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The Last Of Us / Tropes A to D

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  • 2x4: The wooden board is the most commonly found melee weapon in the game.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: The assault rifle that's only available in the final level of the game, from killed Firefly soldiers.
  • 555: Attempted but in one case the artist didn't realize that putting a 1-800 in front made it a real number... as in a working Real Life sex hotline. Whoops.

  • A Birthday, Not a Break: The infection spread its way to Joel's home just hours after his birthday.
  • Acceptable Breaks from Reality:
    • The characters (apart from Ellie) have to put on gas masks whenever they notice spores. In real-life it's doubtful that a person would be able to notice deadly spores before it was too late, and even when getting through an infected area, spores may stick to a person's clothes and do just as much damage once the gas mask is removed. If the story was to rely on realism the characters would probably have to walk around wearing gas masks constantly, at least in cities or anywhere infected could be hiding... which is to say nearly everywhere you go in the game.
    • There are several times in the game where Joel will go swimming, sometimes in sub-level places or during Fall where in both cases it would appear freezing to do so. Joel will never complain about being soaked or cold, however, as his clothes just seem to magically dry up once he gets out of the water. Seeing as the alternative would be to have him change clothes everytime he got wet or give him a cold to walk around with, it's an understandable reality break.
  • Action Girl: Tess. Arguably Ellie the more the game goes on, but her young age makes her more of a Little Miss Badass.
  • Action Survivor: Every survivor, but mostly Ellie. Joel has elements of it under his higher willingness to kill.
  • Actor Allusion:
    • At one point in the game, Joel mentions that he wanted to become a singer. His actor, Troy Baker, was once the lead singer for an indie-rock band called Tripp Fontaine.
    • Nolan North also has a moment where his character (David) alludes to a line that he said in a previous work released a year before The Last Of Us. During his confrontation with Ellie (if you let him talk for long enough after stabbing him for the first time), he says "you brought this on yourself."
    • Troy Baker as a badass "shoot everything on sight" kinda guy with a shady and blood drenched past, is charged to pick up and deliver a young girl (a brunette named Elizabeth) who he is forced to protect from hordes of enemies while she provides backup and occasionally pipes up with helpful advice or snarky comments. Said girl also runs away from him at one point. Hmm, now where have we heard that before?
  • Actually Pretty Funny:
    • Most of the jokes Ellie reads from her joke book make Joel groan with annoyance, but she eventually tells one that even gets him to chuckle and remark that he's actually never heard it.
      Ellie: I used to be addicted to soap, but I'm clean now.
    • There is also this exchange a few puns later:
      Ellie: What did the mermaid wear to her math class?
      Joel: What?
      Ellie: An algae bra!
      Joel: (chuckles) Terrible.
  • Advancing Boss of Doom: The Humvee in Pittsburgh. Also comes with a good Recurring Boss build up.
  • Adult Fear:
    • Sarah, Sam, possibly any kids that the Hunters find as implied by dialogue overheard in Pittsburgh.
    • In the sewers —They Did Not Suffer.
  • After the End: The game's setting, with "the end" being when a fungal infection broke out.
  • All for Nothing: The ultimate outcome of Ellie and Joel's journey. Upon learning that Ellie has to die for a possible vaccine to be made, Joel refuses and rescues her from the surgery, killing her pursuers. While he is happy with having saved his surrogate daughter, Ellie suffers under this trope and Word of God states part of her resented him for it.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Word of God originally stated that Tess has romantic feelings for Joel (due to them having worked together for a long time), but Joel does not reciprocate. Aside from a quick mention in the first chapter after the prologue, there is no other indication that Tess feels this way towards Joel. However, this was changed later (due to story meddling from Joel's voice actor Troy Baker) to the trust/relation being mutual. Joel's just very good at burying things. There's an additional conversation in which Joel will sarcastically say he's the romantic type, and Tess will reply "You got your ways." which further implies they were more than just partners once.
  • Already Undone for You: During a segment in the Fall chapter, Joel and Tommy are riding through the woods to find Ellie, and ends up running into a lair with enemies they have to fight. There's no mention of how Ellie got past them just a few moments before however.
  • An Aesop: Joel spends the entire game refusing to even acknowledge anything in the past, which even includes Tess when he and Ellie have to leave her behind. However, late in the game he's finally close enough to Ellie to accept the photo of Sarah he left:
    Joel: [upset] Well, no matter how hard you try, I guess you can't escape your past. Thank you.
  • An Ax To Grind: One of the One-Hit Kill melee weapons towards the end of the game.
  • And I Must Scream:
    • Sam mentions to Ellie that he's afraid of the idea of the infected being fully conscious humans who can't control their bodies or stop themselves from doing horrible atrocities.
    • The "Runners" (people recently turned) are heavily implied to still have a bit of their consciousness left, given how they sound like they're crying, and walk around with pained grunts and whimpers in general.
  • And Now for Someone Completely Different: You control Sarah, Joel's daughter, at the very beginning. You also play as Ellie in the majority of the Winter chapter and in the epilogue.
