The speculation is finally over. As many of us have expected in recent weeks and months, Kaitlyn Dever has been cast in perhaps the most important role for The Last of Us season 2. Abby is a big part of the second game set in Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic future, and so it was always going to be vital to capture this casting.
Did HBO do that? Well, I’m going to go out on a limb and say yes. Anyone with eyes can see that Abby looks very different from Dever, which may seem odd at first considering how similar the Joel and Ellie of the video game and show are. But even if HBO could not be bothered to find a muscular woman who is good at acting, the company would still have found a different kind of gold in Dever.
Before we get into why I think this is a great casting choice, I’m going to do a little spoiler warning posting for The Last of Us: Part II, in case you haven’t played it yet or seen the main plot points in the game. Okay, are you ready? I believe that even if Kaitlyn Dever still doesn’t look like she has the strength to swing a golf club through a man’s skull, there’s a brilliant piece of meta lore going on with her casting as Abby.
If you’re not aware, Dever used to read for the role of Ellie for the first time. This was before The Last of Us became the HBO show it is today, but it still seems pretty interesting that she’s been brought back now. It’s especially interesting when you consider how you could argue that Dever bears a strong resemblance to Ellie in the games.
In The Last of Us: Part II, Ellie and Abby are often physically juxtaposed. Abby is a brute, able to take down runners with nothing more than her fists and easily intimidate everyone around her by simply standing up and bowing. Ellie, on the other hand, has had to fight and struggle at every turn. She is weaker, leaner and has always had to be smarter in how she fights. These physical differences seem to matter less and less as the game progresses, and we see the similarities between our dual protagonists in The Last of Us: Part II. With Kaitlyn Dever cast as Abby, not only will we be able to see the similarities in the revenge stories of the two, but from minute one we will be able to connect Ellie and Abby in terms of how they look alike. A bit of a “we’re not so different, you and I”, situation, but instead of waiting until the end to fully understand that, we will be able to see it develop much earlier and catch all the similarities between the two.
This is all assuming Dever is not going to try to put on what must be about 30 lbs of muscle, by the way. I’m sure she could if she wanted to, but I think it would be more interesting if she didn’t. One of the complaints people had about season one was that while it fulfilled what fans were asking for, it was – episode three aside – pretty much a one-to-one recreation of the game’s story, meaning that if you’ve played The Last of Us, you’ve already seen the show. That Dever is a different kind of Abby will change that. Fans of both the show and the games will step somewhat into the unknown, because although those who have played The Last of Us: Part II can tell what is to come, there will likely be some changes in the way those events come about.
It will also be easier to switch to Abby’s perspective, with the medium of TV. We can jump between the two within episodes as Ellie hunts her down and Abby goes on her own journey. This is less a point about Dever’s casting and more about how I think season two can improve Abby’s perception. From the audience’s perspective, she will be a villain from the moment she shows off the results of her golf lessons, but if we are going to try to create some sympathy with Abby over the course of seasons two and three, we will need to spend a little more time with her in the beginning instead of just using her perspective as a carpet puller halfway through the story.
The casting of Dever can help with that, too. Again, looking at Abby in the game, her physique just screams boss. She is a powerhouse and even if Dever trains a lot, it will still be hard to mimic that, which is a good thing. It offers some difference and hopefully gives us a chance to make Abby feel less like the 2-dimensional character she seems to be at the beginning of The Last of Us: Part II and more like the character she becomes during the journey the game takes us on.
Do you agree with that? How do you think Abby should be treated in season 2 of The Last of Us? Let us know!