“It’s nice to be with a woman for a change.”
Uncharted has long been a series built on duos. Whether it’s Nathan Drake and Sully, Nate and Elena, or Nate and Sam, each pairing has its own unique dynamic adding layers and complexity to the narrative while revealing new sides of these respective characters. These duos are usually explored in respectful and complex ways, but there has long been a very specific one missing.
Warning! Spoilers for Uncharted: The Lost Legacy Ahead.
While driving through the lush valley of India’s Western Ghats, Chloe Frazer and Nadine Ross often engage in small talk. These moments are largely innocuous exposition, but one moment in particular stands out. While discussing their history with the Drake brothers and the adventuring business, Chloe casually comments, “It’s nice to be with a woman for a change.”
Although it’s delivered like a throwaway line, this bit illustrates a critical theme in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. It is a story whose main focus is placed solely on the friendship of two women.
Damsels Need Not Apply
In contemporary entertainment, women are often relegated to a handful of specific roles, usually in service to other characters or the plot itself. They’re the love interests, damsels, prizes to be won, token “badasses” who are just as competent, but rarely exceed the skill of their male counterparts. Leading roles are rarely given to women, and when they are, it’s usually in limited numbers.
The MCU in particular is guilty of this. Hope van Dyne in Marvel’s Ant-Man is easily more familiar with the Pym tech and more competent than Scott Lang, but is held back for the sake of “protection.” Black Widow and Gamora are both token women who hold their own, but never eclipse the capabilities of the boys in the group. Agent Carter — who is, arguably, one of the best-written female characters in the MCU — is rarely seen engaging with women in non-antagonistic ways.
The Lost Legacy sidesteps tired tropes with one vastly underutilized device: a positive female friendship.
And even when additional women are added in, it doesn’t improve much. A surplus of female characters usually means they’ll be competing with each other, have a negative or antagonistic relationship, be used as set dressing, and be used to convey a sense of vulnerability and weakness. They’re ever the sidekicks and villains, rarely the heroes.
Uncharted itself has been guilty of this trope in the past, by positioning Chloe as the “other woman” Elena doesn’t trust and wants nothing to do with. At no point in the past games have we seen two women working together extensively in a positive light.
But in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, things are different. It sidesteps a vast majority of these tropes through the use of one vastly underutilized device: a positive female friendship.
Thank You For Being a Friend
On the surface, saying there’s a female friendship in a story doesn’t seem revolutionary. But consider, for a moment, the last time you saw a female friendship in entertainment that didn’t involve ulterior motives, didn’t become a punchline, wasn’t broken up by an outside source, and didn’t end with both women at odds. It’s difficult to find one that meets this criteria, much less one that does it well.
Chloe and Nadine’s relationship is dynamic and ever-evolving, shifting from an apprehensive alliance fueled purely by money and ending in smiles, heartfelt moments, and a shared struggle. It works wonderfully, thanks to complex and layered characterization that is as malleable as the relationship itself.
The theme of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’s story is one of defiance.
Neither Chloe or Nadine are categorically “good” people. They’re chaotic neutral at best, remaining somewhat amoral and pragmatic in order to tweak the circumstances toward their gain. Chloe is willing to lie, double cross, and deceive in order to get her way, while Nadine has a short fuse, clenched fist, and itchy trigger finger. It isn’t a great combination, and the two women do not instantly connect. They’re constantly second-guessing each other, Nadine bringing up rational concerns and criticizing Chloe’s impulsivity, while Chloe quips and acts dismissively toward danger and threats. Still, there’s a shred of mutual respect shared between the two women that binds — and ultimately brings — them together.
This matters, because we don’t see it nearly as often as we should.
In its opening moments, the two are confrontational and tense, cautious of the other and always keeping a wary eye on the lookout. As the story progresses, they start to soften toward each other. They’re both making the best of a dangerous situation, reliant on each other’s know-how and experience to make it out of successively risky encounters alive. At times it’s genuinely sweet, like the photo op Chloe snaps at the top of the massive, ornate city entrance while Nadine slowly teeters on the edge of a seemingly deadly drop. Nadine protests the inappropriate timing, but Chloe counters the complaint by pointing out Nadine may never have a moment like this again. These shared moments make them open up and become more vulnerable, allowing them to have genuine moments of shared growth.
It’s enough to allow them to open up and show us a totally different side of themselves, like Chloe’s emotional breakdown upon realizing she had blazed the same trail as her father, or watching Nadine lose her tight-lipped composure when encountering the very soldiers that had betrayed her. These moments are strong on their own. But when they’re shared between these two women, who help each other cope with their own faults and struggles? They’re downright compelling. Chloe and Nadine bring out new sides of each other, and it makes for stronger characterization and storytelling.
The story comes dangerously close to adopting the trope of competitive, antagonistic women in its third act, when we learn Chloe lied to Nadine about Sam Drake’s involvement in the mission. Nadine runs off in a fit of rage, leaving Chloe alone to race against a sociopath and his armed mercenaries.
Thankfully, it avoids this pitfall by instead reminding the characters — and by extension, us — what made this relationship work so beautifully in the first place: they’re two women, fighting against the odds, refusing to give up in the face of severe adversity and hardship. It’s a rocky, somewhat unstable foundation, but it’s one the two are familiar with and adjust quickly when they willingly choose to put their lives on the line in order to stop the murderous intent of a madman.
Man, I Feel Like a Woman
So, why does it matter that they’re women? Why should it matter that we see two women in a well-developed and compelling friendship?
I’m desperately hopeful for more.
The theme of Uncharted: The Lost Legacy’s story is one of defiance: defiance in the face of impending disaster, defiance toward adversity, and — on a broader scale — defiance of the very norms that also govern representation in media today. The two women at its center are complex, layered, and fully-formed, and together, they make a powerful, capable team rivaling — if not surpassing — the charisma and know-how of Sully and Nathan Drake. And more, they’re two minorities in media, society, and culture firmly grasping the wheel and directing this story in their best interests. It matters, because we don’t see it nearly as often as we should.
In one quote, Chloe neatly summed up what I loved most about Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. It was nice to be with a woman for a change, and I’m desperately hopeful for more.
Cassidee is a social producer for IGN. You can chat with her about Star Wars, comics, and games over on Twitter.