Suicide, self-sacrifice and The Last of Us
Caitlin on Feb. 21, 2023
❗Contains spoilers for episodes 2, 3, 5, 6 & 9 of The Last of Us ❗
In post-apocalyptic films or series we often see characters pushed into situations where suicide appears to be the only option. Suicide seems to be a natural plot arc in this kind of content.
This rings true for the latest trending series on Neon, The Last of Us, where in episodes two, three, five and six characters die by suicide or self-sacrifice. While in the context of a zombie apocalypse setting some viewers may be able to contextualise the characters’ actions, other viewers might find these scenes hard-hitting and difficult to watch. Neon self-rated the series 18 with a note for violence, language, sex scenes and content that may offend. More specifically, they have included at the start of both episodes three, five, six and nine a pre-roll warning indicating that suicide and/or self-harm will be covered, with a link to helplines.
While this is very key information for viewers to have before pressing play, below is a breakdown of each episodes’ storyline around suicide. FYI: our breakdown does contain some spoilers but we have made sure to keep descriptions as broad as possible for those wanting that extra information without making the episode no longer worth the watch.
Episode 2: "Infected"
After getting bitten a character makes the hard decision to sacrifice themselves so others can escape. While it’s arguable whether self-sacrifice is considered suicide it still can still disturb viewers. It is easy to think of yourself in that situation and wonder what you would do for the ones you love. Some of us might be able to understand the character’s choice, however if self-sacrifice scenes fall into troubling territory for you proceed with caution or press the off button.
Episode 3: "Long, Long Time"
The tone of episode three was both beautiful and sad. As viewers we got to fall in love with a pure relationship and learn that no matter how prepared you might be for the breakdown of civil society, illnesses and what it means to be human doesn’t go away. The episode included a couple choosing suicide.
Some viewers who may have watched loved ones suffer with serious illnesses, or who more broadly have sensitivities to suicide depictions, might find this episode hard to watch.
Episode 5: "Endure and Survive"
Henry does everything he can for his deaf eight year old younger brother, Sam. It is clear that he would give his brother everything in the world, no matter what the cost, to ensure his survival. But when life takes a turn and the unexpected happens Henry is forced to make an unimaginable decision.
After making that call Henry then shoots himself. While this happens out of shot the abrupt manner of his suicide could be very shocking for some viewers. Similar to episode 3, this specific scene is full of strong emotions and we can imagine that it would be easy for older siblings, parents and caregivers to put themselves in Henry’s shoes.
Episode 6: "Kin"
The episode starts with a flashback of Henry shooting himself which could have the same shocking impact for some viewers as in episode 5. Joel is haunted by what happened with Sam and Henry and his mental health seems to have deteriorated since then.
Revisiting the suicide scene alongside the strong theme of mental health, this episode could be upsetting or make some viewers feel not quite right. This is especially for those who have struggled or have watched loved ones struggle with their mental health.
Episode 9: "Look for the light"
While a woman is giving birth she is bitten and will soon change into a zombie. She is found holding a knife to her own neck and is determined to die before she transitions. She hands the knife and the baby over, and asks to be shot. The baby is taken away and then someone goes back in and shoots the woman off-screen. In a later scene it is clear that Ellie is internally battling with some of her past experiences and it is affecting her mental health. She appears a lot quieter and not present while Joel speaks to her which is a huge difference to what she is normally like. Joel tells Ellie about the moment he tried to take his own life. He explains that he attempted to shoot himself in the head but ended up flinching and skimming the side instead. The scene doesn’t include a flashback of this happening but emotions are high.
Similar to past episodes these scenes could be a hard watch for viewers with sensitivities towards mental health and suicide themes. We also can imagine that it wouldn’t be an easy watch for parents, especially mothers, who might put themselves in the woman’s shoes and personally feel some of the high emotions the she is experiencing.
When it comes to suicide and self-sacrifice content it is important to remember that we all have different sensitivities and experiences which can impact how we feel during and after we watch challenging content. As viewers the best thing we can do is know where to set boundaries for ourselves to make sure that what we watch isn’t making us feel bad. Having extra information about storylines like suicide can make it easier setting those boundaries.
On our Find a Rating page on our website we break down content warnings for some trending series and films so you can make more informed choices about what you watch, without giving away too many spoilers. But at the end of the day, spoilers don’t matter if there is a chance you could feel triggered or traumatised.
If you or someone you know needs to talk:
- Quick take: The Last of Us, Episode 1
- Streaming platforms, R-ratings and tricky conversations
- Stay informed and find a rating...
- Talking with young people about what they’re watching
- Why are ratings and content warnings important for me and my whānau?
- How I wished my parents talked to me about upsetting content
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