Before meeting you Lev in The Last of Us Part II, you see his arrow piercing the cheek of a man who is about to hit Lev Yara’s sister with a hammer. There is nothing subtle about the introduction to Lev. He’s quick and calculated, flitting between the trees in the dark like a spirit, or maybe even a small wild animal, to stay in hiding and save his sister from a religious cult they have desperately tried to escape.
Abby – the antihero and dividing center for the latter half of the game – has been hanged by the neck and is on the verge of death when she hears Lev for the first time. His voice is high, quick, high-pitched, and full of worry as he calls out his sister’s name, leaping over a stone barricade with the ease of a 13-year-old boy, bow drawn, arrow notched. Abby thinks she’s saved.
Lev looks at his sister, then Abby – with a shaved head, furrowed brow, gaping mouth – unsure whether he should take Abby down, as her people have long been at war with her people, fighting for control of Seattle in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by infection.
So when Yara tells Lev to cut her off, Lev uses her voice to push back. “She’s one of them,” he says. But Yara insists. He must save her. All life, you see, is precious. Lev does as he’s told, albeit a little reluctantly, and when Abby is freed, the three begin their own heartbreaking journey into the night.
I: There are two sides to every story
Lev is a secondary character in The Last of Us Part II, arguably the most controversial and most talked about game of the last generation since its release a year ago. Players step into Abby’s shoes for the latter half of the game as she embarks on the path of redemption. But the story of Lev, a 13-year-old transgender teenager forced into exile when his own community rejects him, is even more compelling.
Lev is on the run from the Seraphites, an authoritarian religious cult whose members adhere to strict predetermined roles. He challenged his role as the wife of a former seraphite and shaved his head, a decision reserved for men. By claiming his identity in this way, he puts himself and his family in danger.
“One of the things that we wanted to explore was this invented religion, and how religion, especially organized religion, can also accommodate these wonderful and horrible things when it comes to spirituality but also xenophobia and the exclusion of some. identities, ”explains Neil Druckmann. , Creative Director and Co-Chair of Naughty Dog, the developer of the game. “Anytime you do something like that, you want to make sure it’s not symbolic, that it’s something that fits the story. “
Lev’s story is full of complexity. In a world full of violence and unbearable grief, a world where it’s easier to worry about the enemy than to care for others, Lev simply wants to be left alone to live out his truth in peace. He is full of hope and certainty – he knows without a shadow of a doubt who he is and the kind of person he wants to become – and he asks nothing in return, except to be. authorized to to exist. Lev’s story resonates with many in the LGBTQ community as it is a familiar tale of belonging and survival.
But over the course of the game, Lev evolves from a calm, reserved boy struggling to find his place in the world to perhaps the most compelling character in the game and the only voice of reason. In truth, the second half of The Last of Us Part II clings to every word, every action, and every opportunity for Lev to discover his voice.
II: Scars from past lives
The authenticity of the performance was a key factor in bringing Lev to life. It is also a difficult role for an actor. As a secondary character, Lev’s development is driven by AI, in reaction to what the player, as Abby, does. Hundreds of lines have been recorded to account for each variable or potential outcome of the game.