  • And the Adventure Continues: After Joel saves Ellie a final time from the Salt Lake City hospital, an epilogue shows that they're continuing to survive simply because they have no other choice. At the very least they're on the way back to Tommy's to take him up on his offer.
  • And Some Other Stuff: The myriad survivalist training manuals (or rather, scattered torn-out pages of them), which, when collected, provide Joel with handy-dandy information on how to survive in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The pages about treating injuries more effectively have some actually pretty useful information on splints, tourniquets and the like. The pages about making smoke bombs, tying knots on weapons, sharpening shivs, and improving the construction of molotov cocktails all noticeably have their pages stained or torn and trail off into illegibility.
  • And Starring: Nolan North is listed this way in the game's credits.
  • And Your Reward Is Clothes: There's a laundry list of in-game tasks to accomplish, everything from listening to Ellie's jokes to accruing kills with improvised weapons to completing the game on various difficulty levels. These award cash that can be spent in the menus to unlock art galleries and the only in-game content — different attire for Joel and Ellie.
  • Annoying Arrows: Zig-zagged - firing arrows at unaware enemies almost always results in a one-hit kill. At higher difficulties, however, clickers can take two arrows even if the first is a headshot.
  • Anti-Climax: The last playable section during Summer ends with Joel spotting dozens of infected running straight towards the house he, Ellie, Sam and Henry are hiding in, making it appear that a big fight or tough escape is next. Turns out all they need to do is run out the back of the house and through the fence and the horde doesn't even notice them.
  • Anti-Frustration Features:
    • Enemies won't detect your escorts during sneaking sessions, just you. Appropriately, they sneak around corners almost as well as you can, but if you're careful you may notice a few times when the bad guys ought to be noticing your escorts but don't. We are not complaining, though. The alternative would be insufferable.
    • Killed enemies tend to drop the same type of ammo or equipment they were killed with, especially when you're low on that particular type. Notice how enemies killed by stealth (i.e. bare hands) rarely drop anything. This might lead to a generalized Too Awesome to Use, so it's important to use what you have... within reason of course.
    • In multiplayer, executions do not use ammo, even if the animation clearly involves the player firing a shot.
    • If you die a few times on the same encounter, your character heals up substantially for the next attempt.
    • In Winter, during the period while you're playing as Ellie, the enemies all have substantially less stamina, making them easier to defeat.
    • If you're low on health and out of health kits, one of your A.I. partners (usually Ellie) will spawn one for you.
    • During the part where Joel is caught by a trap, he has unlimited ammo for the revolver he automatically equips for the event. Also when he is grabbed by an infected (not a clicker for obvious reasons), successfully shaking it off and aiming with the revolver afterwards will have Joel automatically aim the head for a one-hit kill opportunity.
    • During the steakhouse boss fight, Listen Mode (when available) reveals David's position at any distance, even if you never spent upgrade points to increase it previously.
  • Anyone Can Die: At any time, anywhere, with little to no warning before it happens. A perfect example is Joel's daughter, who is killed by a soldier very, very suddenly. In the first minutes of the game. You Have Been Warned.
  • Apocalypse How: Type 2. Major cities were made into safe zones and small holdouts and hamlets while the rest of the wilderness is abandoned.
  • Apocalyptic Log: Several can be found throughout the game in the form of journals, including one from a boy whose parents make an attempt to escape long after the infection has hit.
    • Played with the final recording from the Firefly scientist who freed the test subject monkeys and got bitten. Joel and Ellie find the recording he made next to his corpse. Joel starts playing it, and when the recording talks about how he now has the time to contemplate his life choices, Joel groans and fast forwards repeatedly, just trying to find where the Fireflies moved to.
  • Arc Symbol: Giraffes appear often, seemingly representing innocence; for instance, Sarah has a toy giraffe in her room, which you can find instances of throughout the chapters, and there's an iconic scene with giraffes walking through a ruined city.
  • Arc Villain: Apart from the very obvious infected, every seasonal chapter has one or two antagonistic human factions giving the most trouble to Joel, Ellie and company during their journey.
    • Summer has the Military and FEDRA during the first half taking place at the Boston Quarantine Zone and its surroundings, with the Hunters taking the role during the second half on Pittsburgh.
    • Fall has the Bandits constantly attacking and raiding Jackson County.
    • Winter has the Cannibals around the Whitefish Lakeside Resort and the nearby town, with David as their leader.
    • Spring ends up with The Fireflies and Marlene as the final antagonist Joel faces.
  • Armies Are Evil: Every organized military force in the game is depicted negatively in some way. The US Army is shown committing one cold blooded murder before the apocalypse, while FEDRA soldiers are shown murdering captured Firefly prisoners after it. Whenever you encounter FEDRA soldiers during gameplay, they will try to kill you on sight, even before they have identified you and received a valid reason to do so. The Firefly rebel army also turns out to be evil within minutes of discovering them.
  • Armour Is Useless: Averted. Armour is annoying when the enemy has it - any unarmoured human enemy can (on standard difficulty) be taken out by a single headshot of your standard 9mm pistol. Military and bandits with helmets, not so much.
