The Beat Sheet, Act IIB
Narrative Analysis: The Basics
Bad Guys Close In
The second half of the Second Act brings greater obstacles for the protagonist than the ones they faced early on. In this sequence of scenes, the forces of antagonism will test the protagonist like never before, and these external forces will inevitably lead to an internal breakdown. In Snyder’s words: “It’s the point where internal dissent, doubt, and jealousy begin to disintegrate the hero’s team.”14 Unlike the Midpoint, this section is guaranteed to end badly for the protagonist, as it leads to the darkest moment in the narrative: the All is Lost Moment.
In The Last of Us, the Bad Guys Close in when Joel and Ellie arrive at the University of Eastern Colorado, only to find that the Fireflies have once again moved on. The only clue Joel and Ellie get to their whereabouts is a voice recording telling them to go to Salt Lake City, but before they can move on, a rival group of humans attacks, and Joel is badly wounded in the scuffle. His survival is uncertain; their success is no longer assured. The stakes have never been higher, and the heroes have never had less help.
All is Lost
Like the Midpoint, the All is Lost beat is an important plot point in almost every structure. It represents the darkest moment in the hero’s journey: the moment where the goal seems impossible. According to Snyder, “All aspects of the hero’s life are in shambles. Wreckage abounds. No hope.”15 Synder additionally refers to this moment as having a “whiff of death,”16 as the characters are forced to confront their own mortality. This confrontation isn’t always literal—no one has to die for this moment to work—but the character’s hopes are always breathing their last, teetering on the brink of death.
The Last of Us incorporates the whiff of death into its All is Lost beat by showing the audience the aftermath of Joel’s injury. Joel hovers between life and death, shivering beneath thin blankets as Ellie looks after him through the winter. The dynamic between them is now reversed: Ellie is now the caretaker, and Joel is now her charge. They are out of their comfort zones, leaving them at their weakest.
Dark Night of the Soul
The Dark Night of the Soul is the companion beat to All is Lost, as it shows how the characters cope with their difficult position. Snyder defines this moment as: “…[The] darkness right before the dawn. It is the point just before the hero reaches way, deep down and pulls out that last, best idea that will save himself and everyone around him.”17 For the protagonists to pull themselves out of their hole, they must find the inner strength to move on. If outside forces come and rescue them from their darkness, the audience will feel cheated, as the heroes have missed a pivotal chance to grow. If the protagonists want to survive, they must prove they have what it takes now.
In The Last of Us, the question of Joel’s survival lingers in the air, forcing Ellie to make tough choices to ensure his survival. One of those choices is her decision to give up her hunting quarry to a group of rogue humans in exchange for the medicine that can save Joel’s life. Although Ellie is able to administer the medicine to Joel, her decision costs her dearly, as the other humans kidnap her and threaten her life. Like Joel, she too faces death, but her efforts were not in vain; the medicine she earned will ultimately save them both.
Break into Three
Break into Three, like Break into Two, is another pivotal moment in the narrative. It is the threshold the characters must cross to reach the final act: the point at which all of their hard work will come to fruition. According to Snyder, “Both in the external story (the A story) and the internal story (the B story), which now meet and intertwine, the hero has prevailed, passed every test, and dug deep to find the solution. Now all he has to do is apply it.”18 In other words, this is the time for the hero to show their stuff, and they can only do it if they use everything they’ve got.
In the Last of Us, the Break into Three begins when Ellie’s medicine kicks in, and Joel recovers enough to get out of bed and search for her. He finds her crouched over the body of the man who tried to kill her. Her rage and fear push her to the brink, but Joel comfots her and pulls her back. By working as a team, both Joel and Ellie have proven that they have what it takes to succeed. They are ready to enter Act Three.
14 Snyder, Blake. Save the Cat (p. 85). Michael Wiese Productions. Kindle Edition.
15 Snyder, Blake. Save the Cat (p. 86). Michael Wiese Productions. Kindle Edition.
16 Snyder, Blake. Save the Cat (p. 86). Michael Wiese Productions. Kindle Edition.
17 Snyder, Blake. Save the Cat (p. 88). Michael Wiese Productions. Kindle Edition.
18 Snyder, Blake. Save the Cat (p. 89). Michael Wiese Productions. Kindle Edition.
* Reference Run: GameCin. The LAST OF US 1 REMASTERED Full Movie All Cutscenes Story [4K-60FPS]. YouTube, 2019.
** Reference Script: The Last of Us Wiki. The Last of Us script. FANDOM Games Community, 2021.