The Last of Us: Season 1 Episode 2 – Infected (Recap & Review)

Please note: there are FULL spoilers for the entire second episode of this first season, as well as all preceding episodes. Also worth noting is that I have never played the video game this is based on, and have no idea of any specific plot points, so any speculation of upcoming events is truly just that.

In September 2003, in Jakarta, Indonesia, Professor of Mycology Ibu Ratna (Christine Hakim) is taken by government officials to a laboratory, and asked to inspect a sample. She deduces it is ophiocordyceps, but does not believe it capable of surviving in humans; she is wrong. In a protective suit, Ibu Ratna examines a deceased patient – dead via gunshot to the head – who has a bite mark on her left leg, and cordyceps growing inside of her body. The patient was bitten while at work at a flour and grain factory, where several of their co-workers were bitten and later executed as well. Over a dozen infected people are currently unaccounted for. When the official asks Ratna what can be done to stop the spread of infection, Ratna’s only answer is to bomb the city and the people in it.

Back in present day Boston, having escaped the quarantine zone with Joel and Tess, Ellie awakens to find the latter two watching over her with weapons drawn. Joel asks to see Ellie’s arm, which has not changed, and Ellie recounts how Marlene would test her daily to try and track the infection rate, which never changed. Joel has broken knuckles from his assault on the guard, and he contemplates taking Ellie back to the QZ, which Tess vehemently rejects. Tess confronts Ellie bluntly, and asks why she and Joel should risk themselves to save Ellie, and Ellie explains that she may be the key to finding a vaccine. Joel is not convinced, and the trio head through the city to find the State House.

While travelling along a highway, Tess begins to bond with Ellie. Tess asks how Ellie got bit in the first place, and Ellie explains that she went into the abandoned shopping mall in the QA and was surprised by an infected person inside. Ellie also confirms that her parents won’t be looking for her, as she is an orphan, and there won’t be any boyfriend’s either. When Ellie wonders why there aren’t more infected running around the open cities, Joel and Tess explain that those are more stories than truth, and though there (hopefully) aren’t fungus-exploding monsters out there, they fall suspiciously silent when asked about the ones with ‘split-open heads that see in the dark like bats’. A monstrous howl in the distance seems to answer Ellie’s question.

Arriving at a flooded hotel, the three venture through the shallow water, though Ellie is scared by a skeleton after playing around at the front desk. They take the stairs to the top floor, but the way forward is blocked. Ellie suggests she climb through, as she’s the smallest, but Tess insist she do it herself, as Ellie is too valuable to risk. Ellie and Joel continue to awkwardly talk about their pasts, but Joel cuts it off quickly. Joel is more than happy to talk about the infected, and mentions they can live anywhere from a few months to decades. When Ellie asks if Joel has ever killed one, Joel says he has, and that it is sometimes hard to forget they were once people, too. Tess soon arrived, but with bad news: the direct path to the State House is swarmed with infected. Tess has to remind Ellie that she may be immune from infection, but not from being torn apart.

Opting instead to head through the museum, Tess lays down some more ground rules. Inside, Ellie soon finds a recently killed body, with larger scratches and more damage to it than usual, causing Joel and Tess to tense up. They make it clear to Ellie to remain silent from that point; not just quiet, but silent. Heading upstairs, Ellie accidentally steps on a dried out corpse, but the three make it inside the exhibition room before the roof collapses behind them. Inside, the tell-tale clicks of a more advanced infected alert the trio that there is not one, but two Clickers inside with them. After a long battle, the Clickers are dispatched, with Tess suffering a twisted ankle and Ellie being bitten once again. Outside, Ellie crosses to the adjacent building and Tess treats her ankle. Joel asks Ellie if this is the life she wanted, and Ellie’s unsure, but she can’t deny the view.

Arriving outside the State House building, Joel finds the truck ruined, and signs of a battle. Ellie notices blood heading inside the building, where it seems one of the Fireflies was infected and all have died one way or another. When one of the infected is not quite as dead as it would seem, Joel shoots it, alerting the nearby swarm the group had so desperately avoided previously. With time running out until the horde arrives, Tess reveals she has been bitten, and the infection is rapidly spreading. She convinces Joel to take Ellie to some allies, and Tess sacrifices herself in a blaze of glory to kill as many of the infected as possible. With one last look back, Ellie and Joel continue their journey.

