With everything that came out of Playstation Experience over the weekend, perhaps the most-talked about reveal is The Last of Us Part II. That comes as no surprise, as The Last of Us has been dubbed a generation-defining video game and is the ultimate trump card in the PS4 vs Xbox One debate.
The trailer shows an angry, angry Ellie playing guitar and singing a sinister song, surrounded by dead people. Joel walks in and says "What are you doing, kiddo? You really gonna go through with this?" to which Ellie responds "I'm going to find and kill every last one of them" (as a side note, calling the game "The Last of Them" would have been pretty cool).
Analyzing trailers is all we have in this case, as few details have been released. But already, fan theories are cropping up, one of which seems to be the most interesting: Joel is dead. In a truly Shyamalanian twist, many are predicting that Joel has been killed by one group or another, perhaps the fireflies, and Ellie is only imagining him in that trailer.
This has some legitimacy the more you think about it. It's already been revealed that you will play as Ellie. Joel sort of waltzes in past all the bodies with little regard for the situation around him, and Ellie is clearly really incensed about something, and Joel made damn sure that he was really the only connection she had left. Plus, last game was Joel's story about the inability to get over the death of his daughter, and it would have some symmetry if now Ellie had to get over (or not) the death of a father figure.
While all that sounds logical, and I won't spend any amount of time arguing that it's not going to happen (mostly because you're guess is as good as mine), I am going to say that Joel's being dead would be terrible. More specifically, it would be a terrible waste of the most explosive development from The Last of Us.
I know a game like The Last of Us was going to get a sequel whether or not it warranted one, but, in this case, the original game left at least a few things unresolved that The Last of Us Part II could explore. Perhaps the biggest unresolved issue: Joel lied to Ellie about the cure, essentially dooming humanity because he couldn't lose her like he lost his daughter. Ellie even has a moment in the epilogue where she flat out asks Joel if he was being honest with her, even intimating that she would be willing to die if it was for the good of humanity, and Joel doubles down on his lie.
That's definitely a revelation that has to come to light in the sequel, no? But what better way to completely bail out Joel from having to face the consequences – and Ellie – of his selfish dishonesty than to kill him off? If Joel is dead in The Last of Us Part II, then Ellie will have a hard time being mad at him, and all will be forgiven.
Now, maybe if he dies toward the end after all this has already come about, OK. But if the inciting action of The Last of Us Part II is Joel being killed and Ellie going on a murderous tirade against the group responsible, it will let Joel off the hook entirely and waste a ready-made opportunity for further character growth and exploration that the original game demands be explored.
So, before asking if Joel is dead in The Last of Us Part II, start by asking if he should be.