The following article is for people who have seen the first two episodes of The Last of Us. Please do not read unless you have. And no spoilers from the games, please, let’s enjoy the TV series …
‘Cordyceps cannot survive in humans’
After the events of last week, pre-virus in Texas and 20 years later in Boston, we’re in Indonesia in 2003 at the start of the outbreak. Prof Ibu Ratna (Christine Hakim), a mycologist from the University of Indonesia, was picked up by the military while having her lunch and taken to a laboratory to help shed some light on the corpse lying on the slab. The body looked quite normal from the outside, save for a bullet hole in the forehead and a weird mark on the foot. As Ratna delved deeper, she found a strange sort of webbing beneath the skin and a see-through scorpion-looking thing in its throat. That was enough for Ratna – I agreed with her, to be honest – who disconnected her breathing supply and got the hell out of there.
After getting the lowdown from the general, realising that cordyceps can now survive in humans and restating that there is no vaccine for such terror, she suggested bombing the city to stem the outbreak. Quite a leap to come out and say it, but with hindsight, probably the right call. And we know the military followed her advice – we heard about it on the radio in Joel’s kitchen in episode one.
After the credits, we were back in the present day, with Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Tess (Anna Torv) with Ellie (Bella Ramsey), on their way to dropping her off and collecting their battery as reward. The grownups were still unsure why Ellie is so important and why she hadn’t turned into a zombie three weeks after being bitten by an infected. I understand why hardened folk might be suspicious of virtually everything after living in such terrible conditions, but how have they not joined the dots on that one? Ellie responded, with a mouth full of chicken sandwich, that there’s a Firefly facility out west where they are working on a cure, and that’s where she will be heading once Joel and Tess have delivered her safely …
A night at the museum
Well, not quite a night. But it was dark. From the moment our trio entered the museum, to the arrival of the clickers and to Joel, Tess and Ellie’s eventual escape, I was on my feet. It was too tense. I have now seen the clicker fight scene three times and it gets no less unbearable the more you watch it. Interesting how some noises – footsteps, guns being reloaded – go unnoticed, but drop anything and they’ll be on you. And Joel, if you’re standing a metre from a clicker and have a clear shot, don’t shoot the thing in the stomach. Head shots only, please. Haven’t you seen Day/Dawn/Shaun of the Dead?
It was interesting to see Joel become a protector here, though. He is still not entirely sure of Ellie (the way he recoiled when she touched him was proof of that, and how he still doesn’t believe she’s not carrying the virus), but when it came to the crunch and the clickers attacked he stayed in front of her as a shield.
Once bitten …
Oh, Tess. After the museum skirmish, Ellie deduced, from her reaction to the slain Fireflies and her decision to stay there rather than return to Boston, that Tess had been bitten. Joel’s new mission, now that his previous one is a no-go, is to get Ellie to Bill and Frank’s (referenced last week, the ones with the excellent taste in musically coded messages). And Tess, armed with some petrol, a lighter and a new outlook on life, gave them the head start they needed. Something about that tentacle-heavy kiss from an infected made me heave. I haven’t been so pleased to see a lighter ignite since the end of Die Hard 2.
More drama from the top drawer after last week’s stunning opener. Pascal and Ramsey fully inhabit their roles, and the chemistry developing between them is a joy to watch. Of course, he’s softening and she’s warming to him – and now it’s just the two of them, they’ll have no choice but to get on better – but so long as she keeps asking questions and he remains suspicious of her immunity, we’re still some way off Joel and Ellie being happy companions.
Notes and observations
Keep listening for references to flour … In this episode, we heard that the dead worker in Jakarta had been found in a flour factory, although it was unclear who had bitten her. Perhaps it was flour itself that infected her? In the first episode, Joel and Sarah were making pancakes when they heard about the explosion in Indonesia. Let’s assume those pancakes were made with flour; would it be a huge leap for that flour to have been imported from Indonesia?
Ellie keeps asking for a gun and being told no. It reminds me of Melvin in Tremors, who keeps asking the same question. Hopefully when Ellie does get her hands on a firearm, it won’t be empty like the handgun given to Melvin.
After the bombast of last week’s closing music, it was fitting that a piece by Gustavo Santaolalla was used. The Argentine composer wrote the score for The Last of Us video games and much of the soundtrack for this TV series. This composition, actually first heard in The Last of Us Pt II, is called Allowed to Be Happy.
The design of the infected, from freshly bitten to the clickers we saw here, is fantastic. It would have been easy to make the clickers look cartoonish, but for me, they were on the right side of horrific.
For those unsure but curious, clickers are zombies in the third stage of cordyceps infection after your bog-standard infected and the second-tier stalker.
I’m all for a bit of foreshadowing but Tess telling Ellie she was just trying to keep her alive signposted her death a little too clearly, while the explanation about the virus being able to communicate via its interconnected web came just minutes before we saw it in action. I don’t think TV should be a puzzle to crack or a memory test, but I don’t want to be spoon-fed, either. A small gripe, but a gripe all the same.
What did you think? Are you buying into Joel and Ellie? Do you think they’ll make it to Bill and Frank’s? And how do you think you’d fare against a clicker? Have your say below …