TLOU Review – Episode 2: Infected
PLEASE NOTE: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR EPISODE 2’S ENDING
After the phenomenal and successful opener, the second episode of ‘The Last of Us’ has once again become HBO’s highest viewed drama with this episode gaining 5.7 million views. However, after the chaotic introduction, the second episode titled ‘Infected’ takes a step back to an extent.
After escaping the Quarantine Zone, Joel, Ellie and Tess make their way across post-apocalyptic Boston to reunite with the rebellion group The Fireflies. However, after finding out Ellie’s secret, Tess and Joel are conflicted as to what to do with her.
This is another fantastic episode and serves as a character study. Even the title of the episode is clever, as it not only explores the Fungi Infected, but each main character too and represents Ellie’s secret.
Now that the first episode has been and gone, the biggest part that I was unsure about, and am still unsure about, was the reveal that Ellie was bitten but is not infected, hence why The Fireflies had her captive. The dialogue from Tess revealing this felt rushed because it’s an extremely important plot detail in the game that’s revealed much later. But it does help explain Tess and Joel’s reactions towards her at the start of this episode, which is fear. They don’t know if the virus will end up changing her into an Infected, so they’re tense around her. But this episode does allow Bella Ramsey to fully bring out Ellie’s charm here and it’s a much needed part of the show. Because the show’s tone is very bleak and serious, Ellie’s charm and, at times, innocence is needed and welcomed. This is especially the case since Joel has become hardened by the past twenty years and, while Tess is caring and sympathetic towards Ellie, she is also upfront about her and Joel’s intentions and the fact that Ellie is only important because it matches what their journey is for the most part. It’s interesting to see how the Infection has changed each characters’ personalities and approaches to situations.
Just like the first episode, this episode begins with a flashback, this time from 2003 marking the start of the infection. And, just like the previous opener, the sequence in Indonesia is terrifying too. However, while the previous opener was foreshadowing, this sequence spells out the inevitable start of the infection. It’s terrifying purely because it’s clear the spread has already started and, because there’s no cure to it, there’s not much that can be done to stop it aside from burning cities and victims. It’s a horrific image that the sequence paints, but it also emphasizes how important Ellie; she is a case that was impossible. Furthermore, the 2003 introduction and present day connect perfectly when a bomb crater is discovered, showing that other countries followed Indonesia’s horrific plan. Just like with the Infected, it’s another case of ‘show and don’t tell’ which is truly appreciated.
Because the majority of the episode is a journey, it does a fantastic job at explaining how the Infected work, in terms of their lifespan and how they become infected. But it moves slightly away from the game by adding in the idea of the Infected being connected via a hivemind of sorts. It’s an interesting new detail that I loved, plus it makes the Infected and the threat of them much scarier and can make for some very tense scenes. When adapting a beloved piece of media, it’s important to stick to a lot of the source material’s key aspects while also making it different enough for fans and non-fans, and this new detail is welcomed. The episode’s writing is incredible at explaining the Infected in a way that new fans will understand.
This episode also gives viewers their first proper look at the live action Clickers. These are a staple in the game, and the most recognizable of the Infected. And they are just as terrifying in the show as they are in the game! The attention to detail when creating the Clickers is incredible. And it’s a relief to see that, just because this is an adaptation, the designs of these Infected haven’t changed at all, including their creepy clicking sound.
The biggest discourse that has arose from this episode is the ending reveal. Near the end, it is revealed that Tess is actually infected and will nearly become an Infected one herself. This is a huge departure from the game, which is where the divisiveness stems from. While it was a shock to see, I think this was a good change. Either way, the show/game centres around Joel and Ellie, so Tess sadly needed to be removed eventually. And, going on from a previous point, the show needs to make a couple of changes in order to entice new fans as well as surprise fans of the source material, and this change was shocking but executed very well.
The second episode of ‘TLOU’ is just as strong as the first one. It’s a much needed one, purely because it provides exploration of the Infected, including an interesting new detail, as well as Joel, Ellie and Tess. Plus, viewers get their first proper look at the terrifying Clickers, a staple in the games. Even if the ending was divisive amongst fans of the game, it was a welcome one personally. It’s clear to see why this episode is another one of HBO’s most viewed episodes ever.
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