After an incredible first episode, I felt myself wondering Will The Last of Us be able to keep the momentum going? Can they continue to build tension, raise the stakes, and flesh out the characters before us after the stellar debut? Episode 2, ‘Infected’, showed that it sure can!
The first 10 minutes of ‘Infected’ were enough to address all my fears. The second episode delivered another bone-chilling flashback similar to the previous episode. It honestly felt like an appetizer that is just so good that you forget that you still have the main dish on its way.
We get transported back to 2003 Jakarta, Indonesia, seemingly just before the outbreak. A prominent Mycology professor, Abu Ratna, is taken by military officers to evaluate samples which have scientists worried. She is brought face to face with a cadaver who is host to the Cordyceps fungi. Long fibrous tendrils can be seen slowly emerging from the corpse’s mouth and it’s just so horrifying, it honestly makes me a little squeamish.
While seeing such a human host is deeply unsettling it really doesn’t convey the sheer magnitude of the situation that they are in. It’s revealed that a flour and grain factory had its first known victim who randomly became violent and bit several of her coworkers, from there you can probably guess the rest. The Professor’s solution? Bomb everything. There is no vaccine, no medicine that can reverse this. The sheer hopelessness and despair in her eyes during that scene left me feeling so completely defeated because we’ve seen what the future holds for the planet. The flashbacks are really effective at setting the tone and fleshing out the present.
Back in 2023, our Trio is at odds with one another. ‘Infected’ does a great job of solidifying who our characters are, individually. Joel is cynical, stoic, and self-preserving, and rightly so given his past trauma and affinity for survival. Tess, who I personally did not like in episode one, did a complete 180 for me this episode. Tess was someone who, to me, was defined solely as being callous, and strategic, and I wasn’t wrong in coming to that conclusion but underneath it all, she is arguably the best of them. She clings to hope for what Ellie represents. She’s protective, resourceful, and fearless in her guidance over the young girl and in her sway over Joel. Tess is the balance and the medium between the two.
Lastly, Ellie has a few more qualities shown throughout the episode than just her typical back-talking and sarcasm. She is fearful, more loose and comedic, but quick to follow orders to ensure their safety and toward the end of the episode she is remorseful.
The show does such a great job of meticulously drip-feeding information about the Cordyceps in a way that feels organic and only when it’s needed. The way our trio overlooks a mass of bodies, all infected, moaning and writhing as if in unison was such a trippy sight to behold. With every body overtaken and as the fungus grows, outstretching its fibers, it is able to communicate from far distances akin to a hive mind. Over the twenty years, it has planted its roots underground, ever-growing and ever-communicating.
As if that wasn’t completely terrifying, some of these things grow into Clickers. Walking, blind, attracted to sound and, just as the name suggests, they make terrifying high-pitched, croaks and clicks as they blindly roam for a target to attack. These horrific abominations have mushroom-like growths on their bodies and an almost mushroom bloom-like head that, from a horror and prosthetic sense are stunning, but for a real-world apocalypse are so gross and terrifying. The tension during the Clicker fight was handled well.
And we have to talk about the final scene. Joel and the crew reach the Firefly state house to negotiate their terms only to find that everyone has been killed. Not only that, but the bodies scattered across the interior are a mix of dead humans and slumbering Cordycep-infected bodies. And to add to all of that, Ellie is bitten, which okay she’s immune. But it’s also revealed that Tess also got bit from a previous altercation with a Clicker. And I just felt myself sink into an emotional abyss as she revealed her bite to them.
Joel is visibly broken by the reality of what the bite meant. Their troubles are heightened due to the Cordyceps altering the horde to the trio’s location. Even though Joel knows he has to say goodbye to Tess, time is of the essence. He can’t say a proper goodbye.
Tess’ last words to Joel, “Save who you can save”, as she gets ready to sacrifice herself to help Joel and Ellie escape really showcase what her character and the current mission are about. Tess’ final moments are a hero’s death, I suspect some people will have a problem with the Cordyceps “kiss” involving Tess. And while I admit it was a tad bit strange, I think ultimately it was a good choice to convey the loss of free will from Tess as the scene focused on the terror on her face and the almost intimate-like horrific vibe involving the fungus mode of transmission.
The way the creative team brought the live-action The Last of Us to life is refreshing to see after numerous adaptations being dissected and botched to the point of ruining franchise. The harmony of the writing, acting, directing, and everything in between has made The Last of Us a knockout of a show.
If interested, you can watch Farid’s recap of ‘Infected’ on YouTube!
Author: Micah Carrillo
Micah is studying English and Digital Design. His love of geek culture spans across diverse mediums and genres. Comics, anime, films, you name it! He enjoys video games on the Nintendo Switch and Xbox.
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