The Last of Us: Here's Why Abby Killed Joel

By Klein Felt Posted:
The Last of Us logo, Joel and Abby in The Last of Us Part II

Nearly half a decade later, some still wonder why exactly Abby killed Joel in The Last of Us Part II

Naughty Dog's post-apocalyptic PlayStation sequel shocked gamers worldwide in 2020 when it killed off the protagonist of the first game in the series, Joel Miller (played by veteran voice actor Troy Baker). 

This jaw-dropping in-game death has continued to resonate, especially as the franchise heads toward a second season of its critically acclaimed HBO adaptation, where it is assumed fans will have to relive losing Joel yet again. 

Why Did Abby Kill Joel in The Last of Us 2?

Abby holding a golf club in The Last of Us Part II

After a short prologue in 2020's The Last of Us Part II (TLOU2) that set up where the series' two main characters, Joel Miller and Ellie Williams, are following the events of the first game, developer Naughty Dog ripped fans' hearts out by killing Joel in cold blood.

Joel's early-game death in TLOU2 was perpetrated by a mysterious new character named Abby (voiced by Laura Bailey). 

Fans meet Abby in the snowy outskirts of the Jackson, Wyoming settlement Joel and Ellie have been living in since the end of the first game. 

Abby and her crew of Seattle-based survivors are revealed to be on the hunt for a man whom Laura Bailey's TLOU character deems wronged her. 

Joel bloodied and dead in The Last of Us Part II

After crossing paths with Joel and his brother Tommy, the player is made aware the man Abby is looking for was Joel all along. 

Cornering the Last of Us protagonist in a derelict mountain-side ski lodge, Abby takes a golf club to Joel's head, brutally murdering the character as Ellie is forced to watch. 

While shocking at the moment, throughout the game, players peel back layers on Abby. They take control of the character for much of the second act and learn the reasons behind her blood-fuelled rage toward Troy Baker's survivor. 

Abby and Jerry Anderson looking at each other in The Last of Us Part II

Through flashbacks and supplemental dialogue, Naughty Dog reveals why Abby killed Joel.

Gamers learn that Abby and her family were residents of the Salt Lake City Firefly settlement seen at the end of 2013's The Last of Us

Her father was a researcher and doctor there tasked with operating on Ellie in hopes of extracting a cure from the seemingly immune teen in TLOU's closing chapters. 

Jerry and Abby Anderson in a doctor's office in The Last of Us Part II

As players of the first game know, this operation is interrupted by Joel, as he realizes Ellie will likely die during the procedure. In a spout of love-fueled rage, Joel storms into the operating room, kills the doctors working on his teenage companion, grabs her, and runs off. 

Abby's revenge plot begins here, on the premises during Joel's Salt Lake City escape. Hearing the commotion, the (at the time) young girl walks into the operating room to find her father, Jerry, slain in cold blood. 

Jerry Anderson in surgical garb dead on the floor covered in blood in The Last of Us Part II

She then spends the next four years (the time gap between The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part II) turning herself into a killing machine.

She and much of her Firefly cohorts join a group known as the Western Liberation Front (WLF) in Seattle, where she uses the resources to train and build the mental and physical fortitude to take on someone as dangerous as Joel and win. 

How Joel's Death Will Play Into The Last of Us on HBO

As The Last of Us readies for Season 2 of its beloved HBO adaptation, a whole new swath of fans will be introduced to the devastation that is the story of The Last of Us Part II and Joel's death in particular. 

Played by Pedro Pascal in the HBO drama, some who know about Joel's fate in the second TLOU game have pondered that the TV network may not go the same direction as the game so as not to upset fans having to watch a beloved star like Pascal die on-screen. 

However, that might be a little naive. If a network were to have the confidence to kill one of its main characters early in a second season, HBO would be the one. 

This is a creative brain trust that okayed the string of shocking deaths seen in series like Game of Thrones, after all. 

There have been hints pointing to Joel facing the same fate as in the games in Season 2 of the HBO series. 

Pascal is said to have a reduced role in Season 2, as indicated by a March 2024 Instagram post by Ellie actor Bella Ramsey. Ramsey took to social media to announce she was back on set for the series and was excited to be working with Pascal for "a little bit."

While it does not outright confirm Joel's death in Season 2, it could be a bellwether of what is to come. 

During a June 2023 appearance on the Happy Sad Confused podcast, The Last of Us showrunner Craig Mazin said they have "full creative freedom" when adapting the games but could "neither confirm nor deny" if Pascal's character would die. 

As of writing, it remains to be seen if The Last of Us Season 2 will follow the events of The Last of Us Part II beat-for-beat. However, it feels like Joel will die at some point in this next batch of episodes. 

His death is what fuels the engine of TLOU2's story and is intrinsic to the journey it sends both Ellie and Abby on throughout the rest of the game. 

There is the chance it happens at a different point in the season to perhaps prolong Pascal's screentime, but it is almost surely happening. 

The Last of Us Part II is available now for PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, and PC. 

Read more about The Last of Us on The Direct:

Is Last of Us Season 2 Releasing in 2025? Recent HBO Show Updates

The Last of Us Part 3: Potential Release, Story Details, and Everything We Know

The Last of Us Season 2 Gets Discouraging Release Update (Official)

- In This Article: The Last of Us
Release Date
January 15, 2023
- About The Author: Klein Felt
Klein Felt is a Senior Editor at The Direct. Joining the website back in 2020, he helped jumpstart video game content on The Direct. Klein plays a vital role as a part of the site's content team, demonstrating expertise in all things PlayStation, Marvel, and the greater entertainment industry.