Video Games: ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 2 Review

Screenshot of Pedro Pascal as Joel and Anna Torv as Tess in ‘The Last of Us’ on HBO Max.

Hey! Hallie here!

The second episode of ‘The Last of Us’ landed on HBO Max on Sunday with even more things for me to get excited about. Just like the first episode, this one stuck pretty closely to the content of the video game, but there were a few surprises that caught me off guard. This episode also gave us our first introduction to the Clickers in the show! I’m excited to see where all of this is going and there’s so much I want to discuss, but before that here’s your SPOILER WARNING. This review will have spoilers for episode two and potential spoilers for the video game as well. Tread carefully if you’re going into this show with no knowledge of the game!

The Immune:

The Opening: Just like everyone else, I’m really loving the openings to each episode we’ve gotten so far. Each episode has given us a bit of backstory to the fungal virus that caused the apocalyptic environment in ‘The Last of Us’. In episode one that was a 60s interview featuring two scientists discussing pandemics and a possible world-ending fungal virus, with the implication that human inaction (especially inaction towards climate change) was the cause of the disease taking over the world. In this episode beloved Indonesian actress Christine Hakim takes on the role of a scientist who, without warning, is taken to a heavily guarded facility to perform an autopsy. There she learns the woman she’s performing an autopsy on went insane and attacked her coworkers, even managing to bite some of them. When she looks in her mouth she finds fungal growth. When asked what to do about this development, which they now know is passing from person to person, she can offer no vaccine. Instead, she says to bomb the city and everyone in it. The whole scene really sells the dire nature of the virus, and the hopelessness that the characters in the world of ‘The Last of Us’ have gotten used to. These introduction scenes are by no means fun, but they are very informative and appropriately bleak.

Joel and Ellie: This episode was the first time we got to see these two bond and I absolutely loved it. Joel spends most of the episode exasperated with Tess for believing Ellie when she says she’s immune, and for having to escort Ellie at all. Meanwhile, Ellie encourages said exasperation by taking her immunity a bit too lightly, even jokingly pretending she’s turning into an Infected at one point to mock Tess and Joel. But Ellie is very easily likable and, as the episode goes on, we get to watch Joel warm up to her. Ellie impresses both Tess and Joel with her story of rebelliously wandering into a mall alone, (although fans of the game know she was with Riley,) and getting bitten. And though Ellie annoys him a bit with her tendency to make fun out of every situation she’s in, like in the Hotel where she plays pretend at the front desk, you can tell that he finds her light attitude refreshing. Joel admires Ellie’s positive outlook, especially when she’s commenting on the overgrown city that he lost interest in a long time ago. About midway through this episode they get a full scene to just sit down and talk, too. Though they both start out very short with each other, the two bond over a sobering conversation about what it’s like to kill Infected knowing that they were once human. We only have small one-on-one interactions so far, but with Tess gone, we’ll get way more in the very near future.

Tess: Speaking of. I was sure we’d see more of Tess in this series. The trailers featured her so heavily I thought we’d be getting more backstory for her or something. Still, I wasn’t expecting her character to last longer than two episodes, and sure enough, she didn’t. I liked what the series did with Tess. They didn’t add much to her in the way of story, but they didn’t need to. Tess is the Ben Kenobi character. The one who’s there to push the heroes to their main goal through their ideals and untimely death. Tess was effective at this, both because they made her relationship to Joel closer in the series than it was in the game, and because we got to see her warm to Ellie much faster than Joel did. We even spent a lot of time on her idealism. The minute Tess heard a vaccine was possible, she didn’t hesitate to wonder if the information was true. She wanted to believe it was possible and, more importantly, she wanted to do something helpful that went beyond the shady things she’d done to survive so far. I liked her death as well. It was emotionally impactful to watch her face the Infected head on, the exact creatures she feared to turn into after she was bitten, and take them down in a self-sacrificial move. Much more impactful than her trying to fight off the military and being shot instantly. Tess’ role didn’t deviate much from the game but honestly, I have no complaints about that.

The Museum: The Museum section was taken right out of the game. From the glass cases they hid behind, to Ellie following Joel’s lead and taking cover with him, to the insanely accurate and impressive Clicker makeup. It was so satisfying to see the whole thing come to life on screen.

The Sets: Every shot of the rundown city was both gorgeous and completely game accurate. The overgrown vegetation on the cars, the giant leaning buildings, and the strange fungal growths were beautiful in their own grotesque sort of way. The city looks like it’s slowly being destroyed by the forest attempting to grow in its place, and that’s exactly what I wanted to see. I especially loved the hotel interior. Though the hotel comes later in the game, it fit in well with the rest of the city and it was cool to see the swamp-like environment so perfectly recreated.

The Infected:

The Fungal Tendrils: I already didn’t like this idea in episode one, but I liked it even less in episode two. It still feels way too Doctor Who to see little tentacles coming out of the mouths of the Infected. And though I do like that they’re using these to connect the Infected in a fungus-like system that occurs naturally in forests, I don’t think it’s necessary. And the whole idea gets weirder by the episode. In this episode for example, in order to fully turn Tess (even though she was already bitten and could definitely just turn from that alone,) one of the Infected basically attempts to kiss her. The scene wasn’t even creepy. It was just painfully awkward. Usually I’m more saddened by Tess’ death, but this time I just spent the whole scene cringing at how odd it was. At this point I don’t think they’re going to convince me to like this new addition to the Infected.

And that’s it! The series has stuck very closely to the game so far, but with the promise of a few new characters and locations, I’m interested to see how much new content they’ll give us as well. In the very least, it looks like we’ll be skipping my least favorite level in the game. Getting the hotel out of the way now means we likely won’t get the whole segment where Joel has to wander around in the dark to get back to Ellie after falling down an elevator shaft. That has always been the most terrifying part of the game for me (aside from David,) and I won’t miss it. In any case, I’m excited for episode three! Now that Tess is gone, the plot’s going to get faster from here on out.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!

Hallie

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