HBO’s The Last of Us (TLOU) episode two, ‘Infected’, continues the journey of Ellie, Joel, and Tess as they attempt to cross the zombie-infested outskirts of Boston without getting themselves eaten, or worse, infected.
Warning: spoilers for HBO’s The Last of Us episode 2 ahead.
The cold open of episode one was widely applauded even though it wasn’t part of the Naughty Dog game, and episode two has also taken this additive approach, using the episodic format to introduce context and nuance that was harder to include in the games.
Ibu Ratna, a professor of mycology in Jakarta, is called in by the military to investigate a strange corpse. Portrayed by Christine Hakim, Professor Ratna quickly determines the severity of the situation and utters a word of pure fear: bomb. Bomb the city and everyone in it.
We shortly cut to Joel, Tess, and Ellie walking through Boston. Ellie asks if a crater is a result of the bombing and Tess explains that yes, and that it worked in Boston but didn’t in many other places. When you consider the state of the Quarantine Zone shown in episode one, the thought that this is where the bombing worked is terrifying.
TLOU introduces us to its infected in a dramatic and intimate way in episode two. From a hotel balcony, we see swarms of them from a distance, but we get much more up close and personal as the trio make their way through a museum.
Clickers are a terrifying form of infected who have had their heads split apart by the fungus and can no longer see, operating on echolocation and using clicks – hence the name. The show has done a fabulous job realising these monsters in a glory of practical effects – Pedro Pascal, who plays Joel, said in an interview with Rotten Tomatoes TV that they were “very disturbing” and much more realistic than he expected.
And then, when we have the inevitable “a character we’ve come to love gets bitten and hides it from everyone” scene, a final hideous truth about the fungus infection is shown in a delicate and disgusting exchange between Tess (Anna Torv) and an infected, where the infected gently introduces Tess to the hoard with a sordid insertion of mycelial. Speaking on HBO’s official companion podcast, Craig Maizin, show runner, said “the fungus loves too.’
Luckily for us, the character of Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey) really begins to shine in this episode and we begin to see the sassy, optimistic, and interested teen we love from the game. The first sparks of paternal relationship between Joel and Ellie begin to blossom.
Episode 3 (coming Sunday) has been singled out by early reviewers as exceptional viewing, and we, the viewing public, can only wait to see whether Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett can fill the Anna Torv-shaped hole in our hearts.
Featured Image Credit: HBO