After its phenomenal pilot last week, both in terms of artistic value and popularity, “The Last of Us” is back with its second episode, and things get more tense from here. While the first episode was an introduction to the world and the characters, we had not seen much of the “infected”, at least in action. “The Last of Us” Episode 2 makes use of this and presents a rather close look at the infected as the protagonists make their way through the ruins of Boston City towards the Firefly outpost, where help awaits them. It must be mentioned in this regard that the visual filth and rubble is exceptionally well done, especially considering the accuracy it maintains with the video game.
What Happens In ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 2?
In 2003, Ibu Ratna, a professor of mycology, is picked up by the police in Jakarta, Indonesia, to investigate a particular specimen. Upon taking a brief look, Professor Ratna explains that it is a specimen of the Ophiocordyceps fungus, but she is confused as to the manner in which it has been preserved by the laboratory. She is even more shocked, to the extent of disbelief when the police officer informs her that the specimen has been found inside a human body. Almost waving aside the claim, she mentions that Cordyceps does not survive in human bodies. But Professor Ratna’s beliefs change within a few minutes after she examines the body from which the specimen has been found. The police officer informs her of the whole situation: in a flour and grain factory on the west side of Jakarta, this particular woman was a normal worker until she suddenly turned violent and attacked her coworkers, biting three of them in the process. When the police arrived, she tried to bite them, too, and had to be executed. The three others who had been bitten were also taken into police custody and kept under supervision until they, too, turned violent and had to be executed a few hours later. There was no idea as to who had originally bit the woman, and fourteen workers from the factory were already missing. Sensing that a horrible fungal outbreak was right around the corner, the officer asked Ibu Ratna to help them find a cure and vaccine. With extreme helplessness and pain, Professor Ratna says that there can be no cure thought of, for such a fungal outbreak was believed to be impossible. The only way to save other parts of the country and the world, she says, is to bomb the city and kill everyone so that no more people get infected.
Twenty years later, in the present timeline of 2023, Ellie is being monitored closely by Joel and Tess. The two are still astounded by the fact that Ellie has not turned into an infected creature, even though she had been bitten weeks earlier. In fact, Joel is almost certain that there must only be some delay in the process for Ellie and that she will most definitely turn soon enough. He tries to convince Tess that they should probably go back into the quarantine zone and look for some other way to get a working truck. But Tess is still convinced that transporting the girl to the Firefly camp is their best chance of going ahead with their personal plan of finding Tommy. The two of them push Ellie to talk, and the latter explains that Marlene had actually found her after she had been bitten. Although Marlene had asked Ellie not to tell anyone about this, the young girl reveals that this very immunity of hers was the reason for the Fireflies to transport her across the country. In a Firefly camp somewhere in the West, doctors were waiting to make a vaccine with the help of Ellie’s samples. Joel is not at all convinced by this revelation, though, for he has heard promises of such vaccines enough times to not have any hope left. It is once again Tess who makes the man understand that irrespective of whether Ellie is the cure or not, helping her get to the Fireflies will enable them to move forward toward Tommy. With no better option, Joel agrees, and the three of them move out into the urban wilderness that was once Boston. Just like Jakarta, as mentioned in the opening sequence, Boston had also been bombed by the authorities during the spread of the disease twenty years ago. While this was done in almost every big city of the world, wiping out a major part of the population, the outbreak could still not be contained much, and the infected still roam the open stretches outside quarantine zones. The three make their way through a hotel at first in order to bypass the more dangerous areas where they know the infected lurk. But after some exploration, their path ahead is blocked, and Joel has to think of a different route. Together with Tess, who has also traveled this route multiple times with him, he decides to go through a local museum.
It is quite evident from the scenes around the museum that the place has had a recent presence of the infected, but Joel and Tess have no other option. Going by their hunch that the infected inside might have died, they enter and make their way toward the rooftop. Finding more recent trails and a freshly dead body bitten by the infected, Joel instructs the others to move as silently as possible. However, trouble strikes when a part of the ceiling in the old building falls down and attracts the attention of two infected. These creatures now run into the same room where Joel, Tess, and Ellie are hiding, and Ellie makes a very slight noise out of fright. What follows are a few minutes of tense action and fighting as the infected attack the humans, and the latter need to kill them before moving ahead. There are more visible remnants of this attack than just the stress on the characters’ minds, for Ellie has been bitten again, and Tess has also injured her foot. Joel once again expresses his doubt to Tess about the girl’s immunity to the fungal infection and says that he believes the first bite could have been an anomaly and that Ellie would definitely turn after this second bite. But now that they are so close to their destination, Joel decides to keep at their mission and deliver the girl to the State House and get the promised truck and resources.
