HBO’s The Last of Us Episode 2 recap: More ground rules and a big death
I have to be very honest: I found Episode 1 of “The Last of Us” to be a little boring. I attributed it to it being a pilot that told a story I already knew, but in a five star rating system I’d probably give it a three. But good news: Episode 2 is much better!
We opened our doors in Jakarta on September 24, 2003. A woman, Ibu Ratna, a professor of mycology at the University of Indonesia, is being held by a seemingly serious military authority and brought to what appears to be a hospital. There, Ratna examines a corpse with a nasty bite on its leg and a mouth full of still-moving mycelium.
Compared to the premise of the first episode – the talk show part – I thought this was a lot stronger. The first introduction had the unenviable task of having to explain the idea of a file Awful fungal infection For an audience that might have been primed for another zombie TV show. Here, we know what’s going on, and the opening sequence goes just like that, conveying dread and gloom all the way through. When the professor realized the scope of the problem—at that point, only about 15 injured people were missing—she told the military man, “Bomb. Start bombing. Bomb this city and everyone in it.” Clearly realizing the problem, Ratna asks to go home and spend her remaining time with her family.
(This is the Craig Mazin Specialty, by the way. If you liked the flavor of “A scientist grapples with an overwhelming, inhumane catastrophe in front of a bureaucrat,” I have good news for you about Mazen’s previous show, “Chernobyl.”)
We cut to Ellie, who wakes up to find Joel and Tess standing over her. They interrogate her and learn her destination is a Firefly military base, where her miraculous survival might help create a cure. Joel says he’s heard it all before, and wants no part of it.
There are some great theatrical performances in this scene. Ellie sits under a beam of light, tufts of grass and flowers sprouting around her. Joel, on the other hand, is in the dark. And Tess, as the scene progresses, steps out of the dark with Joel, ending up between the two of them. The whole time, Joel’s hands were shaking (breaking my hair; removing it). Meanwhile, Tess’ faith—in everything she thought she knew about the infection—was shaken, too. Tess finds the middle ground, and the adventure continues. Ellie may not be who the Fireflies think she is, but her delivery will still get adults what they need: a car battery.
Outside, the group runs into a crater. “Is this where they bombed?” Ellie asks. Tess says it is. We learn that most major cities have been hit like this. But it’s not clear that he succeeded in all those other places, or what “succeeded” means for that matter. A bit later, when Ellie points out the zombies who are using echolocation, Tess and Joel exchange worried looks.
Going back in time, we get two conversations one at a time between Ellie and either Tess or Joel. (This is known as juxtaposition.) Tess comments that Ellie is a weird child, but she clearly has a warm feeling for her. They talk about how Ellie got bitten in the first place (she gives one of those answers that feels like she’s omitted something, like we’ll revisit this in a later episode, maybe), and you can sense a flash of realization when Ellie talks about breaking into a restricted area in the Quarantine District. health. This is Tess and Joel’s bread and butter. They are smugglers, after all.
Joel and Ellie are having a harder time finding common ground — or rather, their dynamics are shaping up differently than Tess and Ellie’s. As a protector-dad type figure, Joel moves in to save Ellie from a skeleton hanging from jumps as the group heads toward the statehouse. This is a point in Joel’s column. But Ellie isn’t really ready to have a conversation with a guy she knows has definitely considered killing her. It’s wisdom, and the only thing they both have is killing the infected. Eli asks does Joel feel bad about killing them both knowing they were once human? Joel says sometimes.
Together, these two conversations make for an interesting impression of the trio. They almost look like… a family? Hope nothing bad happens!
There is an obstacle on the way to the State Palace: an infected mass emerges from the roof of the hotel. Learn more about world rules here. When a speck of light passes over the zombies, we see them wriggling in a wave-like motion, in unison. Tess explains that they are connected. If you step on a patch of cordyceps in one place, the fungal underground connection alerts the cordyceps in another, like trip wire.
Seeing that this road is closed, the group chooses to go through a museum. There is a passage on the roof that will bring them closer. The museum’s facade is covered in fungal growths, but Joel tests it with the butt of his gun and declares it dry. Perhaps, he says, the infected inside are dead. But when they enter, Ellie stumbles upon a seemingly dead body lately dead. and looks worse than the other victims; Joel and Tess are clearly appalled at the condition of this corpse. But for the trio’s purposes, the only way out is to get out, so they go silently.
