Hello and welcome to this DUAL DOUBLE RECAP of The Last of Us. It’s DUAL because it’s written by the tag-team that brought you the review of the first episode, aka me (Valerie Anne) and Nic. And it’s DOUBLE because we missed last week so we’re covering episode 102: “Infected” and 103: “Long, Long Time.” In the future we’ll be hitting things one episode at a time but this one is a long one so BUCKLE UP and let’s dive into it. (And just as a warning, we do our best not to spoil things from the game, but there might be some light spoilers here and there because we have both played it and we can’t unknow what we know, unfortunately.)
Nic: Previously on The Last of Us, we met a man named Joel, his daughter Sarah, and his brother Tommy whose lives were turned upside down when a global pandemic that scientists warned about decades prior broke out and caused much of the population to become infected and begin biting each other, turning them into the walking dead (heh). Twenty years after Outbreak Day, and the death of his daughter, Joel and his partner Tess end up smuggling cargo in the form of a 14-year-old (seemingly immune) girl named Ellie, who needs to get to a camp run by a rebel group called the Fireflies.
Episode 102: “Infected”
Valerie: This week we open in Jakarta, September 24, 2003. Now, normally I would just put the year, but this date is actually important in a way I might not have realized if we weren’t covering two episodes at once.
Anyway, since they do know about a problem, but don’t know what that problem is, the government scoops up a scientist and asks her to inspect a body. The body has a bite mark in her leg that has cotton-looking fungus beneath it when the scientist cuts into it. And when the scientist looks in the body’s mouth, tendrils creep out and reach toward her, still alive despite its host having a gunshot wound to the head. The cordyceps being alive in the human body is wildly concerning to the scientist. The agent tells her it started in a flour and grain factory, though they’re not entirely sure who the very first infected was. They executed the workers they could find but they’re afraid it’s spreading. They’re hoping the scientist can help but she tells him gravely that there is no treatment, no cure, no vaccine. There’s nothing they can do. She suggests bombing the city to help quell the infection, and asks to be taken to her family, so they can be together. For the end.
Nic: I swear, these cold opens are scarier than anything I’ve seen in the game or on the show so far.
THE WALK/THE HOTEL
Nic: Back in 2023, Ellie slowly wakes up like any other 14 year old, with guns pointed in her face. Tess and Joel have been watching her all night just in case she starts to turn, but Ellie is just as lucid and snarky as ever; especially when she gloats about having a rare sandwich while Joel and Tess snack on their meager rations. Ellie explains that the Fireflies wanted to transport her because her immunity could be the key to finding a vaccine, but Joel’s seen this film before, and he didn’t like the ending; he thinks it’s a load of shite, is what I’m saying.
Valerie: This whole interaction was gold. Including “Will there be anything bad in there?” “Just you.” And “Fine I’ll just throw a sandwich at them.” Also the way Ellie mumbled to herself that she wasn’t supposed to tell anyone about her immunity but then she told the first people who asked. *chef’s kiss*
Nic: They head out to continue their journey, and Ellie is shocked by Boston’s eerie beauty, despite (or perhaps because of) massive craters left by the very type of bombing our scientist friend suggested during the cold open. Since they’ve got nothing but time on their trek to the capitol, Tess asks Ellie about how she got bit. There’s a mall in the QZ that is super duper off-limits, but one day, Ellie decided to check it out. She didn’t expect any infected to be there, but there was, and she got bit, and that was definitely that! And although Ellie’s mouth says that she was by herself, her eyeballs tell a very different (and heart wrenching) story.
There are so many moments where Bella really becomes Ellie, but their delivery of “um, nowp_postswhen Tess asks if any boyfriends would be looking for her, is near the top of that list. “Nope! No boyfriends, Tess. Big ‘ole gaymo here!wp_postsBefore Ellie can elaborate, they’re interrupted by sounds of infected in the distance.
Valerie: I love this walk-and-talk. And I love that Ellie is doing that thing where you’re nervous about something but don’t want to admit you’re nervous about something so instead you ask 900 questions about that thing. So cute.
Nic: The trio’s journey leads them through an abandoned hotel, where we learn that 1) Ellie doesn’t know how to swim and 2) that Piano Frog™ deserves a Grammy nomination for their work in this scene specifically. I love Ellie’s reaction to the hotel because it’s so delightfully childlike in its innocence. Of course she loves how gross it is and of course she would act out how she believes a hotel guest would treat an employee! But no sooner than she demands a suite, the appearance of a skeleton snaps her back to the reality of their situation.
They make their way upstairs (shout out to Tess for the creaky knee representation) and while Tess searches for a way through, Ellie attempts some small talk with Joel. He refuses to answer personal questions, but then Ellie gets serious and asks if it’s hard to kill infected knowing that they used to be people; sometimes it is.