  • Artificial Brilliance:
    • Scavengers have reactions recorded for various situations. They are able to inform the others in their group if Joel is spotted or they find a body of one of their dead comrades, recognize the sound of an empty magazine, and take cover when fired at. They can even come up with strategies to surround and corner you. Also, enemies manage to invert stealth-based gameplay on you: enemies can hide, leave traps, sneak up behind you, take your gun, and attack you if you're not paying attention. Enemies can even grab you from behind and use you as a human shield, making you an easy target for their allies.
    • Ellie also demonstrates this by taking cover on her own, distracting enemies when Joel is in a pinch, attacking an enemy if Joel is struggling with one close by, and when Joel gets hurt by an attack, she asks if he's okay. She'll also notify you if she sees an enemy out of your line of sight. She is also fully capable of taking out enemies on her own when one tries to sneak up on Joel, will collect ammo for him and give it over before/in/after a fight.
  • Artificial Stupidity:
    • Mainly due to the Rule of Fun, but enemies thankfully ignore allies when in stealth mode, which can lead to some immersion-breaking scenarios. Penny Arcade's take on this, as well as I Am ARG!'s. The enemies are also completely incapable of hearing their companions being strangled even close by, including Clickers, who are supposed to rely on hearing.
    • As part of their programming, enemies will react to certain stimuli, such as an empty magazine. Always. Which means you can fake out enemies with an unloaded gun and headshot them with a loaded gun once they try to charge you, and they'll never wise up to your tactic.
    • Putting a certain amount of distance between you and enemies can render them unaware of your presence, and they won't follow you past that distance, even if you were just shooting at them seconds ago. With a big enough environment, it's entirely possible to clear a whole room with hit-and-run tactics, and the enemies will never be the wiser so long as you retreat to the last safe room after each kill. However, they will be more difficult to sneak up on after you break contact, as they will spend the rest of the level on "heightened alert", moving at a faster pace and actively looking for you instead of just casually walking around.
    • The AI is terrible at determining how someone died. A very good area that demonstrates this is the courtyard where Ellie is handed the rifle to play over watch. With so many enemies in the area, it should be impossible for them to miss one of their buddies being killed regardless of certain stealth tactics. Yet if a guy is shot in the back of the head with an arrow and lands square on their face, they won't hear his very loud gurgling sounds let alone determine the very obvious and narrow area of trajectory. Hell, the AI will never notice that their buddies have gone missing until they find the bodies. However, the AI won't recognize a body until they are three feet away from it even if it is in the open and in a brightly lit area. It is very easy for the AI to wander right past their buddy's body and completely miss it.
    • As part of Artificial Brilliance, if two or more guys hear the same thrown brick or bottle, they won't all go looking for the sound. Some will wait behind and watch while others will walk the other direction from where the sound originated. However, if there is only one AI there, they will always fall for it and walk towards the sound. Plus, no matter what happens or what angle the object is thrown at, no one will ever determine the general direction from where the object was thrown even if it flies past right in front of their face.
  • Artistic License – Biology:
    • In reality, by the time the fruiting bodies of the Cordyceps begins to sprout from the host, the animal is long dead, as the fungus growth will have destroyed its muscles and therefore its ability to move. This is because of course it's very difficult for it to grow on a moving animal (in many cases, moving the dead insect as the mushroom is growing kills the fungus), making the later stages of infection very improbable.
    • Clickers and Bloaters are explicitly said to use "echolocation" in order to see, but in gameplay they actually don't sense people or seem to be aware of their surroundings unless a noise is made. In real life, echolocation works by bouncing your own sound waves off of objects to determine their location when the waves come back to you; meaning that it doesn't matter whether the object itself is making noise. What the Infected have is more like simply a heightened sense of hearing than actual echolocation.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: During the climax of the University sequence, Joel is impaled on a rebar after falling from the hospital's mezzanine while fighting a Hunter mook. Ellie removes Joel from the rebar soon after and they successfully escape the enemy assault, without paying the puncture wound any mind whatsoever. In real life, Joel would have almost certainly bled to death within minutes of being disimpaled.
    • Joel also recovers from what appears to be months of fragile bedrest after a single injection of antibiotics. Realistically, he'd need several weeks of physical therapy before he could accomplish what he does in game a few hours later.
  • Artistic License – Chemistry: Joel and Ellie eventually get a car from Bill, and the latter also hands them a hose to siphon gas from other cars when they run out. Never mind the battery they struggle so hard to get — it's highly unlikely that a car would run on 20-year old fuel.
  • Artistic License – Gun Safety:
    • In the prologue, after Tommy saves Joel from a runner using a brick, Joel hands Tommy his revolver barrel-first.
    • When Bill and Joel are gearing up for the trip to the school, Bill loads his shotgun, cocks it, then drops it on the table, facing directly toward Joel.
    • Averted in the scene where Ellie gets her pistol, demonstrating good trigger discipline - only to go right back into the trope when you notice both Joel and Ellie keep at least one of their sidearms in their pants.