+ once again, the cold opening to the episode was fantastic. I am definitely okay if they want to show all various aspects of the pandemic in each episode’s beginning
+ when Tess asked if Ellie was alone in the shopping mall before Ellie was bit, Ellie seemed hesitant to reply that she was. I wonder if that will come up again later. I did get a chuckle out of Ellie also saying ‘noooo’ to having a boyfriend, because even I know that aspect of her life
+ that little frog sitting on the piano was the real MVP of the episode. What a cutie patootie. I also liked how Joel double checked his own hand after helping Ellie back onto her foot after the skeleton appearance. Cooties is real
+ when Joel and Ellie were talking while Tess was unlocking the door, Joel commented on Ellie’s knife. There was a knife in the drawer that Sarah got the money and watch out of in the previous episode, but I can’t tell if it’s meant to be the same knife? Surely not
+ the clickers were cool. They looked like the teeth monsters from the Candle Cove “Channel Zero” season, but I had some issues with how they were handled. Since they can’t see, once the shit had already hit the fan, why didn’t Joel go for close up headshots? I think there was also only one audio distraction used, when Joel knocked the bust into the cabinet
+ did the clicker bite/scratch/whatever Ellie in the same spot as her previous bite for a reason? If not, that seemed improbable. Again, maybe this will come into play later
+ I get the impression that “The jury’s still out, but you can’t deny that view.’ is a line from the game? Every now and then through two episodes now there has been a line that stands out like that, and I have absolutely no faith that these were written this year and not wildly workshopped lines from a decade ago
+ when did Tess get bit? Since she still had her head, I’m assuming it was before the Clicker fight. I totally called that Tess was gonna get bit and/or die/sacrifice herself, especially after her horrendous room clearing skills in the first episode. I should also note that in my entire time hearing about The Last of Us as a video game, I never heard so much as Tess’ name, so I had presumed her time was short to begin with
+ I didn’t much care for that weird zombie kiss Tess received. I did, however, like that the bulk of the infected seemed to ignore her. I presume this was a World War Z style, ‘they can tell when someone is infected’ dealio?

– every time that I think Ellie is sort of starting to grow on me as a character, she does or more likely says something that makes me just hate her. I’m sure that’s meant to mirror Joel’s reaction to her at this point, but so far it just makes me not care for her at all. I also just can’t get over the fact she looks nothing like the game character
– due to the environments, the background/city shots looked really weird. I don’t know where this was filmed and how much was green screened, but some of the shots of Boston just looked really fake. My assumption is they were meant to be exact replicas of shots from the game?
– I’m not sure if this has been explained or will be explained further, but I didn’t quite understand why the infected were writing around on the ground. Was this the ‘step on a mushroom in one place, and they know where you are’ thing; like, are they literally connected to the veins of fungus goop on the ground?
– this time it was Joel not checking behind a door as he walked into the exhibition room that irked me so. I also can’t stress enough how much I hate horror fiction characters walking backwards through a room with objects all over the place. I appreciate they don’t want to take their eyes off the threat, but it’s just asking for trouble

> I already see lots of people proclaiming this as the ‘best video game adaption’ on screen, and I have an issue with that claim. That issue being, that there is nothing in this show (so far) that makes it stand out as being an adaption of a video game. I saw jokes about how Joel didn’t throw bricks/bottles/whatever it is in the game, and that’s sort of what I mean. We don’t need a four minute montage of Joel repeatedly dying to the first clicker he sees, but I think it’s fair to say there is nothing about “post apocalyptic story where man protects young ward from the zombies and bad guys” is a story unique to video games

Final thoughts: This episode was about half an hour shorter than the first (not coincidentally, the ‘prologue’ to that episode was almost exactly half an hour) but that made this episode fly by. With no time to drag in the middle, this was a better overall episode. I hope it’s not going to become too cliched in the story going forward, but I’m excited to see where that may be.


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