Once they’re outside, we learn a bit more about how the cordyceps virus works. The tendrils form a sort of underground network that connects infected together; which means that you can step on a live tendril in one place, and a hoard of infected from a mile away could be on you in minutes.
THE MUSEUM/THE ROOF
Valerie: When the trio gets to the museum, the door is covered in fungi, which does not look promising to Ellie. But Joel inspects it and they seem dry so they hope that it means everything is hunky dory.
Tess and Joel gear up and pull out flashlights and guns and Ellie pulls out her flashlight and points out that she is one piece of gear down, continuing what is now my favorite running joke of Ellie asking for a gun and being instantly denied. As they tiptoe through the museum, we get an up close and personal look about what this fungus can really look like when left to grow wild, covering the walls and floors, incorporating many bodies as hosts as it grows and spreads.
When they get upstairs, they encounter what we call Clickers, aka the split-head echolocators Ellie mentioned before. Ellie starts to get scared and Joel mouths to her that the Clickers can’t see, but they can hear. Fighting breaks out and it’s truly so stressful. It’s dark and those things make awful noises and the way they walk and move is so unsettling.
Nic: Gosh, Ellie was right about the blind infected with bat-like qualities…I sure hope she isn’t right about the overgrown infected that explode spores all over the place! But in all seriousness, everything about this scene was perfectly tense and game-like, right down to Joel’s panic over needing to reload his gun with a Clicker looming.
Valerie: What’s fun is I genuinely don’t even know if she’s right! It could be a nod to the game or a hint at what’s to come! There are just enough differences from the game to make me excited to know what’s coming and also terrified that I do not know.
Eventually Joel and Tess best the Clickers and Ellie realizes she got bitten on the same spot as last time, even though Joel’s eyes become saucers, she shrugs it off and says if one of them had to get bit, it’s probably best it was the immune one.
They head up to the roof and as Joel wraps Tess’s ankle, Ellie strolls across the board between the buildings like it’s a footbridge across a stream. Joel seems surprised she isn’t scared, but Ellie points out that Clickers are scary. Heights are just high. As soon as Ellie is out of earshot, Joel starts to express concern that maybe Ellie got lucky with the first bite, but maybe now that she’s bitten again…and Tess snaps at him to stop looking this gift girl in the mouth and just accept that maybe just this one they caught a break. Maybe this time they can actually have a little hope.
As Joel joins Ellie on the other roof he asks if the city is anything like she expected. She’s not sure what she expected really but in a line pulled right from the game she admits she, “Can’t deny that view.”
Nic: They finally approach the capitol, but something seems off because it’s more abandoned than they expected. Ellie finds a blood trail though, so they follow it inside and are greeted by what can only be described as a massacre. Joel surmises that one of them got bit, the sick and the well attacked each other, and they all lost.
While we can all agree that the situation is quite balls, Tess is running around more frantically than her companions, searching high and low for some kind of answer; something that will point them in the right direction. She eventually relents and notes that the very luck that Joel mentioned earlier was bound to run out; and that’s when Ellie realizes that Tess is infected. Joel asks to see the bite, but when Tess steps toward him, he instinctively steps back. It’s such a small movement, but so much is unsaid between the two of them in that moment.
Valerie: THAT HURT MY FEELINGS. Eh hem. Okay, carry on.
Nic: Tess pleads with Joel to take Ellie’s immunity seriously because in comparing their bites, Tess’s hour-old bite looks exponentially worse than Ellie’s three-week-old one. The one thing she asks of Joel is to take Ellie to Bill and Frank’s because they’ll know what to do with her. He just needs to keep Ellie alive.
Valerie: How dare they add another layer to Tess in the eleventh hour with that line about how she never asked Joel to feel the same way about her as she did about him. Such a simple line but so telling. And of course add a dash of Anna Torv and it’s just a knife twist.
Nic: Their emotional final moments together are interrupted by one of the infected waking, a harsh reminder of the importance of their mission. After Joel shoots him, the tendrils around the man begin to move, and that group of infected they tried to avoid starts to sprint their way (they’re unnervingly fast?!). They don’t have much time, so Tess starts to set up her trap; a blast intended to save her people while sacrificing herself. Joel and Tess share one last look before Joel grabs Ellie and gets the hell out of dodge.
The infected storm the building and one zeroes in on Tess, passing the living tendrils between them in one of the grossest sights I’ve ever seen in my life. The episode closes with the capitol building exploding as Joel and Ellie look on.
Next page: Episode 103, GAY LOVE AT THE END OF THE WORLD.