What Happens When Joel, Tess, And Ellie Reach The State House Outpost?
Things seem suspicious from right outside the State House Firefly outpost, as the place looks eerily empty. Joel checks out a parked truck nearby and realizes that the driver has been killed, with more blood tracks heading inside the building. It is now Tess who has had enough and rushes into the building with Ellie, but the discovery they make inside is heartbreaking. All the Firefly members have been killed, and their bodies lie around. Joel looks around and gathers that one of the members had gotten infected and turned, which led to a fight amongst the Fireflies, and ultimately everyone lost their lives. This meant that there was nobody to deliver Ellie to, and the girl was now solely their responsibility. With no conviction about Ellie’s immunity or the possible vaccine from her, Joel immediately claims that they should return to the Boston quarantine zone and take the girl back to the Fireflies there. However, Tess has a very different idea—she quickly tries to look for any maps of the next Firefly camp to the West, suggesting that they should push forward with Ellie with them. Joel tries to stop her, and Tess finally snaps; she claims that the quarantine zone was never her home, and she will never return there. It becomes evident through her words that Tess has been bitten by the infected, meaning that her luck has truly run out and she will turn sometime soon. She confirms this by showing Joel a big bite mark on her neck, where the infection has already started to visibly spread.
It is at this dramatic moment that Tess expresses her complete support for Ellie being immune to the sickness. Comparing her wound to that of Ellie’s recent one, Tess shows Joel how the girl is really not affected by the fungus. While both of them must have gotten bit during the fight in the museum, Ellie’s wound had no sign of infection, while Tess’s already looked frightening. With desperation in her voice, Tess asks Joel to save who he can and take Ellie to the doctors who can prepare some cure from her sample. In this while, a large horde of the infected rush towards the State House, and Tess decides to stay back and sacrifice herself, making sure that Joel and Ellie survive. Although we have not been given any backstory about Tess, it is through these moments that the strength of her character is revealed. Tess has not just been a very resourceful and determined individual, carrying out the trade back in the QZ and deciding to take action against the seller who was duping them, but she also turns out to be an extremely hopeful person.
Despite living through the grim realities of the present world, Tess remains hopeful of a vaccine, a possible cure that could someday bring back the old world she knew. Although she tells Joel to concentrate on Ellie as just a cargo earlier, it seems that Tess believes Ellie right away when she reveals her immunity and the possible cure. It could be that Tess had not had to go through the misery that Joel had to, and therefore she could believe, which is a boon in this world. Through her short time with the group, she has also more easily grown closer to Ellie, and the girl has to be literally pulled away from the place by Joel as Tess chooses to stay back. She prepares the place with gasoline and grenades, and then, when the horde of infected runs in, she manages to burn the whole building down, killing herself in the process. While both the video game and the TV series have hinted at a possible romantic relationship between Tess and Joel, neither of them deals with it in detail. But the dramatic way in which Tess dies in the series might be more of a hint towards the fact. The more hopeful of viewers might have expected a departing kiss from Joel, and perhaps even the man considers it for a second as the two intensely look at each other for a brief moment. But of course, he cannot, even if he wants to, for she is infected, and the only kiss that awaits Tess is a gross, fungal one from an infected, right before she can light a fire.
How Does Joel And Ellie’s Bond Start To Gradually Grow?
While “The Last of Us” episode 2 is a lot about intense action, it also has brilliant moments in between that develop the characters more. Despite all the hardships that she has to go through every day in order to merely survive, Ellie still has a very childish nature, which makes her human. She pretends to make sounds like an infected person only to annoy Joel. She is immediately proud of her accomplishment and feels appreciation when Tess admits her bravery for sneaking into the sealed-off shopping mall alone, where she had been bitten the first time. Although it should be mentioned here that it is apparent from Ellie’s face that she lies about this part, those acquainted with the video game know that she had actually gone in with her friend Riley. Despite the very serious and grim nature of the journey that they have undertaken, the young girl finds ways to entertain herself, like when she pretends to be a customer checking in at the flooded hotel. This is also where, very beautifully, Joel’s gradual bond with her comes into play.
