It already looks like The Last of Us will be another great show to turn into every week. That watercolor talk about the latest episode makes it more exciting than binging a full season when it comes out. And there’s a lot of water cooler talk in this fantastic episode. It does enough to make changes to the story that we know while giving good fan service to longtime fans of the game.
The Last Of Us Episode 2 is available to stream on HBOMAX. If you missed last week’s episode then check out our review for more details.
This review will contain full spoilers for the entire episode.
Story: New Mechanisms
The episode focuses on Joel and Tess trying to figure out what to do with Ellie (who they recently discovered is bitten, but has no symptoms) as they navigate outside of the quarantined Boston. There’s a lot of setting up more of the mechanics of the cordyceps infection. They talk about how a patch of infected mold weaves together is like an alarm system for the infected. It’s a genius concept that I’m surprised wasn’t in the game. And the payoff with the whole horde coming after them is scary
The big change with Tess’s death works on a television level. It’s big, suspenseful, spine-chilling, and ends with a bang. The tendrils coming out of the mouth to kiss Tess somehow makes them more disgusting. This paralyzing fear of seeing them and having the tendrils infect you will cause nightmares.
Chilling Cold Open
We’re treated to another chilling cold open that shows the world before everything starts hitting the fan. The mention of the bombing in Jakarta is fully explored as we see the lead up before that. We follow Ibu Ratna, who’s the leading expert in fungi, who’s picked up by the government to examine someone who’s been bit and infected. What works about these back to back cold opens that focuses on the scientists is the shrill terror of the threat of fungi.
And what makes it more harrowing is the sentiment between the two of them is the human race doesn’t stand a chance; we lose. It’s so grim and packs a gut punch especially in today’s climate. Special mention goes to Christine Hakim who knocks it out of the park in just under 10 minutes. The delivery of the telling the government to bomb the city and for her to go back to her family to be with them one last time ends everything on a perfect note before the opening credits.
Characters & Performances: More of a Pair
We got a little tease of Ellie and Joel last week, but the duo gets much more focus this time. We’re seeing in the early interactions of them as a pair and their chemistry is off the charts. The way that Bella Ramsey captures the essence of Ellie is mesmerizing. They get the sarcastic and funny side of Ellie down and also have the childlike wonder to it as well. I love Bella’s reaction when they see the Clicker and the sheer terror expressed sticks with you.
Another thing that sticks with me is Anna Torv’s performance as Tess. We all knew this moment was coming with her death, but Torv’s portrayal made me go into denial. Maybe the show would change things up and we can get her around for another episode. But with what we got, we got the full range of Tess. From someone who’s world-weary then realizing that Ellie represents hope for the world, we got a lot of it from two episodes. And for people who haven’t played the games, the heartbreaking deaths will continue and hurt even more.
Cinematography & Sound: The Clicker
With adaptations, there’s always one thing that the creators need to get right for fans and newcomers alike. For The Last of Us show, that’s the clickers. These monstrous creations are the infected that have so much prolonged exposure to the fungus that it appears externally all over their body. Since it covers their eyes, they track you through sound meaning that one little noise will kill you. That’s conveyed perfectly when the gang is trying to go through the museum.
Everything in this sequence feels like it’s pulled from the game. From the mannerisms of the clickers to the slow reveal of their appearance, it brings you back to the first time you faced them. The sound design of having no music while the Clicker is hunting them is genius because the terrifying croaks are enough to keep the suspense. Also worth noting that the Clickers are used with practical effects instead of CGI. The prosthetics used are perfect and shows why the practical method is always the best.
Editing & Pacing: A More Streamline Pace
The complaint I had with the pilot is that it threw too much at new viewers who weren’t familiar with the game. While the episode had a long runtime, the pace got better. We get more familiar with Joel and Ellie while having more motivation to get Ellie out west. There’s plenty of character moments that make up the bulk of the episode which should firmly establish how amazing these characters are for new viewers. If somehow you weren’t hooked last week, The Last of Us will surely be your new Sunday night appointment.