Possible Spoilers For Episode 2 – Read at your own risk
Welcome back to another episode recap ladies and gents, and what an exciting start we have to the series! Last week we saw the trio escape from the Boston QZ and further into the infected territory. Tonight’s episode dives into the first known accounts of the cordyceps outbreak which takes place in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 24, 2003. We’re introduced to Ibu Ratna, a Professor of Mycology from the University of Indonesia. The Professor is picked up from a local restaurant while eating her breakfast by the Indonesian military – frightened by the sudden appearance and escort, she’s reassured she hasn’t committed any crimes, but they need her expert opinion on something.
Bringing her to the university and being escorted into a lab, the commanding officer presents her with some sort of biological sample to examine and tells her nothing else. She’s told to draw her own conclusions based on what she’s seeing, and until then she’ll be given more information. Here is where we discover what may possibly be the first encounter with the cordyceps fungi and virus, as it’s newly discovered inside of a deceased woman, and what comes next is not just eery, but frightening. Professor Ratna does her examination and pulls out part of the fungi from the dead woman’s mouth, causing her to freak out and run out of the lab.
After speaking with the commanding officer some more, we learn this suddenly started 30 hours ago that day and began in a rice and flour factory. The commanding officer explains to Professor Ratna the symptoms we’ve already seen take place in episode one last week – and just like any other zombie movie or show, the clear symptoms of infection are people who are bitten suddenly becoming violent, attacking others and spreading the infection. What’s crazy about this is the origin of the infection is still unknown, only this poor woman was the first to be bitten, with no traces of the person that bit her. According to the officer’s count, 14 others have gone missing and given how fast infection sets in based on the signs from the previous episode, everything will go downhill pretty fast.
Professor Ratna’s explanation of what to do next harkens back to what Dr. Newman was saying in the first episode – if humans were to ever become infected by this virus, there will be no cure or vaccine. It will mean the end of humanity as we know it. The only solution the good Professor poses to the commanding officer is to bomb the entire city in order to prevent the further spread of this diabolical infection. This is a chilling scene because it makes one think: what would ever happen if this were to become our reality (cue conspiracy theory music)? What follows is interesting because now that Tess and Joel know Ellie is infected, this changes everything for them. While Joel wants to back out of this agreement and take Ellie back to the Boston QZ, Tess wants to push forward and complete the mission.
In doing so, Tess decides to have a very real and upfront conversation with Ellie to find out why she’s so important – Ellie is immune and there are some doctors out west that are working on a cure. In Joel’s mind, this is just another hoax that he and Tess have both heard numerous times before in the past. Agreeing to continue on, they proceed to move outside in the daylight. What’s fascinating here is just how bad Boston looks in the daytime – it’s an atrocity, a once beautiful city now in complete ruin. As they move on, Ellie spots a crater in the middle of the street – the government has bombed Boston to slow the spread. Something Professor Ratna suggested 20 years ago in Jakarta, only this time it wasn’t a huge success.
As a gamer and fan of the series, one can really appreciate just how much more this particular scene is fleshed out in the show compared to the game. There’s more to learn and understand here that we didn’t get from the games, but could only theorize as to what the response could have been from our government, and even other world powers. As our lovely trio traverses the highways to get to their next destination, Ellie and Tess engage in some light conversation, a sort of exchange of information actually. We learn Ellie is an orphan with no one looking for her, and we also get hints of some really nasty infected – some that are truly terrifying from the games, such as bloaters with exploding spores (something that has actually been left out of the series) and other types of infected that have advantages in the dark. We’ll get to this later.
As they navigate through a ruined hotel, they are forced to find a way another way to reach their destination, and as a result, they have to split up. This is the beginning of a beautiful relationship between Joel and Ellie, as it starts off begrudgingly and feels forced. Due to the dynamic of their arrangement with Marlene, this is to be expected. Instead of throwing shade at each other left and right, Joel and Ellie try to learn about one another in their own way by asking each other some general icebreaker questions. Pascal and Ramsey do a wonderful job here because it feels like a deeper dive into the bond between their characters, especially from the game, while also still feeling fresh.
