The Last of Us Episode 2 Is a Thrilling, Nightmarish Glimpse at How a Pandemic Starts
After a very promising debut episode, The Last of Us is shaping up to be the best video game adaptation we've ever seen. Say what you will about the Halo television series or the groan-inducing Sonic the Hedgehog movies, but HBO and The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann are truly working on a whole other level. Whether it’s because of Druckman's involvement, or commitment to the source material, The Last of Us’s premiere simply had the right sauce. It certainly helps that the series has a spectacular leading man in Pedro Pascal—who plays Joel, a smuggler in a post-apocalyptic zombie world—but The Last of Us has such a phenomenal tale that the odds were always in favor of its success.
That story, featuring classic Lone Wolf and Cub elements, features Joel smuggling a young girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), who was infected by the mushroom zombie virus, cordyceps—but never turned. It feels eerily similar to other stories, such as Netflix’s Sweet Tooth, James Cameron’s Aliens, Star Wars’s The Mandalorian (which also stars Pascal), or—dare we say—The Walking Dead, but when it works, it works. And The Last of Us just works.
When we left off last week, Joel, Ellie, and his smuggling partner, Tess (Anna Torv), are now off the grid. They escaped the QZ, a quarantine zone run by Fedra (the Federal Disaster Response Agency), where uninfected survivors are kept as prisoners. A cool rebel group exists there, named the Fireflies, but we're now long gone from that place. (Hope those guys are OK!) Instead, we have a somewhat complicated plot involving Joel needing a car battery to find his missing brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna). Sadly, that car battery was sold off to the Fireflies by a guy named Robert. So now, Joel was forced to make a deal with the Fireflies to smuggle Ellie out of the QZ in exchange for the car battery. It’s a classic video game-style quest. Go slay the boss, bring me its eye, and I’ll upgrade your armor. Maybe Joel could get an even nicer jacket.
We pick up this episode in Jakarta, Indonesia, where the initial outbreak seemingly began. A doctor tells us that there is no vaccine and no medicine that can stop this outbreak. “Bomb,” she says. “Start bombing. Bomb this city… and everyone in it.” If the infection has reached America by the time we catch up with Joel and Ellie, then it all must have been really bad. The city we saw with the slanted skyscraper at the end of the premiere episode wasn’t a good sign that anything is inhabitable outside of the QZ, either.
Even though Ellie has lived long after an infected person is supposed to turn into a fungus monster, Joel is convinced that it’s just a matter of time. As we saw in the debut episode, he has some daughter issues to deal with, too. They still smuggled Ellie out of the QZ, though, and whatever’s happening to her may be the cure to this whole epidemic. There’s might be a Firefly camp full of doctors out west that are working on the vaccine—and they’re very interested in Ellie’s condition. Now, I say “might” because this isn’t my first rodeo with this type of story. I’ve never played The Last of Us. So, I’m in the same boat as some of you newcomers to the story. But I’ve seen my fair share of post-apocalyptic Rock Candy Mountains. Joel’s disbelieving attitude is right there with me.
The group comes across a hotel building that has become something of a swamp. Tiny frogs, limited mobility, and scary skeletons. Gross! I’m picturing Ellie saying something in the video game like, “Uh-oh! Looks like we’ll have to find another way to get to the other side,” or, “Press X to climb, Joel!” I know the HBO series can’t have Ellie say lines like, “Joel, did you know that you can hold L2 to lock on to enemies?” but I still want her to say it. Badly.
The building only gets freakier the deeper the crew goes into it, so maybe they should stop? Against my warnings, however, they trudge through the dark corridors of the Resident Evil-like house of horrors until they almost die. It’s similar to how, if you search your whole house for a bug, you’ll definitely find one—so you’re better off just not looking. The infected make weird clicking noises—reminiscent of echolocation—and eventually track down Joel and the gang. He shines a flashlight in one of their mushroom faces and the beast doesn’t notice, so they seem to work purely on sounds alone. Like any zombie, you can still kill it with two shots to the head. Everyone survives the encounter, but Ellie is bitten again. “Well, if it was gonna happen to one of us…” she jokes.
Not so fast! Tess was bitten, too. Ellie’s wound completely heals, but Tess’s neck looks awful. Even worse, all the Fireflies at the meet-up point are already dead and infected. Tess sacrifices herself in a massive explosion that also kills the dozens of infected people now running in their direction—but not before one of them plants a big ol' smooch on her. That’s certainly one of the ways they can spread the infection, but it’s nasty as all hell. Next week, our quest to find the magical doctor paradise continues.
From: Esquire US