HBO’s The Last of Us: Episode 2 Review

*This Review Contains Full Spoilers*

The second episode of The Last of Us continues to explore its world-ending infection, both narratively and visually, while further establishing a bond between its characters as they come deadly obstacles outside of the quarantine zone.

Like the premiere, this episode’s opening sequence further fleshes out the history of its central fungal infection before the world went to hell. This time, it takes viewers to Indonesia where a scientist (Christine Hakim) is asked to look at one of the first corpses showing signs of the infection. There’s a strong intensity throughout that leaves you on-edge and that final conversation between the scientist and the army general (Yayu A.W. Unru) about bombing the city to contain the infection is harrowing. But it’s the autopsy scene that leaves the biggest impact because it’s immensely creepy. There’s great suspense from the first second the scientist walks into the room and those vines coming out of the corpse’s mouth are chilling. These unsettling mouth vines come back for a disturbing moment in the finale and are just one of the many ways this episode delves into its fungal horror world.

While we saw generic zombie flesh-eaters at the start of the outbreak, the main trio heading outside the quarantine zone allows for deadlier infected to be shown. As they head outside Tess (Anna Torv) tells Ellie (Bella Ramsey) about how the infected have taken over the open world. The uniqueness of a fungal infection rather than a virus or bacterial spread is made instantly clear with Tess’ descriptions and the look of The Last of Us’ deadly infected. With how ingrained infected have become with the environment, to the point where any impact towards an underground vine could attract hundreds of infected from miles away, traversing this world is incredibly scary. There’s literally danger around every corner and the way these infected come in large groups makes escaping them quite difficult.

The series continues to flex its fungal horror visuals well not just in its world design, but also in showing more of the infected and the special effects are top notch. The mushroom heads starting to form on their heads are incredibly disgusting and their hivemind like movement makes them a terror to see rise from the ground. The normal infected are definitely treacherous in their own right but don’t even compare to the Clickers, a more ferocious and stronger evolution of the infection. Although the Clickers cannot see because the mushroom-like growth sprouting out of their head covers their eyes, their hearing is superior so staying silent is the key to survival. Fans of the game are well aware of how nasty and deadly Clickers can be, but seeing them brought to life is incredible.

Their look is scary as hell and the silence of the sequence leading up to their appearance is perfectly tense and suspenseful. Once the silence is broken, they become just as horrifyingly brutal as they are in the games, and it makes for another excellently directed fight sequence that balances thrills and horror excellently. The Last of Us continues to showcase its brand of horror flawlessly and create a compelling world with growing lore.

Outside of episode two’s focus on going deeper on the series’ survival horror lore, it sees Tess and Joel (Pedro Pascal) deal with looming questions about Ellie. After learning that she’s infected, Tess and Joel are understandably concerned, but once Ellie tells them that she could possibly hold the cure, they have vastly different reactions. Joel’s hardened demeanor and disillusioned mindset from losing Sarah makes him a total non-believer of anything hopeful happening in this world. Tess, on the other hand, changes her whole attitude towards Ellie and acts more as a protective mentor towards her. There’s really this split between Joel and Tess throughout and it’s what makes Tess’ sudden end so tragic, but impactful.

While Joel is dead set on seeing this whole mission as FUBAR and would love nothing more than to put a bullet in Ellie and go home, Tess is much more hopeful. She legitimately sees Ellie as a symbol of hope and a chance that the world could be saved. Now that there’s a possibility that things could return to normal, Tess’ lingering desires to be out of this would could become reality and she’s wiling to believe it. She even rebukes Joel’s statement about returning “home” after they find more of the Fireflies dead and Tess makes the ultimate sacrifice when she reveals that she’s been bitten. Although Tess’ death isn’t surprising to anyone that’s played the game, although the mean-spirited and gross nature of it will, it does leave an impact.

Tess revealing that Ellie is indeed unable to become infected by showing how her getting bit hasn’t gotten worse gets Joel to see that she is different than them. Her final words to Joel gives him the motivation to leave and will stick with him as he gets to know Ellie better. Now, Joel and Ellie are on their own and Tess’ sense of hope will definitely lead them forward in the journey west and it now feels like the series can really start to dig deep into Joel and Ellie’s central relationship in this terrifying new world.

The Last of Us fleshes its fungal horror out greatly in episode two by digging deeper into its lore and introducing its iconic Clickers. More importantly though, it adds some good emotional energy to Joel and Ellie’s adventure through Tess’ realizations and sacrifice that’s made more tragic through Torv’s strong performance.


Watch the Trailer Here:

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