  • Badass and Child Duo: Joel and Ellie as well as Henry and Sam to an extent.
  • Badass in Distress: At one point in the game, Joel is severely injured and must rely on Ellie to take care of him until he recovers. At the end of the game, Ellie is incapacitated in the hospital and Joel has to rescue her.
  • Bad Dreams: A recurring theme. Joel has one in the opening sequence, then gets one again (and mentions it) when Ellie asks him about his broken watch before he falls asleep in an early chapter. Ellie saying she hates bad dreams and Joel agreeing is their first moment of bonding.
  • Batter Up!: A wooden baseball bat being one of the melee weapons Joel can use. It is a step up from a 2x4 plank, but still breaks after a few uses.
  • Battle in the Blizzard: The winter level even takes the cold and low visibility into account during the battle.
  • Beard of Sorrow: While Joel has a slightly unshaven look in the prologue, after Sarah's death and the twenty-year time skip his beard becomes much thicker and (understandably) grayer as he himself has slipped into Grey and Gray Morality.
  • Beware the Living: Joel and friends spend at least as much time fighting other humans as they do infected, and Joel himself isn't exactly someone you'd want to meet in a dark alley. At the same time, the trope is oddly zig-zagged: the importance of comradeship and familial bonds is a huge running theme in the game, and none of the characters are loners. Even the various bandits and soldiers you fight are shown to care about each other.
  • Big Brother Mentor: It's mentioned that Joel was this to Tommy in the early days when the infection was first spreading.
  • Big Damn Reunion: While their separation is not particularly long, Joel and Ellie have this type of reunion at the end of winter, after Ellie's looked after a wounded and unconscious Joel for weeks, only to having to temporarily leave him to escape from a cannibalistic group and their paedophilic leader, with Joel waking up and fighting the same group to reach her, they finally have a tearful hug upon reuniting after Ellie's brutally killed David, made even more poignant with Joel calling her "baby girl", having grown to see her as his surrogate daughter.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Bordering on Downer Ending depending on your view of it. Joel kills most of the Fireflies to stop them from euthanizing and dissecting Ellie's brain to study it, including Marlene. But as Marlene notes, Ellie would have wanted to go through with it if it meant a cure for cordyceps and that Joel knows in his heart that it's true. Joel and Ellie go live at Tommy's community and Ellie asks Joel point blank if his story about the Fireflies giving up on looking for a cure is true (she was sedated for the whole incident). Joel says yes, but it's implied Ellie doesn't believe him.
  • Bizarre Alien Senses: Later stages of the infected lose their eyesight due to growths in and over their eyes, becoming dependent upon echolocation to navigate their surroundings.
  • Bland-Name Product:
    • You generally see completely made up names and titles for stuff, but there are occasional logos and such that bear a strong resemblance to actual brands, such as a half-deflated "Paldeng" basketball. Meanwhile, there are also cases of Fictional Counterpart, such as Dawn of the Wolf, which various posters and conversations suggest is a stand in for Twilight with a werewolf as the main love interest.
      Ellie: Does he totally gut her by the end?
      Joel: Nobody gets gutted, it's a dumb teen movie.
    • The American Princess store in the Left Behind DLC is clearly a parody of American Girl, down to the boxes and display shelves.
  • Body Horror: Humans infected by the fungus are not a pretty sight.
  • Body Motifs: The fungus grows from the head and to study the infection, they must cut out Ellie's brain.
  • Bond Villain Stupidity: Marlene (and many other Fireflies) get killed because she doesn't kill Joel when she had the chance. While her decision to spare his life is understandable (she felt she owed it to him for safely delivering Ellie), what isn't understandable is why she has a single guard walk him out of the building without binding his hands or handcuffing him. You'd think she'd know to take more precautions with someone who has proven to be as tough as Joel has.
  • Booby Trap: During the search for Bill, Joel and Ellie have to navigate a town which Bill has set up traps to kill the infected. You have to tread slowly to avoid being blown to kingdom come. At one point Joel gets himself caught in one of the traps and has to fend off the infected while hanging upside down as Ellie tries to get him free.
  • Book-Ends:
    • Both the first and last time you play as Joel, he's carrying his little girl to safety through a hostile environment with no means of defense, ending with him being held at gunpoint. Also, at the beginning of the game, he ends up lying wounded on the ground as someone prepares to shoot him. At the end of the game, Marlene's lying wounded on the ground as he walks over to shoot her.
    • You also start and end the game controlling Joel's 'baby girl'.
      • Additionally, both the first and last shots in the game is a close up of Joel's daughter/surrogate daughter's face.
    • Cutscene conversations in Boston and Colorado both have Joel ask Ellie, "So, is it everything you hoped for?" Ellie's response in both instances includes the phrase, "you can't deny that view."
    • Both the first and last interaction you have with Marlene involve her being wounded in the same area of her stomach, the first happening offscreen and the last being inflicted by Joel to stop her from taking Ellie back.
