The Last of Us, Part II‘s new Paris Games Week trailer offers a completely unexpected look at the world of Naughty Dog’s franchise — one without protagonists Joel and Ellie.
Instead of the core duo, we get a look at several new, key characters, leaving us with plenty of theories — and many more questions — about The Last of Us, Part II. Check out the trailer below, and read on for the four questions and theories we have about the upcoming sequel after watching this intense look at the game.
Naughty Dog confirmed the cast of characters revealed in this new trailer, save for one — the woman being hung (played by Laura Bailey) who then grabs onto a bloody hammer. Her name is specifically four characters long according to a tweet from Naughty Dog’s account.
What does that prove? Well, nothing concretely, but Ellie’s mother’s name is Anna and the desktop version of that tweet indicates a four-letter name for this character. She’s been referenced in the original game, its expansion The Last of Us: Left Behind, and the comic The Last of Us: American Dreams. Anna died shortly after Ellie’s birth, which occurred a few years after the initial 2013 Outbreak Day. So, Ellie’s mom would have lived through the initial stretch of a post-outbreak world. (Naughty Dog also hiding her name is a clear indicator that revealing it would give something away, so it is likely a character we’ve heard of before.)
Whoever this woman is in the new trailer, she’s clearly a core part of Part II’s story. The reveal of her arm carrying a bloody hammer matches up with the Outbreak Day poster Naughty Dog released this year. While many speculated the poster could be showing off Joel’s arm, the visual similarity here too hard to ignore, and it would be odd of Naughty Dog to highlight a tertiary character on a key promotional piece of art. If you want to make the leap, the original Outbreak Day poster featured Ellie’s arm as seen in the original Last of Us, Part II teaser, and featuring both her and her mother on these posters would be a nice artistic foreshadowing of their connection.
There’s also some indication this woman may be pregnant during the time of this scene. The new woman Emily points a knife to the woman’s stomach after she’s been strung up, saying, “They are nested with sin.” Granted, some of the other hanging corpses have had their stomachs opened and are men, so this could be more a reference to the virus ravaging the world. But its inclusion may indicate this woman is pregnant with a child this group takes issue with.
Of course, assuming our theory is correct, and she is Ellie’s mother, that would indicate this scene is set before The Last of Us. That leads us to our first major question…
Based on its first trailer, The Last of Us, Part II is undoubtedly a true sequel, but if this theory above holds true, perhaps it’s a prequel as well? The game could ping pong back and forth in time, telling a story of the early days of this post-outbreak world while continuing Joel and Ellie’s story, likely interweaving some thematic and plot connections between the two stories.
At the very least, the period of time this scene takes place in is up for debate. Creative Director Neil Druckmann spoke in a new dev diary about the new trailer, leaving plenty up to question about this new scene.
“Instead of giving you an adjacent puzzle piece about Ellie and Joel’s journey, we wanted to go somewhere else and give you something else and see how people make the connections. But as far as who these characters are, what there conflict is, where this takes place, when this takes place, going to leave it up to the fans for now,” Druckmann said.
He places particular emphasis on the “when” of it all, which may be misdirection or an indication this sequence takes place far removed from the series’ current storyline.
Druckmann wants to leave up plenty to fans to investigate, and diving into the trailer, there’s certainly more evidence for another long-standing theory about the sequel.
Previously, fans have pieced together clues based on geographical hints that at least part of The Last of Us, Part II will occur in Seattle. This new look only further confirms it. Roughly 20 seconds into the scene, two road signs can be briefly seen among the chaos transpiring below. Near-identical road signs exist in the real world:
It’s blurry, but the green highway sign clearly points to “Columbian Way,” a roadway in Seattle, Washington. The real-world yellow sign’s text matches the in-game yellow street sign, with both featuring a callout to a 530 AM radio station for traffic.
These signs would put the scene along the Interstate I-5 in Washington, and another point in the trailer further correlates the location. Though fairly common in their structure, a pillar and roadside concrete barrier are nearly identical in their layout.
While the who, when, and why of this new trailer may be in question, it seems all but certain that at least some portion of The Last of Us’ sequel will head to the Pacific Northwest of the U.S.
The Fireflies will definitely be an element of the upcoming sequel — their iconic logo is one of the first images to appear in Part II’s debut trailer. But, going along the idea that Part II is a partial prequel, could we be seeing the origins of the Fireflies as we know them in the original game?
A line of dialogue sticks out in this new trailer, as Emily tells her henchmen to “Clip her wings,” referring to the new character Yara. That line is too on the nose to not have some deeper meaning and so it’s not ridiculous to assume that more hardline Fireflies compared themselves to the actual animal philosophically.
But perhaps some of the Fireflies took that analogy, and their importance, too far. Emily’s dialogue sounds like that of a zealot, someone who has pushed their ideology into fanatic territory. She’s adopted a cult-ish way of speaking with a religious tinge — “They are nested with sin,” she says while poking at maybe-Anna’s stomach while later calling someone, likely Lev, an “apostate.” But so far as we know, the Fireflies are a militia focused group with militaristic and governmental aspirations, not necessarily religious ones.
Perhaps, in these early days of the Fireflies and in the face of apocalyptic events, certain sects splintered off and developed a more cult-like structure, seeking loyalty and doling out punishment with brutal severity. Emily and her men seem to be punishing this woman for some unknown reason. Though Emily dies in the course of the trailer, she’s clearly held some position of power, possibly watching over a local Firefly sect. It appears some of her followers aren’t pleased with Emily’s way of rule, though.
All four of these new characters clearly know each other, but their beliefs have seemingly diverged and caused a split in their group, whether it be the Fireflies or some other faction. Yara and Lev, the two fighting against Emily and who eventually free the other woman, are called “apostates” by Emily, meaning they’ve rejected her ideology. The woman being hanged may have recently done this as well, or betrayed Emily’s trust in some other way. The latter scenario is likely, us Lev hesitates cutting her down to let her live, but Yara is adamant that they do so for reasons unknown.
For now, we’re going to assume they’re Fireflies, with the aforementioned split in thinking causing some members to leave what may be a splinter group. If the mystery woman is Ellie’s mom, then this group of new characters most likely involves the Fireflies and some split among them in Seattle. We’ve learned previously that Anna entrusted Marlene, leader of the Fireflies, to look after Ellie following Anna’s death.
Whatever divides them, they come together by the end of the trailer to fend off the incoming cordecyp attack and, hopefully, live another day.
The Last of Us, Part II’s latest trailer leaves us with many new questions, but also plenty more tantalizing hints at what’s to come from the sequel, which will take place several years after the first title and center around Ellie. Though Part II currently has no release date, stay tuned to IGN for the latest on the game, and be sure to let us know your theories in the comments below!
Jonathon Dornbush is an Associate Editor for IGN. Find him on Twitter @jmdornbush.