The Last of Us – Infected review S1 E2

For anyone concerned that The Last of Us was going to be a slow apocalyptic drama content to tease the walking nightmares on the loose, Infected should address them.

And it confirms that The Last of Us is going to be as riveting and thrilling a watch of any show in 2023.

It’s not like the series premiere was slow or uneventful, but seeing how the show treated its version of zombies was important.

How important? Co-showrunner Neil Druckmann, who wrote/directed the game series, directed this episode.

While there are plenty of skilled directors who could have brought these early tense video game moments to life, Druckmann wanted to set the tone by ensuring the infected’s debut was everything it needed to be and more.

Like last episode, we get another amazing flashback to help set the stage for what’s to come. This one is right at the start of the infection in 2013.

Ibu Ratna is brought in by the Jakarta military to investigate a viral infection that shouldn’t exist. She’s concerned about the virus spreading while the military is hoping for a vaccine or medicine.

Ratna’s solution? Bomb the city to contain the spread. These ominous flashback sequences have been stellar tone-setters for the stakes of each episode.

In the present day, both Joel and Tess are amazed Elle hasn’t turned yet despite being bit. Joel wants no part of finding a miracle cure, but Tess thinks it’s worth the effort since escorting Elle to safety could net them a huge payday of supplies and the much needed car battery.

Venturing out beyond the quarantine zone reveals a dilapidated and destroyed city. The landscape is a mess with buildings collapsed on each other and there’s a massive amount of sprawling weeds and fungi throughout. And only one of those is the result of bombings.

Tess and Joel are certainly taking a mercenary approach not really wanting to engage with Elle beyond some basic small talk.

Elle isn’t making conversation really easy though as she’s sarcastic and not exactly doing her part to be endearing. In other words she’s acting just like a teenager though there’s fleeting moments when Elle loses the attitude and gets caught up just being a kid.

This set design is outstanding with the fungi ensnared around everything like a visible virus.

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As they navigate the city, Tess spots a block full of resting Infected. They’re not aimlessly bumbling around like zombies. They’re linked through the fungi, which alerts them of any intruders based on noise or actual encounters.

The first Infected encounter was haunting and every big as terrifying as intended. The Infected utilize a clicking type radar trying to find its victims. In advanced cases, the infection has created a spore growth atop the Infected’s heads. It’s visually disturbing and creepy.

Druckmann makes this first fight tense as Joel and Elle try and sneak around their Infected while Tess tries the same with hers. This proves a taxing and exhausting fight with the added irony of Elle getting bit again.

Fortunately for Elle, the bites are harmless in the long run besides some temporary pain.

Still, the bigger question remains. If two Infected were a problem. How will they deal with more?

the last of us the infected review -tess, elle and joel

The fireflies they were supposed to meet are dead after one got infected. And to make matters worse, killing the infected one triggers the fungi alert system, which activates all those dormant Infected along the block.

It’s a dire situation, but an opportunity for escape has presented itself in the most tragic manner possible.

Tess got bit and unlike Elle, her infection is already spreading across her body. She wants Joel to take Elle to some others who can help her while she stays behind to cover their escape courtesy of some gas canisters, grenades and a barely functioning lighter.

This scene isn’t treated overly melodramatic. There’s no tearful farewell from Joel, who either snaps into ‘must protect Elle’ mode or is leery of seeing Tess become an infected.

Initially the plan doesn’t seem like it’s going to work as Tess can’t get the lighter going. And just for one last bit of creepiness, an Infected comes over to her and transmits the fungi into her mouth (ewwww) just as she gets the lighter to ignite. That kiss was fire! (I’m so sorry).

The Infected quickly ramped up the action and the stakes for The Last of Us while providing the series with its core premise for the rest of the season. 

Rating: 9.5 out of 10

Photo Credit: HBO

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