    • When Joel and Ellie first start travelling together, Joel is quiet and indifferent while Ellie's cheerful, constantly making comments and trying to start conversations. In the last travel section in the Spring chapter, Ellie has become the quiet and distant one while Joel is now the one in a good mood, casually making conversations and attempting to cheer her up.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Headshots are a One-Hit Kill against human enemies (unless they're wearing a helmet, in which case you need to shoot it off first) and Runners.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • Depending on your play style, the incidental bricks and the bottles you can pick up could turn out to be one of the most useful items in the game. In stealth they can be thrown to divert and isolate enemies for a silent kill. In a pinch, they can be thrown directly at an enemy, stunning them, giving you time to run. Offensively, a stunned enemy can be quickly killed by melee or a grab, or used as a shield to give time to make those all important head shots. Two up-close hits with a brick stuns human enemies without breaking the brick, letting you reuse it. Combined with a melee weapon, bricks and bottles are a reliable one-hit kill even against clickers. This is even more apparent in Grounded mode, where getting into an all out firefight or even just a fist fight with anybody is guaranteed suicide and the only way to even get through the game is to use the good ole' bricks and bottles.
    • With the latest round of DLC for the multiplayer Factions mode, you can now set it so all of your special executions are neck snaps. Though they come at the cost of the more flashy or brutal executions, they keep you low to the ground and finish your opponent as quick as possible.
  • Boss Battle: There are four of them: Robert the Warm-Up Boss, the different Bloaters, the Truck in Pittsburgh and after the Sewer City, and David the Cannibal leader.
  • Boss in Mook Clothing: Bloaters for the Infected. They become much easier to beat when you can apply More Dakka and Kill It with Fire.
  • Bottomless Magazines:
    • Averted. Ammo is rare, and when you do get it, it'll be in very small quantities, so every bullet counts. Played straight with enemies though. Unfortunately, the player rarely can pick up ammo or guns from gun toting enemies.
    • There is one section of the game where this trope applies. In the final section of Pittsburgh, Joel takes over a sniper rifle in a house and uses it to cover the retreat of his companions. During this section, the rifle never runs out of ammo.
    • All enemies and AI controlled companions will never run out of ammo. Sadly, Ellie's limitless ammo as an NPC no longer applies in the sections of the game where you control her.
    • A minor example is the pistol. Though the player can upgrade its magazine capacity, the magazine model itself remains the same size throughout.
  • Bowdlerise: The part during Winter where Ellie is captured and wakes up to see James cutting up a human body is censored in the Japanese version, where angles are switched around to imply it instead.
  • Breakable Weapons: Baseball bats and wooden planks will bust into splinters in a few large strikes. Bladed weapons are more durable, but can still break if used too often. What's odd is that Bill has an extremely good kukri that never breaks and is sharp enough to remove heads, which no other blade in America seems to be able to match the quality of. Granted, the machetes and axes you find have probably been lying around for years.
    • Shivs take this to the extreme, being single-use weapons. This is justified, as they're basically old scissor blades with duct tape.
  • Bring My Brown Pants: After sneaking past one of the infected in a partially-collapsed building, Tess asks Ellie if she's alright. Her response: "Other than shitting my pants, I'm fine."
  • Bulletproof Human Shield:
    • Joel can grab mooks to help soak up a few rounds. Though they will eventually break free if you are not fast enough.
    • It's possible to use Bill to soak up enemy damage when he joins you as an NPC. Bill can't die from normal hits, and can only die if an enemy grabs him and holds on to him for a certain amount of time. This and the fact that Bill has a shotgun with infinite ammo, along with a knife that never breaks, makes him great for saving your own ammunition and melee weapons. Just stay behind him and let him soak all the damage and kill all the enemies. You will only have to intervene when he gets grabbed, and there is usually enough time to do so.
  • But Thou Must!: Try to deal with the surgeon any other way than lethally, we dare you. Bricks and bottles simply don't hurt him, he'll stab if you get too close without attacking, you can only shoot or stab him yourself. Try to shoot him anywhere you might deem non-lethal with the weakest gun you have and he falls over, dead.
    • Joel's "listen" ability allows the player to essentially see enemies through walls. But if the game wants Joel to be ambushed in a cut scene, Joel will be ambushed in a cut scene- the listen ability won't let you see the enemy lurking behind the door or at the top of the ladder. This is particularly galling at the university lab, where "listening" in front of a Schmuck Bait door reveals nothing, only to have a lurking enemy spring an ambush as soon as the player opens the door. The ensuing struggle ends with Joel impaled on a piece of rebar.

  • Call-Back:
    • In the Winter chapter you track a deer as Ellie, which leads into a series of events of cannibals and their paedophilic leader chasing the two and mainly Ellie down, forcing them to get separated and go through some hellish situations ending with Ellie nearly getting raped and killed, before they reunite again. At the start of the Spring chapter, Ellie's looking at a carving of a running deer, the factor that had begun the whole thing.
