Last week, the first episode of THE LAST OF US finally hit HBO and the overall consensus was positive. Both newcomers and gamers watched and tweeted, pointing out easter eggs that even I didn’t notice. Maybe I’m biased as a huge fan of the games, but some of the negative comments I read seemed to have approached the show with their arms crossed already. Nothing is more of a turn-off than a pretentious critic.
Episode two opens with a medical expert in Indonesia being driven without knowledge to take a look at the Cordyceps fungus. Once she is advised that this was pulled from a person, she explains that there is no cure and insinuates that is the end of mankind. These cold opens in the first two episodes help create a more solemn tone, letting viewers know that this is not going to be a fun show with a happy ending. Those who have played the games are well aware of the fatal consequences that take place and just the thought of what’s to come (should HBO remain faithful) creates high levels of anxiety.
We jump back to 2023 with Joel, Ellie, and Tess. Ellie is questioned as suspicions arise about her being bitten but showing no signs of infection. She has clearly heard it before and shrugs off their concerns, but realizes she needs to cooperate if she wants to live. Ellie provides a vague explanation of her being bitten at an abandoned mall but never evolved like all the infected. Her story doesn’t feel entirely true and the slight closing frame onto her face gives it away.
The three venture into a museum where they find several dead bodies. While Joel and Tess are familiar, Ellie has her first encounter with clickers, the most infamous monsters from the game. They are in the third stage of infection, becoming smarter and stronger than most infected. They are blind due to the fungus physically growing from their brains and scarring their faces. Their sense of hearing is their primary method of hunting, creating a sense of dread as our characters must remain silent even when they hear the awful clicking sounds surrounding them. Gamers are afraid of them as they provide one-hit fatalities, encouraging one to shoot them from a distance. They are just as scary here as it looks like the creators made the smart decision to go for practical special effects, emphasizing a more natural and raw-looking monster.
They get away, but their sense of safety is quickly dashed when Tess reveals that she’s been bitten. At their rendezvous spot, the Fireflies are not there as planned. However, a horde of infected is about break-in and Tess convinces Joel to continue with Ellie due to her being the only chance of hope for a cure. Reluctantly, Joel leaves with Ellie as Tess burns the place down with herself and the infected inside.
The biggest difference from the game here is that Tess kills herself to protect them from the infected as well as protecting herself from becoming one of them. In the game, Tess uses herself as a temporary distraction to the soldiers who will kill them on the spot. Once Joel and Ellie are out of sight, the soldiers break in and shoot Tess. Personally, I don’t see this as detracting from the overall story arc, but I’m sure there’s going to be a Reddit thread somewhere complaining.
THE LAST OF US promises to not be a beat-by-beat play of the source material which makes it all the more interesting to watch. While this was a good follow-up episode, I’m hoping this finally allows the show to focus on what made us fans love the game so much: the relationship between Joel and Ellie. There’s an undeniable chemistry between these two and the father/daughter parallels need to be explored. Now that it feels like the story is finally going to begin, I anticipate the series to get more intense and engaging.
The second episode of the HBO Original drama series THE LAST OF US debuted on January 22 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and will be available to stream in 4K on HBO Max.