There are very few major plot points in the second episode of HBO’s new mega-hit “The Last of Us.” The beauty of the scenes in this week’s show is in the simplicity and execution of their production design. The apocalypse is supposed to be scary, right? Well, make sure you have the lights on when you’re watching “Infected.” We left off in the premiere with the revelation that Ellie (Bella Ramsey) is somehow immune to the cordyceps fungus that has wiped out the majority of the human race. Joel and Tess (Pedro Pascal and Anna Torv) are tasked with bringing Ellie to the Fireflies, a militia who are supposed to know how to capitalize on Ellie’s immunity and potentially end the two-decade-long misery on Earth.
The cinematography and set design in the next 30 minutes or so of the episode are next-level stuff, and it’s sure to bring some goosebumps to the arms of gamers who are familiar with the setting. The trio amble through the architectural scraps of Boston, observing half-eaten buildings and gaping holes in the ground. These are call-backs to the ominous cold open of the episode, in which it was revealed that the city of Jakarta, Indonesia, was bombed by their government after becoming the first city to have an outbreak of the world-ending disease. It’s obvious that American cities followed suit, and Tess even confirms these suspicions with Ellie during a conversation.
Building this zombified world is the key to fostering a realistic and haunting atmosphere. The fact that there are so many other examples of apocalypse fiction for viewers to compare this show to, and yet the deadly sprawling landscape of New England we see here is still absorbing, is a massive sign of success for the producers of this series. Joel and the group take a detour through an abandoned museum to get to the western side of the city, and this is where the horror elements get kicked up about ten notches.
For familiar viewers of this universe, it will become instantly recognizable that the group is being attacked by an infected monster coined a “clicker” once inside the building. These individuals have been festering for over a year with the cordyceps infection, and it’s also a reference to a conversation Ellie and Joel had earlier in the episode about how long people last once they have been bitten. Clickers have developed massive spores, morphing their faces into unrecognizable mish-mashes of flowering flesh and excess skin. We find out that our protagonists didn’t escape the encounter unscathed, as Tess has an oozing bite mark on her collarbone that is revealed in due time.
Anna Torv then displays an incredible five minutes of acting after her imminent demise is foretold. She is able to make us empathize for a character we’ve only known for about an episode and a half. Tess is clearly Joel’s moral aid, a woman who so desperately hopes her misdoings during the apocalypse won’t go to waste. She is able to serve as a distraction for a group of infected as Joel flees the scene with Ellie, setting up the lonely duo-ship that will propel the emotional heartbeat of the series forward for the remaining seven episodes. Buckle up, take a deep breath, and prepare for some daddy-daughter issues, end-of-the-world style!
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