    • A brief one during one of Joel's conversations with Bill. The latter comments on how, despite how bad the infected are, at least they're predictable, it's the normal people that scare him, and "[Joel] should understand that better than anyone." Ellie asks what he means by that and Joel answers simply, "Nothing". It was likely either a reference to how it was a regular soldier who killed his daughter and not an infected, or to Joel's own despicable past and the things he did while trying to survive and protect Tommy and himself after the infection hit, which is referenced by Tommy when they meet up again in the Fall chapter.
    • Early on, Ellie will remark on how Joel and Tess are pretty good at handling infected, to which Joel will say "It's called luck, and it is gonna run out." Upon reaching the Capitol building, Tess says "Our luck had to run out sooner or later." and reveals she's been bit.
  • Call-Forward: There is a picture hanging over Joel's bed in the prologue of a deer in a setting that looks suspiciously like the forest in which the Winter chapter starts. There's also a picture of two deer in a spring-like setting outside his room.
  • Cannibal Larder: During the Winter segment, Ellie finds herself locked in a cage, with James butchering a corpse on a nearby table, in a room full of bloodstains.
  • Cap: The game has some frustratingly low ammo carry limits, especially in comparison with how many guns Joel can carry at once. For example, Joel can only carry a maximum amount of 9 rounds for the hunting rifle. By the end of the game, he'll have roughly that same number of guns in his backpack. How this logic works is anyone's guess.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: Ellie tries to put up a "badass" front by engaging in this early on, quipping occasionally about the danger the two of them face. Of course, Joel's more brutal kills (molotovs, head-stomps, beatdowns) will simply elicit a terrified "holy shit, Joel!", and she gradually loses the need to snark during combat as a defense mechanism. The rest of the time, of course, not so much.
  • Catapult Nightmare: Joel's introduction after the 20 year timeskip.
  • Cat Scare: While exploring the (mostly lifeless) UEC in the Fall chapter, you'll open a door, hear an inhuman hiss, and find some escaped lab monkeys.
  • Central Theme:
    • Partnership. Just about every named character has or had some sort of partner or companion. Even the comics you find feature an adult protagonist teamed up with a child.
    • Selfishness comes in at a close second. There's rare exceptions but the motivations of almost all the characters have some degree of selfishness to them.
  • Character Development:
    • Joel's exterior as an angry, salty old dude is slowly chipped away to reveal a genuinely caring and fiercely protective man.
    • Ellie matures from an aggressive Tagalong Kid into a cooler-headed girl who's just as protective of Joel as he is of her.
    • Henry goes from a strictly survival oriented overbearing protector of his younger brother to loosening up enough to actually crack a smile and let his brother have some fun. Not bad for an hour or so of interaction.
    • Marlene goes from the stern, pragmatic leader of the Fireflies to a desperate woman willing to order a deadly surgery to be performed on Ellie while she's alive, on the chance that it might hold some cure for the fungus.
    • For a person you never meet, Ish certainly gets a decent amount. He goes from a Crazy Survivalist version of The Aloner to the leader of a doomed Disaster Democracy; even after it falls, he's still unwilling to give up.
  • Chasing Your Tail: The fight with the Cannibal leader, David, in which he and Ellie try to out-maneuver one another.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Sarah buys Joel a watch, and notes she got it because he doesn't shut up about his broken one. Further into the plot, Ellie notes his watch from Sarah is broken, which he neither cares about nor mentions again. It appears again subtly at the end of the game; when Joel talks about the struggle of surviving, he visibly pauses to rub the watch. It looks to be a type of coping mechanism for him.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Ellie manages to steal a porn magazine from right under Bill's nose, which comes in use later when she decides to keep the photo of Sarah for Joel, and steals it from Maria.
  • Children Are Innocent: Defied; Even Sarah, the closest thing this game has to a normal kid, knows enough about things to snark that she saved money for Joel's birthday present by selling "hardcore drugs". Apparently, this is a normal thing for them, because Joel snarks right back with, "Oh good, you can help with the mortgage then."
  • Choke Holds: Standard stealth kill. They even work on lesser infected.
  • Climax Boss: Ellie's fight with David and the Humvee in Pittsburgh.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Many characters (including Ellie, a 14-year old girl) are prone to these. This game could give The House of the Dead: OVERKILL a run for its money.
  • Cold Equation:
    • Joel does this in the intro, deciding that even if stragglers have children, you do not let them into your car during an apocalypse. Subverted for the ending, however, when Joel decides that the chance of a cure for the infection isn't worth the life of an innocent girl.
    • Also, in Chapter 6, Henry decides to leave Joel at the hands of scavengers to save Sam and Ellie, though the latter returns to Joel. Later subverted, however, when he spots them and saves them from drowning.
  • Comic-Book Fantasy Casting: Ellie looked a lot like Ellen Page before the game designers changed her appearance.
  • Contrived Coincidence: While on the run from a crowd of infected, Joel, Bill, and Ellie run into a random house that just happens to contain the truck battery that was missing from the truck at the school. It just so happens that Bill's old partner Frank found the battery and installed it in a functioning vehicle, and he conveniently died before he could drive the vehicle out of town.