Silence is the key word here. Remember those zombies Ellie mentioned that use echolocation? here they are! When the group reached the second floor, caverns in the ceiling behind them were blocking their way out. The commotion also attracts two zombies. Joel points out to Ellie that these sufferers cannot see and move based on sound. (It seems that these are clickers, a kind of zombie from the game). Zephyr takes off Ellie once, Joel fights it off while the other chases after Tess and Ellie. At a certain point, Ellie and Tess break up, and attention is focused on Joel, who regroups with Ellie. The camera here really does ramp up the tension: To my estimation, the hits are more offscreen than on in this sequence, with a tight zoom that throws them off the radar. The fight ends with Joel shooting one of the zombies, and Tess depositing a hatchet into another.
Ellie gets bitten again, but brushes it off: “If it would happen to one of us,” she says, trailing off.
“you are fine?” Joel Tess asks. She replied on her sprained ankle.
Joel goes to bandage Tess’ foot, but is rebuked when he asks if she thinks the second bite might actually hit Ellie. She wants him to look on the bright side. Maybe for once, you say, they can actually win. He looks up at the golden cupola of the Massachusetts homestead, and in the sun, something like a smile crosses his face.
As the group approaches the State House, they see a truck. It is empty, and there is a corpse not far from it. A trail of blood leads inside. Tess hurries inside, only to find more dead bodies. Joel determines that someone has been bitten, and the healthy ones fight off the sick ones. For him, that means the adventure is over, and it’s time to go home. But Tess is adamant: Joel now needs to get Ellie to her destination. Ellie finds out before Joel does: Tess is infected.
Her hands tremble and her voice wobbles as she orders Joel to commit to taking Ellie to Bill and Frank, who she says will snatch her from his hands. (For the record, we don’t know who Bill and Frank are, however, though people who played “The Last of Us” might have some sense of what the story is.) -False characterization here, too: pleading with Joel, Tess telling him she didn’t ask He never felt what I felt. Tess and Joel are close enough. But the point here is that Tess has found something akin to normalcy in the post-apocalypse: love. It doesn’t look like Joel has done this before. At least he never admits it.
As this scene unfolded, Joel stood rooted to his feet, silently nodding or shaking his head. Suddenly, one of the dead bodies quivers to life, and this is a world in which Joel is at ease again. He advances aggressively and shoots the zombie in the head. Then we see tendrils fluttering between the toes of the corpse. The underground fungal wires that Tess was talking about before are activated, and a horde of nearby zombies awakens. Whatever time Tess thought she had spent with Joel was cut out permanently.
Tess tells Joel, “Save whoever you can save.” So he grabs Ellie and drags her out of the building, leaving Tess behind.
Tess begins flipping gasoline kegs and scattering grenades around, aiming to blow up the arriving zombies. But she struggles to press her lighter, which attracts the attention of a zombie who’s far more human than the clickers we’ve seen previously (he has recognizable facial features, including one eye). In what was probably my least favorite sequence on this show so far, zombies plant an infuriating rant on Tess; It’s a mirror image of the kind of confession and intimacy that Tess wanted from Joel. (I spend a little more time on this scene in a separate article). As the mycelium makes its way to its mouth, we see a lighter eventually producing a flame.
From Ellie and Joel’s point of view outside, we see an explosion explode from the statehouse, with a handful of infected people burning on their way out of the building. Eli looks shocked. Meanwhile, Joel’s facial expression calls into question Tess’ earlier assertion about how he feels for her. His gaze still lingers, his eyes water – and then he remembers Eli, turns away from the State Palace and continues walking.
Questions and notes
- This episode is about Tess. She can visualize the future. She wants to know things about other people. Episode 2 is about her character’s brokenness about Ellie and Joel, and what is revealed about the main characters in this light.
- I’ve watched a number of videos on YouTube theorizing that the source of the fungal infection is contaminated flour. Sarah, Joel, and Tommy avoid eating any food that contains flour in the first episode, and in this episode, the outbreak moves to a flour and grain factory in Indonesia. It’s an interesting easter egg if you like that sort of thing (although I’m not).
- There is an excerpt in the intro sequence where we see the extracted person’s face. Then fungal growth continues from the front – just like Cordyceps Really do to insect hosts.
- There was a complete rant about not having fungal spores in it as the game did. Well, if you’re curious, Ellie says “spores” about 20 minutes. Eat your heart out. This was this week’s edition of Spore Watch. I wouldn’t count on this being a recurring part.
- A frog plays the piano in this episode. The piano sounds shockingly good for being submerged in water and supposedly not tuned for twenty years. Every pianist I’ve ever talked to says you need to tune them at least once a year, or the pins get stuck. I may have been robbed.