The Last of Us Part II : Dina Knows that Ellie is Immune from the Start. (2400 words)
The Last of Us 1&2 are horribly hard to interpret because although they are quite precisely written, the huge amount of information, the huge number of mysteries, seeming contradictions and ambiguous elements make hypothesis very easy to find and develop but without ever reaching a point where they feel like they truly are relevant to and coherent with the story as a whole.
(Edit 2022! When writing this article I knew that my opinion on the story would still evolve quite a lot and I have to say now that even though I'm not contradicting what's written here, I perceive Dina entirely differently. I really disliked her but I think now that she has an incredible narrative arc. I think that she starts very vain and selfish and discovers herself extremely human and caring to a dangerous degree.)
The opening chapter of Part II for example, is already full of suspicious things.
Ellie kissed a friend of hers, Dina, during a town ball. Except that, later on, we’ll witness the scene and it’s clearly Dina who kisses Ellie. She will also correct Jesse on the matter “she kissed me.”
A man called Seth apologizes for insulting Ellie and offers her a sandwich. We’ll learn around the end of the story that it’s actually Dina that he insulted. This starting situation is already very convoluted.
Worse, it’s the girl’s very recent ex-boyfriend who wakes Ellie up on the next morning by knocking on her door. He seems annoyed at her, then he doesn’t, and then he is again and eventually he doesn’t seem to be. Weirdly enough, he’s the one in charge of teaming people up to go on patrol and he puts Dina and Ellie together. It makes no sense. Even more so when we’re shown several times that he and Dina are still very close to each other.
Beyond the LGBT absurd and forced naivety –love is love, it’s always beautiful and it should never drive someone bitter even when your long-time girlfriend dumps you and finds someone else in less than a week, someone whom she kisses in front of the whole village, and a girl with that in case it wasn’t emasculating enough– and so, beyond the LGBT absurd and forced naivety there’s something really suspicious going on. Jesse couldn’t possibly cope with seeing Dina dating Ellie so quickly after they’ve been together for so long. Dina will even show herself incapable of explaining their break up. “We were on autopilot” she’ll say. What’s that supposed to mean except that everything worked fine ? But not only does he easily cope, he even jokes about it and helps them get together etc… he should be furious, sad and distant.
What it truly looks like is that Jesse and Dina are still together secretly and that Dina’s emotional interest in Ellie is fake… at least in that first chapter. She is horribly blunt, crude and obvious, that’s not how you behave when you seriously like someone. She acts as if she just wanted a one night stand with a girl whom she is attracted to but that she also slightly despises.
Of course (sarcasm), we’ll have proofs of her love of Ellie when she shows herself ready to follow her to Seattle in order to avenge Joel. “You go, I go” she’ll say. Damn, she’s so reliable and romantic… they’ve been dating for 24 hours. That’s ridiculous. And it’s all the more ridiculous when you think of the fact that Dina perfectly knows that she is pregnant at that point. She is making a promise that she won’t be able to keep, and she very well knows that the minute she wants to go back to Jackson, she’ll just have to snap her fingers and pronounce the word “pregnant” to force Ellie to give up on her goal.
The funniest part will be her -I’m-slow-and-sleepy-because-I’m-six-weeks-pregnant attitude when on Abby’s side of the story we can witness Mel running, fighting and jumping around with her huge belly. It makes it obvious that Dina is using her pregnancy to serve her interests.
So, we’ve just established that Dina can lie and manipulate (for reasons unknown) but the point of this article is about Ellie’s immunity.
When Ellie joins Dina in the stables, near the board on which are written the teams, there’s a small sheet of paper with the rules that have to be respected when going on patrol. Ellie and Dina are going to break every single one of these rules.
At Eugene’s, Ellie writes a two words report on a notebook and we can see from the other reports that she’s never been on patrol before. It’s her first time and it’s thus all the more dangerous and irresponsible and suspicious from Dina to have Ellie break all these rules.
While moving from shelter number 1 to number 2, Ellie and Dina come across a slaughtered moose and immediately wonder whether it is possible that he was killed by infected. Their curiosity will have interesting consequences:
1-They’re going to have to fight a huge number of infected, runners and clickers.
2-Ellie will be wounded (An unavoidable sequence after crawling under a truck).
3-They’re going to have to put their gas masks on to go through a zone infested with spores.