The two also have an awkward question-and-answer session when they are left alone. Joel denies answering any question about his past or his relationship with Tess but very normally answers Ellie’s question about whether he feels bad while killing the infected. There is already a raging doubt in Ellie’s young mind about the morality of living with the act of killing an infected, for they are still humans somewhere deep inside, or at least were, in the recent past. By the time the three are out of the museum and moving towards State Hall, Joel has had multiple instances of having to fight for Ellie. For a very brief moment, he takes a look at the broken watch on his wrist, the one that Sarah had repaired for him. Through his expressions we come to know that Ellie had reminded him of his own daughter, who was about the same age when she tragically died.
Living constantly with a child and helping them out with various things in life was something Joel was very used to twenty years ago. But with everything that had happened in between, he had gone out of touch with something like this. Going by his character, Joel must have intentionally kept away from such a life, therefore having no family of his own. The only possible romantic connection he had was with Tess, but this relationship was never expressive. And yet, now that Joel is on a mission to get hold of resources that would get him closer to his brother, he has to fulfill very similar parental duties—he has to look out for Ellie.
By the end of “The Last of Us” episode 2, Tess is also gone from the man’s life. The only other connection that he has, Tommy, has been missing for weeks, and he is desperate to reach him; Joel is also scared of being completely rootless. On the other side, Ellie is also terrified at the thought of being taken along by Joel alone. It is evident that Ellie is still afraid of Joel and his actions, no matter how hard she tries to hide this. After all, she has only recently witnessed the extremely violent side of the man when he beat the FEDRA soldier to death. To Ellie, who has no idea about the memories that propelled Joel towards this, he is a brutal killer with no mercy. Thus, when she is pulled away from State Hall, Ellie vehemently shouts that she does not want to leave Tess and go along with Joel. It is, therefore, very obvious that when the situation forces these two characters, who really have nobody else to look forward to, to depend on each other, a beautiful bond is waiting in the very near future.
How Are The Infected In ‘The Last Of Us’ Connected To Each Other?
While “The Last of Us” episode 1 did have a few scenes with the infected and also had a chase in the beginning, it is in episode 2 that we are finally introduced to the clickers. Like in almost every other detailed post-apocalyptic work, the infected here also have different variations. While the infected we saw earlier were faster in speed and could also see, the clickers are the opposite in these regards but are far more fierce and deadly. These creatures generally move around at a slow pace and are completely blind since fungal spores have grown out of their head and replaced what was once their face. Making a distinct noise resembling a click, the clickers have an extraordinary perception of sound, and that is how they track their prey down. The two infected who attack our protagonists inside the museum are clickers, and therefore Ellie’s very small movement also alarms them and gets them rushing. The same happens when Joel accidentally steps on broken glass and gets the clickers attracted. While it is not really mentioned in the series, the clickers could be more mutated or developed forms of the fungus, which keeps growing inside the body.
As Joel mentions, many of the infected usually die after one or two months, but some of them have been roaming around for the entire twenty years since the outbreak. It could be that clickers are the older ones, resulting from mutations inside an ordinary infected zombie. The series also provides an explanation with regard to the movement of the infected and how they are alarmed. Since the fungus that has been growing inside them has also grown extensively underground, they can inform each other in a close radius about any possible prey. The fungal infection that this is based on is, after all, a real occurrence among ants that creates a hive mentality among bodies that it spreads to. Similarly, the infected human bodies are also technically connected by the same mind, if we may call it that, which is the fungus, and the only intention that it knows is to keep spreading and infecting more. This is also why the infected rush in only with one intention—to bite a prey and add them to the list of bodies under the controlling hive.
What Should We Expect From ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 3?
Now that Tess is killed, Joel and Ellie are left alone to continue on their journey toward the West. Tess mentions the names of Bill and Frank, saying that they would be able to help Joel and take on Ellie from there. Joel can therefore be expected to go to these men, who have also been mentioned earlier as the individuals who inform Joel of any new batch of drugs or any impending danger through the radio. While more action and tense sneaking around are to be expected, the possible bond between Joel and Ellie is also something to look forward to. The fact that one entire Firefly outpost had been killed and emptied by the spread of the fungus also points towards the dire possibility that other camps could also have been wiped out in the same way. In that case, it would be interesting to see what Joel would do with the apparent cure to the sickness of the world.