  • Controllable Helplessness:
    • At one point Joel is Caught in a Snare forcing you to shoot down attacking infected whilst upside-down until Ellie cuts you down.
    • During multiplayer when you take enough damage you're forced to crawl around until you die or someone heals you.
  • Cool Old Guy: Joel definitely qualifies. He may be graying in the hair and getting a little past his prime, but he certainly knows how to smash in teeth and take on hordes of infected. His oldness is pointed out by his brother around the middle of the game.
    Joel: It'll happen to you soon enough.
  • Combat Pragmatist: Joel gives exactly zero fucks about fighting fair. If you're in his way, your life expectancy goes down sharply. And if you have information he needs, he will not ask nicely.
  • Couldn't Find a Pen: Two examples, the first being the entrance to the Sewers at the end of the level. The other is when Joel is using Jack Bauer Interrogation Techniques on a mook and tells him to label their base on a map - using the knife Joel just jammed behind his kneecap.
  • Cowardly Mooks: In the winter chapter, a bunch of Hunters will run away from Joel after they realize that he is the guy who killed a dozen of them at the university. They will still fire at you, but will generally try to get away as soon as possible.
  • Crazy Survivalist: Joel says Bill is one, but apart from somewhat justified paranoia he ends up seeming mostly sane - if in the habit of talking to himself occasionally.
  • Cruel and Unusual Death: The Bloater, if it catches Joel, will rip his face apart.
  • Cruelty Is the Only Option: You have to kill the doctor standing next to Ellie in the end-game to proceed. He might nervously and meekly threaten Joel with a scalpel, but he never actually follows through on that threat no matter how close Joel gets to him, but merely pushing him aside or intimidating him to move away is not an option.
  • Cutscene Incompetence:
    • You have Enemy-Detecting Radar during gameplay, but manage to be ambushed by enemies in cutscenes on multiple occasions. Also, Ellie is choked out and captured by one man in a cutscene after she spent an entire level killing her way through an entire town full of human enemies.
    • Another quite visible case with Ellie: if Joel gets caught during combat and Ellie is close by, she will often jump on the enemy and stab him to make him let go of Joel. Towards the end of the Fall chapter, however, Joel gets into a scuffle with an enemy that ends with Joel falling off a floor onto a piece of rebar. Despite said scuffle having lasted several seconds and Ellie having been right behind Joel, she's nowhere to be seen to help Joel with that particular enemy.

  • Damsel in Distress: In the Winter segment, she's literally locked in a cage by David's goons & held, as one of them describes her, a pet. She busts herself out. Also, in the game's climax, Ellie is taken from Joel and is put under the knife by the Fireflies. This time Joel rescues her in traditional fashion.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Joel. It isn't far in when it becomes apparent that Joel gets through life and survives the apocalypse by bottling up anything painful and never dealing with it.
  • Dashed Plot Line: Starting with a prologue set 20 years before the main plot, it picks up in Summer, before skipping to Fall, then Winter, and finally Spring.
  • Daylight Horror: Beautiful outdoor locations, filled with enemy scavengers and crazed fungal mutants.
  • Deadline News: Early on in the game, you can watch a news report on what's happening in Austin when a nearby soldier shouts that there's going to be a gas-explosion. Cue the static. The game even gets you to look out the window to see an explosion, driving home that something terrible is happening right in your vicinity.
    Reporter: It appears that what we initially reported as riots seem to be somehow connected to the nationwide pandemic. We've received reports that victims afflicted with the infection show signs of increased aggression and -
    Soldier: We need to move everybody out of here right now. There's a gas leak. Hey - move!
    Reporter: There's some commotion coming from beh-
    Soldier: Get out of here!
    Soldier: Lady, get the hell out of here right- (explosion spreads across the screen)
  • Deadpan Snarker: Ellie has some shades of this. She's not exactly clean-mouthed either. This is especially present in the Bill introductory cinematic.
  • Death of a Child:
    • In the beginning of the game, Sarah is shot and killed in Joel's arms. Also, while exploring the infested sewer shelter, you'll see a classroom and a nursery, as well as a number of (covered up) child corpses.
    • Later we have Sam (who is at least younger than Ellie), who turns overnight after being bitten, and is promptly killed when he attacks Ellie by his own brother, no less.
  • Deconstruction:
    • Of Survival Horror. Every single mechanic is justified in-universe, up to and including the player's OCD loot-everything paranoia. Basically the only missing traditional Survival Horror elements are the Solve the Soup Cans puzzles and Jigsaw Puzzle Plot; even Naughty Dog must have figured there was no justifying those.
    • More or less an actual deconstruction of Apocalyptic Scenarios by grounding it in reality- there are no insane, megalomaniac leaders, no roaming bands of killers and rapists- in every segment where you fight people, almost all of them have a reason to be coming after you, and towards the end of Pittsburgh and Lakeside it becomes less and less about supplies, and more about catching you for vengeance.
