Episode 2 of HBO’s The Last of Us series “Infected” is the perfect balance of expanding the story as well as a live action representation of the game. In doing so, episode director and The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann knocks it out of the park delivering a perfect episode and one that I think will please long time fans and win over some new ones.
Starting with a flashback or sorts to 2003, we see pretty much how the cordyseps pandemic started in Jakarta, Indonesia. It’s economic in its storytelling and chilling in its implications. Providing context for newcomers with exactly how the virus works. Told mostly from the perspective of Professor Ratna (Christine Hakim) as she is brought in to first view a sample in a microscope, then perform an autopsy with horrifying revelations to the quiet dread across her face as she hears more details that tell her that this is the end of everything and tells the soldier that they need to bomb the city and everyone in it if they hope to contain it. Hakim’s performance sells it perfectly. It’s a bone chilling cold open in every sense of the word.
Afterwards we meet up again with Ellie, Joel and Tess who deal with the aftermath of the revelation that Ellie has been bitten and yet hasn’t turned. Joel would just as soon put a bullet in Ellie’s head while Tess seems to be very interested in the implications of Ellie’s seeming immunity. From there the trio attempt to make their way across Boston and we’re introduced to another new addition to the The Last of Us lore, the notion that the infected are all connected and that stepping on a tendril miles away could awaken the sleeping monsters and like a homing beacon, they will descend on that location. Foreshadowing? Nah. Couldn’t be.
Seeing what’s left of Boston in the daytime is incredible. I marveled at how the production design, art design, set dressing and the digital effects all came together to make an incredibly believable world. I can imagine a lot of “How did they do that?” questions from viewers as they’re watching. Toppled, blown out buildings, green vines overgrown, abandoned vehicles strewn about, the fungus vines that lead up to doors. There’s a ton of money being spent on this show and it’s all on screen.
This leads to the episodes best scene as they are forced to cut through a museum. Once inside it becomes very clear they’re not alone and the seemingly abandoned museum is in fact occupied by two clickers. Fans of the game know what an “Oh shit” moment this is but even knowing that, the way Druckmann directs the scene is truly white knuckle suspenseful. The sound design is peak excellence as the clickers move through, at first just wandering around but later hunting their prey. The reveal of their practical design is truly jaw dropping, especially for someone who played the game many times, to see it realized in the flesh. It’s an excellent set piece that honestly makes me want to see Druckmann direct some horror movies.
True to The Last of Us it has a heartbreaking conclusion that plays out much like the section of the game did, with a spin that uses that aforementioned foreshadowing that shows exactly what can and does happen if those connected infected wake up.
It should be noted that Anna Torv plays Tess here to pure perfection. You can clearly see how she sees hope in a hopeless world through Ellie, as if she was always holding on to it but never thought she would actually see it. She’s fantastic here.
The Last of Us is a game got players attached to characters and broke their hearts in equal measure and the shows is clearly going for the same thing. Episode 2 is the best example of that while scaring the shit out of you along the way.
- The cold open is bone-chilling and provides a good bit of expanded lore while servicing newcomers as well
- The production design of this show is astounding across the board
- The scene in the museum is masterfully done
- Anna Torv is fantastic as Tess
- Nothing. Literally nothing.