each other. Abby grapples her and manages to bite off two of her fingers. But, Ellie breaks free and after regaining composure, ultimately gains the upper hand. She overpowers Abby and starts pushing her head underwater.

But then, as Abby loses breath and begins choking on seawater, Ellie experiences one final vision of Joel’s eyes. She then starts crying, frees Abby’s head, and shouts at her to “just go”…

Sometime later, Ellie approaches the house where she was living with Dina and JJ. However, they are long gone now. The house is empty and her footsteps echo in the silence.

She finds her guitar and attempts to play the song that Joel taught her at the beginning of the game, but is unable to because of her missing fingers.


There you go folks, the story of The Last of Us 2 distilled down to 10 important plot points. What lesson did you extract from this narrative? Did you like the conclusion? Sound of in the comments!


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Being born and raised in the Balkans, Konstantin has always felt comfortable doing activities like frenzying around Tristram, meleeing on Pandora, or virtuously slaying Silver Knights in Lordran.
Gamer Since: 1996
Favorite Genre: RPG
Currently Playing: Ghost of Tsushima, Minute of Islands, Diablo 3: RoS
Top 3 Favorite Games:Dark Souls: Prepare To Die Edition, Borderlands 2, Fallout: New Vegas

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