TV Review: The Last of Us, Episode 2

By Matthew Moorcroft

Highest Recommendation

  • Directed by Neil Druckmann
  • Starring Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Anna Torv, Christine Hakim
  • TV-MA

“Bomb the whole city.”

Those are the chilling words delivered at the cold open of this episode, and it’s fitting then that, in the same episode, it ends in a massive explosion to wipe out a horde of infected that is coming towards Joel and Ellie. It’s also fitting then that, in the process, some humanity and decency is lost in the process, whether it be the casual genocide of thousands of people or the tragic loss of a partner.

The decision to follow a brand new character, showcasing the world of the series across the world prior to the apocalypse, is an interesting one but tells us a lot about the ultimate goal of this adaptation in particular. Everything that has been added, particularly here, has been in service of not improving the source, but expanding on what’s already there. Seeing officials learn about the pandemic early and deciding what to do about it not only gives context for their actions earlier in the story but also feels true to life, especially post-COVID. Sure, the fungal infection is different enough that there is still a bit of disconnect, but seeing a scientist is a hazmat suit discovering what’s happening feels eerily real.

And yet, that’s not even the most impressive thing about Infected, which seeks to show how one adapts the actual gameplay segments of a video game. One of the challenges that’s constantly in the way of getting these things right is that games are built on player interaction – going from point A to point B to point C. While in games this gives opportunity for immersion and lots of visual worldbuilding, in a show or movie which lacks that player input it’s just not feasible. It’s one thing if a player is doing it, it’s another when it’s an entire episode of TV. So I think it’s a smart thing that Neil Druckmann, the creator of the whole enterprise, is the one directing this episode, as he’s able to mix what the game got so right while also never forgetting that this is a different medium entirely.

So many things to love here. The little conversations and tidbits Ellie drops about her past, the brief moments Joel begins to believe in the cause, the banter, it’s all true to the game but it feels so natural coming from this cast. Once again Ramsey is the highlight; it’s frankly going to be difficult to not mention her every episode in how well she embodies Ellie but her mannerisms are pitch perfect here. Her and Pascal are clearly developing a good rapport here as their relationship was the core of the original source material, and to adapt that well is going to be key to the success of this show. Anna Torv also has heavy work to play here, having to portray a character who is ultimately doomed to die and her final scenes are effective in their poignancy and emotional depth.

But frankly, to me, the real highlights were the depiction of the Clickers. One of gaming’s most terrifying creations, they were done justice here and the way the show goes about their elongated museum sequence is nothing short of masterful. No jump scares here, just pure tension. And while Druckmann has never directed a piece of live action media before, you’d be remiss to think otherwise since his work here really shines once the gloves are off and he can go full blown horror on the audience.

Just phenomenal stuff once again. I think it’s really great that the show is as good as it is, as while stuff like the Sonic movies and especially Arcane have been putting to bed the notion that video game movies are just doomed to failure, this feels like a genuine turning point. Can it keep this momentum? If it remains on this path, it very much likely will, and I will be there to watch every step of the way. So good!

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