None of these events would have taken place if there hadn’t been a dead moose on Dina and Ellie’s route. Again, the question of the killer is raised, neither Dina nor Ellie think it obvious that it’s infected who did that. More, when they search the area, they do not discover any clue that it’s infected who did it.
They find a very weak and isolated female runner who’s eating a leg of the animal, inside a shop. So, obviously, if looked at superficially, this can be understood as an indicator that indeed the moose was killed by runners. However, if more seriously analyzed, this element becomes really suspicious. There’s no way this female runner could have killed the moose, still, she’s the one eating the leg. Ellie and Dina should have come across a bloater, but it’s a weak runner that they find. This look a lot more like the whole scene has been staged by humans than anything else.
While exploring further, Ellie finds herself forced to push a blocked door that could not have been blocked this way by runners. By doing so, she knocks something over and attracts an infected. All this looks like everything was prepared for her exploration and detection.
And if the scene has been staged, what for ? What could anyone possibly want from Ellie ? What’s special about her ? Well, she has a secret, she’s immune.
Dina and Jesse are trying to obtain a confession from Ellie… and most probably, indirectly, a vaccine.
It’s only logical that after Joel has saved Ellie from the fireflies, other people would hear about the story and fathom the same hopes and goals. Part II is about Abby’s desire to avenge her father’s death, but her father’s death is about creating a vaccine by sacrificing Ellie. So, beyond the revenge story, there’s still this question of Ellie’s immunity and it needs a dynamic, it needs to be problematized. On a narrative level, it is a necessity that a few characters should want to use Ellie. Strangely enough, these characters are never to be seen. Nobody ever broach the topic.
One rule says: "Partners are supposed to always stay in sight of one another". Dina disappears in the snow and leaves Ellie alone... to inform Jesse that she couldn't obtain a confession and that she still needs more time ?
Nobody ever seems interested in finding a vaccine. Owen, Mel, Nora, Manny, Abby, Tommy, Dina, Jesse, Maria, Yara, Lily, Isaac… not one character ever voices this weariness of the virus. Nobody ever seems bothered by the infection anymore, they all take it for granted and accept it. Humans seem to have become a far bigger problem.
On a narrative level, it represents a big problem as Ellie’s specificity becomes useless and I understand how fans could feel disappointed and betrayed. It’s not Ellie’s story if her immunity isn’t an important aspect of it.
And so, in my opinion, her immunity still plays a huge role in the plot, except that here it’s a secret one: Jesse and Dina know that Ellie is immune and they want her to confess it. What for ? I don’t know exactly.
At some point, I don’t remember when, we can read Ellie’s journal in which she talks about her strong attraction for Dina. It’s thus extremely easy for someone who has little scruples to know about it. One just needs to read Ellie’s journal. Isn’t it the first thing any ill-intentionned person would do after hearing about her possible immunity ?
Dina and Jesse know that Ellie is attracted to Dina. That’s what triggers the whole public kissing scene that we witness at the end of the game. And that’s also the reason why Jesse is so open about it, he is in on the manipulation.
Now, it is really easy to guess how they could have learnt about her immunity. Ellie more or less dated a girl called Kat who made her arm tattoo on the bite mark. So, we know for a fact that Ellie showed her bite mark to someone (even disguised as a chemical burn).
Also, Dina patrolled with an old guy called Eugene, a former firefly who knew about the messianic immune girl (we learn all this by searching his house).
But there’s also Tommy and Maria who knows about Ellie’s immunity and I’m not really sure that Maria would be trustworthy on that matter.
Anyway, it’s clear that Ellie’s specificity is very probably known by many and that not everybody agrees with Joel’s decision… it is thus very imaginable that Joel’s assassination isn’t only the work of Abby. Many more people could be behind this, simply because they want to get rid of the guy who’d do anything to protect Ellie. But that’s not the subject of this article.
The moose parenthesis is very likely to have been put into place as a means to force Ellie to confess her immunity.
"Please die of old age and not because you get infected. I really don't want to have to shoot you in the face."
Dina tells her several times that she doesn’t want to have to shoot her in the face, referring to the fact that if Ellie got infected Dina would have to kill her and she'd do it without any hesitation. The point of this is making Ellie scared of getting bitten and immediately shot in the head by Dina before she can tell her friend that it's not necessary, or see Dina refuse to believe that she is immune and kill her anyway.