    • Bill is pretty similar to the archetypal zombie apocalypse survivor many people imagine they could be. He's prepared, competent, and a complete dick who drives everyone away from him and is a bit unstable from the isolation because he's sure he knows better than everyone. There's a chance he was worse than usual because his boyfriend had just left him.
  • Despair Event Horizon:
    • Henry, who is Driven to Suicide after having to kill his infected brother.
    • The Firefly scientist in Colorado University bitterly reflects on the pointlessness of their mission after he's bitten by infected monkeys.
  • Dialog During Gameplay: A striking amount, both story-related and situational. Some of the dialog arises out of specific situations that occur during gameplay (getting hurt, torching an enemy with a Molotov cocktail, being pinned down, etc). The characters virtually almost never shut up, keeping you company through cities and wilderness alike. Which makes the brief moments when you get separated actually feel lonely and uncomfortable, so much that the character you play often ends up talking to themselves out loud. Most noticeable when Joel falls down an elevator shaft into a flooded basement and when Ellie escapes from the town of cannibals.
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Sarah dies while Joel is holding her. It's especially wrenching because she doesn't slowly close her eyes and to some extent has a peaceful death which is typical for the trope, no; she whimpers in pain from the gunshot wound while Joel desperately tries to tell her she'll be alright, before her expression suddenly fades away...
  • Difficulty Spike: Some points of the game are quite hard or easy depending on the circumstances. Most notable is in Boston during the parts where Joel has to sneak or fight his way past a large group of FEDRA soldiers. At this early point in the game, Joel has very few weapons or upgrades, and is taking on heavily armed professional soldiers who are far more dangerous the then the typical human bandits he usually deals with. In contrast, the Jackson County section of the game is rather easy compared to most encounters, as Joel has plenty of backup from allied NPCs in all the hostile encounters, and is very well armed and upgraded by this point.
  • Disaster Democracy: At least one is in the game as an enemy faction. The four candidates are the Pittsburgh Stealers, the Sewer City, the Cannibals, and the only friendly settlement in the game, Jackson.
  • Disaster Scavengers: Basically everyone, including the player. However, the "local" scavengers that rule over certain zones are very protective of them. They don't like outsiders like Joel and Ellie "poaching" their stuff. The official term they use for people like Joel and Ellie is "tourists."
  • Distressed Dude: First in Bill's town, Joel is hanged upside down by the leg from one of Bill's traps. Ellie cuts him down not too long after. Next, in the University, Joel is impaled on a piece of rebar, and spends the rest of the chapter, the entirety of Left Behind, and most of the Winter chapter completely bedridden.
  • Dont Touch Me: In the Winter segment, after killing David with his machete, Ellie says this after Joel reunites with her and calms her down. Considering that she was nearly raped by David (if not killed first), she's very much traumatized by the whole ordeal.
  • Double Aesop: Initially lampshaded and played with to a degree between Joel/Henry and Ellie/Sam.
  • Downer Beginning: Within the first hour of the game, the Zombie Apocalypse erupts, and Joel loses his daughter. Made even more tragic by the fact that it wasn't a zombie which killed her, but a soldier who was ordered to kill both of them. It deserves a mention that even the voice actors cried.
  • Dramatic Ammo Depletion: Exploited. While Joel or Ellie will start panicking if you run out of ammunition, it's possible to make other hunters try to come closer to you if they hear the clicking of an empty gun. Cue Ellie tossing a brick at them and giving you the opportunity to close in for a Finishing Move.
  • The Dreaded: Joel and Ellie pretty much pick up a reputation as a crazy old guy and girl as they mow their way through hostile mooks. Hints of this reputation linger even before they team up though, with Tess carrying a lot of weight with the underbelly of Boston, and a small miss-able conversation before they get past the wall where a pair of citizens are conversing - if the player hangs around to listen to the end, one pulls the Mugging the Monster line while his companion tells him to stow it and practically pleads Joel not to take offense with the tone of his voice.
  • Driven to Suicide:
    • Joel and Ellie will occasionally stumble across the bodies of people that took their own lives (like a couple in a bathtub). They wanted to die before the infection got them. Joel implies with his talk about how it "ain't easy" that he tried at least once before, but couldn't go through with it.
    • Bill's "partner", Frank, hanged himself after being bit.
    • Henry does this after being faced with killing his brother when he turns.
  • Duct Tape for Everything: Duct tape and other binding materials are important crafting materials.
  • Dying Alone: Brought up occasionally, which is unsurprising considering how numerous supporting characters either die abruptly or leave suddenly.
    Sam: How's it that you're never scared?
    Ellie: Who says that I'm not?
    Sam: What are you scared of?
    Ellie: Let's see... Scorpions are pretty creepy. Um... being by myself. I'm scared of ending up alone.
  • Dynamic Character: As the game progresses, Joel and Ellie become more familiar with one another and it begins to show. Not only does it appear blatantly (such as Joel and Ellie starting to chat about comics and billboards before getting more in-depth), but it includes the subtle things like Ellie learning to whistle and quietly singing to herself.


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