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HBO’s The Last of Us Episode 2 Spoiler Free Review

Series Premiere: January 15, 2023
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey
Episodes Commissioned: 9
Studio: HBO


In what I would describe as a tempered episode by comparison to its season premiere, HBO's The Last of Us is beginning to take shape in its own format by adapting facets of the video game's campaign without being a literal copy-cat of its overall experience. The re-telling is giving those that have not, or are yet to experience the interactive version of its narrative a unique perspective on Joel and Ellie's horrifying trudge toward their destination, only that its now come to light that the pair are forced in doing so. Cold openings continue describing the effects of cordyceps and how their early infections were seemingly a war of attrition as the fungus was determined in wiping out all humanity. Where all hope is perpetually lost, a light at the end of the tunnel begins to shine through Ellie's immunity giving Tess the ultimate proposal for Joel to uptake after an untimely demise.

It's only fitting that from this point forward, we see the father-daughter relationship begin to take shape. While it's only a glimmer at this point, as Joel's sole purpose was to cargo Ellie to an abandoned museum within a desolate, dead and corroding Boston city district, only to find the Fireflies dead from surviving their own encounters with runners - aka the infected. As the trio primarily set foot on the outskirts of their gated community, Joel and Tess are explicit in their endeavour toward Ellie, that they're only in the expedition for a trade with Marlene. A glimpse of what's to come is seen as they cut through a building infested with spores and encrusted fungi-riddled corpses. This leads to the inevitable, having Joel guide both Tess and Ellie, hoping their confrontation with the clickers will go unscathed.

This is a pivotal moment in the series, as viewers will first see the mutated form of runners, that are essentially blinded by spores growing out from their cranium. While runners can see their prey, clicker’s are given their name due to the sound they make that ultimately guides them due to their inability to see. However, their intent is still as it with all infected, hunt, infect and devour. The slightest sound made by the trio will trigger an infected to attack. It’s an interesting plot point that changes the narrative of runners mimicking a zombie, or a walker from AMC’s The Walking Dead. We get to see the respective ‘levels’ of different infected and their unique ways of attack, while vicariously living out the trio’s fear.

While this leads to an emotional climactic act, the episode itself primes its premise with our main protagonist’s exploit. We see more of Joel’s personality and character start to evolve within minutes, while Ellie’s humour and sarcasm are slowly put ahead by serious moments. There are few, but rare instances we see the pair interact in the episode, with Tess playing the ‘Good cop’, hoping the guide Ellie and teach her things about surviving the wild, unruly outskirts. It’s made clear that Joel’s heart is in the right place at the wrong time, with the intent to carelessly keep his friends close, but his enemies closer.

The season itself has started very strong, and while the second episode may slow things down a little, it sets itself up for what may be an extremely high octane third chapter.

Noteworthy Mentions...

  • Once again, a chilling and utterly suspenseful cold opening details more of the outbreak, as the infection begins to take hold of the human race, reaching global pandemic levels of destruction, this time seeing how it begins in Jakarta, and how international countries are handling their respective situations.

  • Anna Torv portrays Tess masterfully. Tess’ character is shown as a divisive, yet caring personality. One that’s ultimately untrustworthy, to see out her own selfish benefits. It shines a light on the ‘dog-eat-dog’ world they’re all living, and how survival is the only thing on everyone’s mind.

  • Discourse between Joel, Tess and Ellie gives the viewer insight to the character’s traits, yet also leads to a juxtaposition in said traits that lead to a shocking conclusion to this episode.

  • Cinematically, one of the best translated adaptations I’ve seen from the video game to TV acted out beautifully in the museum with Pascal’s Joel, and Torv’s Tess delivering the iconic moment that sets this adventure afoot. A chef’s kiss.

The Last of Us is an upcoming American post-apocalyptic drama television series created by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann for HBO. Based on the 2013 video game of the same name developed by Naughty Dog, the series will follow Joel (Pedro Pascal), a smuggler tasked with escorting the teenage Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a post-apocalyptic United States. It will feature Gabriel Luna as Joel's younger brother Tommy, Merle Dandridge as resistance leader Marlene, and Anna Torv as Joel's smuggler partner Tess.

Summary: Wikipedia

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