Also, Dina’s flirting is very dishonest. For example, when Ellie says that Joel likes 80s action movies, she goes “Ho no !” thinking that Ellie means they’re crap. But once Ellie admits that she likes these movies, Dina completely backtracks and goes “I’m more interested in this than I thought I’d be.” Of course, it’s not extremely suspicious, but it’s still one thing amongst others that gives this feeling of awkwardness between Ellie and Dina. Their friendship, their love, never truly seem justified, clear or coherent. We’re supposed to think that Dina left Jesse for Ellie but their relationship is never convincing. They are clearly both trying hard, but they never have any chemistry. The kiss rating scene is the least romantic thing they could have gone for, and their last words before kissing are just ugly.
Dina - You’re infuriating.
Ellie - Have you met you ?
Dina - You make me wanna go back outside in that blizzard.
Ellie - No one’s stopping you.
Dina - This better be better than a six.
I know, it’s supposed to be some kind of anger between two strong girls who do not wanna show their weaknesses while being strongly attracted to each other, but sorry, it’s just not a beautiful sight to see.
More suspicious, Jesse appears exactly when Ellie confesses her specificity and both girls are still naked. I don’t think it has a literal reason, like for example Jesse was spying on Dina and Ellie through a camera or a microphone. I suppose it’s only metaphorical: as soon as Ellie’s confessed that she is immune, her relationship with Dina can stop… at least that’s what was planned between the jewish girl and her asian boyfriend.
But things take an unexpected turn for the asian guy: Dina seems to be truly interested in Ellie.
Of course, there’s an element that contradicts this whole interpretation and it’s that Dina looks genuinely surprised when she learns about Ellie’s immunity.
And even if in real life lying in a believable manner isn’t that hard for unscrupulous people, most of the time in fiction liars aren’t perfect. Dina has the personality of a good liar, she’s arrogant, fake, manipulative and obsessed with appearances but both her reactions to the piece of information contain useless elements that a liar wouldn’t usually produce (in a work of fiction).
Her disbelief when Ellie tells her “to hide a bite mark. Turns out I’m immune” is believable and she’s not in her friend’s field of vision at that moment. However, she doesn’t seem surprised at all. She doesn’t frown. So, it’s still a strangely inappropriate reaction.
My take would be that Dina already knows but discovers at that precise moment that she doesn’t want things to change between Ellie and her because she liked what happened. She’s a narcissistic person and I think that she might have enjoyed Ellie’s selfless passion, and find her confession very flattering.
Her second reaction to Ellie’s immunity is just her eyes widening when Ellie’s mask is broken. It looks spontaneous and honest but her immediate “Take my mask” seems a bit forced when Ellie already told her that she was immune before.
Let’s think of the two situations:
First situation: Dina is pregnant. She likes Ellie very much. A few hours earlier Ellie told her that she was immune to the disease that ravages the world. Suddenly, during an exploration Ellie’s mask is broken. Is it believable that Dina should remove her mask immediately without asking any question and put her life and the one of her child at risk ? No, she would ask “are you really immune ?” she would look at Ellie to check what the situation truly is. She wouldn’t say “take my mask” that implies sacrificing herself, but “we’ll share my mask.” Of course, we can interpret her reaction as a gesture of selfless love, but really it doesn’t work with Dina. She’s not selfless and she’s not thoughtless.
Second situation: Dina knows that Ellie is immune but she doesn’t want it to be an acknowledged fact between them. She wants Ellie to believe that her behavior towards her isn’t influenced by her immunity. So when she realizes that Ellie’s mask is broken, Dina’s wide eyes are spontaneous because it’s still a catastrophe for her. Her “take my mask” is just playing along with the lie and creating a last impressive proof that she truly didn’t know, and truly loves her, this without taking any risks as she perfectly knows that Ellie is going to prevent her from removing her mask.
I still haven’t figured Dina’s behaviour out anyway. I’ve only finished the game once and replayed the first chapter a few more times. So I still have to reflect upon what happens in Seattle with Dina and Jesse as their relationship remains very strange and they give more clues that they’re still secretly together.
Dina’s original motivation might be that she is pregnant and that she believes that “exchanging fluids” with Ellie might make her baby immune. But as Jesse doesn’t know about the baby, what could be his ? Immunity for himself maybe, or Ellie's confession that she is immune, for a start.
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