‘It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.’ – Tyler Durden, Fight Club.
What can be your worst case scenario? To find everyone you know to be hungry for your skin and bones? The fact that you’ve lost your only connection in the world? Or you confronting the fact that your wife thought that you were an undead by now and moved on to your best friend? Apocalypse is scary, even if you are not facing the infected in your every step. The total disintegration of society, the collapse of democracy and other institutions make men animals once again. No rules, no right and wrong, and at times what seems right may not be right at all. All men are beyond each other’s controls, gods to their own. In such times, can you really trust a man? Can you take his lead, believe that he will take all the right decisions for the crew and will save your back when you need the most? Scoping down on today’s post apocalypse, we make Rick Grimes (of the Walking Dead fame) cross swords with Joel (of The Last Of Us glory).
Rick Grimes of The Walking Dead is a strong believer of the opinion ‘Survival of the Fittest’ and has saved more lives than risking. But his ways don’t work with many, including me, but in times of desperate needs, his desperate ways work just fine. Rick is an adamant tribe leader whose ego is strongly founded on his early days as a cop chasing thugs. Returning from a coma, he realized that the earth was now owned by the undead, his best friend and family all lost. His sadness in life has made him strong as a leader and soft as a father and a husband. He is an asshole who would be honored if he ever dies in the series. Let’s get back to this after we introduce Joel.
Say hey for Rick Grimes:
Joel, a man without a home, a dog without a bone. You almost feel a deep pain inside your heart as soon as you start your story as Joel. His hopelessness starts the moment when his kid and only relation in the world, Sarah, die in his arms. That moment and the tremendous voice acting (Troy Baker my man!) still give me chills. Joel doesn’t aspire to rule a tribe or carve a name in the world; his affection for Ellie is almost unknown until the end of The Last Of Us. He is incapable of showing his true self, the emotional side, lest he be hurt again. And throughout The Last Of Us you’ll know that every time he wants to leave Ellie (whether with his brother Tommy or the Firefly leader Marlene), his heart is beating to hold her closer. For he is forever fighting this feeling that reminds Ellie of his lost daughter.
Joel may have lost his only daughter, but loss is heavy on Rick’s side as well. Every time he tried to take care of somebody, he’s ended up losing him or her. His first kill, Shane was a strange kind of a loss and that damaged the Rick Grimes that dominated Season 1. Shane was his rival in terms of guts and glory, and was also in a way competition for his wife Lori’s feelings. Before the infection hit town, Rick and Shane used to be colleagues as cops, best friends sharing each other’s secrets. Shane saved Rick while he was still bed ridden in the hospital but feared he would never make it through. The reason why he turned to comforting his wife, until one fine day he showed up again. In my opinion, neither Shane nor Rick are bad men, but the fact that they are mere men created the ridge that ultimately triumphed over one killing another. Lori’s loss moved Rick till time, and is shown to be a man with no remorse for his decisions, but is still headstrong and critical of his tribesmen. He has totally erased his emotional strings except for his son Carl and step daughter Judith, born to Lori and Shane, fostered by Rick.
Rick is a man who believes in his strong and irreversible ways, which can pressurize his devastated survivor friends to a great extent. His so called Ricktatorship keeps the clan intact and has helped them overcome enemies more dreadful than a bunch of walkers, like the one eyed Governor. His sense of understanding people, especially in times wherein you can’t even trust your wife, is pure spectacular. He convinced Hershel to give them a shelter, he talked his way out of the Governor’s conspiracy, and he got a hurt Daryl Dixon joining his side instead of his brother’s evil ways. In short, he is a dictator that you deserve, not one you may need. And if you hate Rick at times like me, that’s completely natural. He is anyways not asking for our opinion.
Joel is not a dictator, nor does he aspire to be one. He is a smuggler and a survivor, and only cares about work that can get them ration cards required to pass through quarantine zones. But this is just his professional side, because we know that Joel is a massively emotional chap, his pain regarding Sarah and then Tess, becomes a major bit of talking in the conclusive episodes of TLOU. As a man in his forties, Joel is shown to be more cautious about treading on the unknown, be it with his fears regarding the Capital Building (in the cutscene while he talks to Tess) or his premonition (while he was driving) just before the first Hunter encounter. Naughty Dog wanted us to get hurt with Joel, they wanted us to rise, fight and come to a better set of days with Joel, even with the pandemic growing faster. While most of the fans raged at the rather cold ending to TLOU, I find it as the most apt ending to this game. It started with a loss, it deserved to end with a gain, compromising Ellie would not only have erased the future of a sequel but it would have done me much emotional hurt while I was in Joel’s shoes.
Will the real Joel fans please stand up:
For infected heads, I guess both Rick and Joel are on the same score sheet. While Rick has killed Zombies with a hand less (The Walking Dead Comic Series), Joel has battled out a winter by the lakeside entirely on his own. Did they take damage? Rick was outmatched when his stallion was bitten and ripped apart as soon as he unknowingly entered the infected city (Season 1, Episode 2). He survived a whole day planning his way out, while being locked inside a military tanker, with a dead zombie. For Joel, he had to battle more than just bloaters, runners and clickers. He had to survive a Hunter ambush, then he had to pay the Hunter lord David a visit in his home (with no health at all) and finally he had to battle the power driven Firefly.
I’m a man stuck between being a son and being a father. So I look up to this last pivot in my argument. Who is the most apt post apocalyptic father, Joel or Rick? For Rick, I think he always wanted to be a caring father, and a caring husband. He wanted to be a man of power at the same time. Family and power are two extremities, but his selfish selfness self (yeah that’s a wordplay!) made him a societal hero and less of a father that can really care about his children. The reason why Carol (whom he just banned from the tribe) and Maggie became more parental to Judith. I feel a strong resemblance to the last known Anakin Skywalker, just before he reincarnated as Darth Vader, in Rick, a lot. Joel was always escaping the fact that he is still a loving father, all throughout The Last Of Us. And his final decision just proves how much of a family man the meanest and brashest post apocalyptic survivor is. I’d have Joel as my post apocalyptic father. He is a brilliant teacher, he will protect me no matter what and won’t juxtapose his failures to mine. But you do need balls more than a heart when there is an apocalypse on the rise. Let the battle continue in the comments section.