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The perfection of the song Joel teaches Ellie in The Last of Us, Part 2

In the very beginning of The Last of Us, Part 2, Joel gives Ellie his guitar after playing for her the song she would carry with her for the rest of the story. It's Pearl Jam's "Future Days." Here's the clip from the game:

In the moment, the suitability of that song is pretty clear on at least one level: it very closely describes Joel's feelings for Ellie. It makes sense that he would play and sing it for her, too. He's not good at self expression, but it's easy to believe that song is special to him, because it has come to remind him of Ellie. He sings prewritten words as a strained attempt at self expression. He even does that thing at the end where he can't look at her after he's stopped playing. That hits really close to home.

Anyway, the scene is really sweet in that way.

But, I've started listening to the song's album, and I'm seeing there's even more to it that makes this choice of song super interesting. Check these out:

  1. Most obvious, first: Pearl Jam are from Seattle. I didn't think about this while playing, but it's interesting that a song that effectively came from Seattle symbolizes the force pulling Ellie to that city in the story. Not really a profound connection, but I think it's a fun one.
  2. The album (Lighting Bolt) is a sound for Pearl Jam that's VERY different from their sound in the '90s. There are equal parts punk and folk on this particular album. In other words, equal parts Ellie and Joel. Here are some examples:
    1. (Punk/Ellie) Mind Your Manners:

    2. (Punk/Ellie) My Father's Son:

    3. (Folk/Joel) Sleeping by Myself:

    4. (Folk/Joel) Future Days:

  3. The album released on October 11, 2013. That's 13 days after Cordyceps broke out in the US. Pearl Jam would have shipped this album to stores as the country was going down. Easy to imagine in my head canon that Joel found it and perhaps listened to "Future Days" incessantly as a way to keep in touch with his feelings for Sarah. Later, Ellie would become his second daughter, and the meaning would transfer to her.

Anyway, I think this is a really fun choice of song for Joel. Even if the game's creators didn't intend for all of these connections to be meaningful (and who knows maybe they did), it's rewarding that they're there, in any case.


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