WARNING: Spoilers Ahead!
The Last of Us: Episode 2 begins with another chilly open that demonstrates Neil Druckmann’s determination to expand this universe beyond the scope of his initial game. Even though it’s not necessary for Joel and Ellie’s journey, it has interesting information that helps explain how the fungus works to newcomers and gives interesting new context to people who already know about it.
When we are thrown back in time to Jarkarta in 2003, we see the start of the pandemic that will soon spread around the world. This is a very scary scene in which Professor Ratna loses all hope thanks to a fantastically nuanced performance. The scene is full of quiet fear, and it ends with the loudest suggestion of all: to bomb a whole city. As we’re taken back to a bombed-out Boston, it’s very powerful and gives us a scary glimpse of the show’s hopeless present.
Bella Ramsey keeps being great as Ellie, bringing laughter to a world with not much to offer. She needs help, but she is resourceful and, most importantly, willing to learn as the real horrors of the outside world are slowly shown to her. In these early stages, there aren’t many signs that Joel is interested in building a relationship with her. He still sees her as a way to get to his brother Tommy in Wyoming, where he lives.
Tess is the one who takes the lead in taking care of Ellie and teaching her about the world outside the QZ. Anna Torv is great in every way, showing warmth beneath a tough, scarred surface. In a short amount of screen time, she and Pedro Pascal do a great job of making a real history between the two of them. Both of them have tough exteriors, but they can also trust and care for each other.
The Last of Us Character Guide From The HBO Series!
Set design is still one of the best things about the show, with nature taking over every building, car, and dining table. Fungal strands twisting through the streets like the electricity that used to power them are a constant reminder that these once-bustling cities no longer belong to people.
But Tess’s chilling explanation of how they can work as one organism makes the image of an infected colony coming together as a group from above the most shocking. A group that big is scary, but sometimes just one different kind of infected person can make you much more scared.
We meet our first Clicker, an echo-locating type of infected whose chattering voice is usually the last thing most people hear of it. It sounds like a mix of the Predator’s croaking battle cry and a ghoulish shriek. They’re also horrifying to look at, with deformed fungal heads and what’s left of their (mostly human) bodies. It’s not a coincidence that our first real meeting with one of them happens in a museum.
This is because they want to take over not only the present but also a place meant to keep our past safe. The Clickers walk around the museum floor like the velociraptors in the kitchen of Jurassic Park, and when they hear something, they take off just as quickly. Close-ups look like a young Joe Mazzello. This is a great example of slow-building tension that comes to a sharp, explosive boil when glass breaks on a floor that will soon be covered in bloody chanterelle pieces.
“It’s an action scene that fits the aesthetic of its world perfectly: ugly, inelegant, and brutal.”
It’s a fight scene that fits the world’s style perfectly: it’s ugly, crude, and violent. Throughout the episode, the sound is also used in a great way. Even a frog hopping on a piano key or distant screams could make me nervous. The score is used sparingly but to great effect. When the tension is high, it mostly consists of pulses and drones, but it really shines when guitar plucks from the game come in to score the game’s heartbreaking ending.
It’s an ending that makes Tess’s exit from the screen one of the most memorable in recent years. Even though we haven’t known her for that long, we will miss her presence. So will Joel, who is clearly upset by her sacrifice in a scene that Torv and Pascal both do a great job with.
Even though it doesn’t hit as hard as it did in the game because we’ve spent less time with this version of her, it’s definitely scarier. The fact that the “Kiss of Death” is so disgusting pretty much proves that Druckmann and Craig Mazin were right to choose tendrils instead of spores as the way the fungus spreads.
Their slow, creeping movements remind me of Xenomorph mouths by way of Cronenberg, and that’s what horror is all about. It’s shocking, cruel, and another reminder that anyone can die at any time in this world.
The Last of Us on HBO is a stunning movie version of one of the most powerful video game stories. It does a great job of bringing Joel and Ellie’s journey to a whole new audience. Taking the most important parts of what made the original story so popular, it expands the game’s world and changes some things to almost entirely stunning effects.
It has two great lead performances from Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal, which make it a show that fans of the PlayStation hit will enjoy and that will also keep newcomers interested.