As Joel and Ellie regroup with Tess, they walk out onto a rooftop of the hotel and overlook the city beneath them. Here we can see plenty of infected lying about on the ground several stories beneath them, and Ellie notices something – they’re all connected. What does that mean? Tess basically explains to Ellie that the infected function like a hive mind. The cordyceps fungus not only grows within its host but it also expands outward – we saw this in the first episode with Tess and Joel. If you step on a cordyceps vine, all who are infected will know where you are and pursue you. I really love this aspect of the show because it adds more depth to the cordyceps infection that isn’t in the games and poses more danger to anyone that crosses its path. The only solution forward is to go through the museum, which is a familiar setting for gamers – and here we see the museum covered in cordyceps vines…and I mean covered in this stuff. Joel inspects one of the vines on the floor and sees that it’s dry, possibly meaning any infected that are connected within the museum are now dead. Further inside they discover someone that was recently killed.
Maybe he got bit and decided to off himself, or maybe someone killed him instead. As Tess and Joel explore the possibilities, an extreme amount of fear kicks in, and a new level of caution is exercised. What we see is truly frightful and amazing all at the same time – a sea of dead infected is in their path! They can maneuver around and over them, but man is this scary. Not only do they have to be careful around these cordyceps patches, but the museum is in such shambles that part of it comes crashing down behind them and blocks the way behind them. Are you guys ready for what’s next? The infamous sound of a clicker – the one thing that means instant death in the video game if you’re not well equipped to take them on head first.
Inside Independence Hall, our trio now faces a new challenge, getting around the clickers. These are the types of infected that Ellie had mentioned on the highway – the ones whose heads are split wide open and can see in the dark. These clickers function sort of like bats, they find you based on sound and pinpoint your location to feast on your sorry soul. You absolutely can’t make any noise around them, and the first thing that Ellie does is breathes hard and draws their attention. Chaos ensues and we now witness them in a literal fight for their lives. Sidenote: the makeup and design of the clickers in this scene are absolutely fascinating and on point compared to their video game counterpart. They look even more terrifying here than in the games themselves!
Barely getting out alive, they reach their destination and see no signs of anyone. This immediately raises red flags for Joel, especially in the smuggler business, it could mean a double-cross. However, Tess drags Ellie by the hand and goes inside the building where the Fireflies were supposed to be, only to see all of them are now dead. With no idea as to what happened and frantically searching for clues, Tess loses her cool and tells Joel there’s no going back home and Ellie peaces everything together at that moment – Tess is infected. This happened inside the museum most likely off-screen as we’re shown Tess has a bite mark on her neck and the infection is spreading quickly. An infected person that was thought to be dead starts to move and is quickly put out of his misery, but what happens next is not good news.
The cordyceps fungus that has spread underground makes contact with the newly deceased man and signals his friends to come running. The trio now has only a few moments to make a decision and they have to make it quick – a horde is on their way and unfortunately for them, Tess has to be left behind. Joel grabs Ellie and heads for the exit as Tess begins to realize this is her end. With gasoline and grenades all over the floor, she intends to go out in a blaze of glory, buying Joel and Ellie some more time for their escape. The horde of infected burst through the door in pursuit of Joel and Ellie, and Tess moves off to the side and pulls out a lighter to set off her trap, but what’s interesting about this scene is one of the infected detects Tess and slowly walks over to her. Tendrils hanging from his mouth and ready to spread infection, he gives Tess a kiss to speed up her infection. In her last moments, Tess manages to ignite the lighter and drops it on the floor, ultimately sealing her fate and killing all the infected inside.
This is scene is slightly different from the game because although Tess is infected, she actually kills herself. It’s not the infected that pursue Joel and Ellie, but other people called Raiders. The raiders are also the group of people responsible for the death of the Fireflies at the rendevous point. I can’t say whether this rendition of the last scene with Tess is better than the game because I felt the same no matter what, but in my opinion, it adds yet another emotional weight because we get to see for a brief moment how this impacts Joel in the show. While her loss is felt in the game, we don’t exactly get the nuanced and emotional reaction. I would have loved to see a bit more action in this episode given the fact that our trio is now out in the wild where anything goes for both people and infected alike. Overall this was a great episode and it continues the emotional momentum while still maintaining a valued level of suspense.
The Last of Us is now playing on HBO Max
Hey! I’m Lais a.k.a. Chipz-N-Stix and I love video games and nerd culture overall. I typically do reviews and impressions on video games as well as offer some helpful tips and tricks to enhance your gaming experience. From time to time I tend to touch on certain topics that get you thinking – things that would matter to the individual. I’m also a self-proclaimed Pokemon Master but that doesn’t mean you can outright challenge me. I have to “motivate” my team for that!