‘The Last of Us’: A Trip Into Post-Apocalyptic Boston Ends In Heartbreak (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Last of Us Season 1, Episode 2.]
We knew it was a bad sign when Anna Torv was listed as “recurring.”
That said, fans of the game knew not to expect Tess to stick around long. And even for those with less knowledge of the source material, it’s clear that The Last of Us is ultimately Joel’s (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie’s (Bella Ramsey) story. For that connection to bloom, Tess was all but destined to die… but that doesn’t make it less of a bummer.
The second episode sees Joel, Ellie, and poor, doomed Tess head into Boston in hopes of getting Ellie connected with the Fireflies. Naturally, plans go sideways—and Tess doesn’t make it out. Here’s how it happens.
The Long Way
The episode opens with a flashback sequence of a scientist (Christine Hakim) studying fungus in Jakarta. She’s brought into a lab and shown an Infected corpse, then asked by the military how they can synthesize an antidote. At that, her face grows grave. There’s only one solution, she says: “bomb.” And bomb, it seems, they did—all the major cities, all over the world.
In the present, Joel, Tess, and Ellie make their way into the ruined heart of Boston. They’re intent on getting Ellie safely to the Firefly outpost, but to do that, they’ll have to choose: will they take “the long way” or “the short way?” Since Tess says the short way means they’re “f**king dead,” they opt for the longer route.
That takes them to a gorgeously run-down hotel—seriously, there’s something beautiful about the bright green foliage and flowers sprouting from the crumbled building. It’s just another example of how The Last of Us focuses on the beauty, rather than the decay, of the end of the world. The group wades through several feet of water (thankfully, the show resists the urge to have anyone pulled under by a monster) and heads up to a passageway Joel and Tess have used before. Unfortunately, it’s blocked. Tess figures out a way for them to get around it, but even then, the street they’d have to cross is brimming with Infected. The long way is a no-go.
The Clicker Catastrophe
Throughout all of this, young Ellie starts to bond a bit with the adults transporting her across the dangerous city. Tess warms up to her after they escape the quarantine zone, but for Joel, the wounds of losing his daughter are still too fresh. When Tess leaves them to try and clear the passageway, they have an awkward conversation: “Where’d you learn to do that?” Joel asks as he watches Ellie flip her knife. “The circus,” she shoots back. He declines to answer any personal questions about himself, and she asks him whether it’s hard to kill Infected, knowing they were once people. “Sometimes,” he says.
They head to the Bostonian Museum, which was previously overrun with Infected. Other than artifacts, there’s some fascinating Last of Us lore to be found here: the virus-causing fungus leaves veins beneath the ground, and stepping on any cordyceps allows the Infected—which operate as a hive mind—to know your exact location. (Yikes.) Joel, Tess, and Ellie barely survive the climb up to the building’s top floor; the roof falls in behind them the moment they’re up the stairs and in the next room. And, of course, that’s not the end of their plight. Once they make it, they discover the building isn’t free of Infected: two Clickers—Infected with fungus grown over their eyes—lurk in the last room they have to cross.
What follows is an incredibly intense sequence reminiscent of the early days of The Walking Dead. Since Clickers are blind and hunt by sound, Joel, Ellie, and Tess make as little noise as possible as they try to evade the monsters. In such an intense situation and in a room full of glass cases, however, complete silence isn’t an option… and in the fighting, Joel and Ellie get separated from Tess. Joel and Ellie move noiselessly through the rooms with a Clicker screeching and gnashing its bloodied teeth in the background, but when Joel steps on a shard of glass, the creature throws itself at them.
Save Who You Can Save
They and Tess eventually manage to shoot the Clickers, but Ellie is scratched in the process. Fortunately, because she’s immune, it will not affect her. Unfortunately, Ellie wasn’t the only one wounded in that fight—but more on that later.
The trio gets out of the museum and makes its way to the Firefly checkpoint at the Capitol building, only to find that all of the officers who were supposed to have helped Ellie are already dead. Ellie asks how it happened, and Joel figures it out: “One of them got bit,” he explains, “the healthy ones fought the sick ones. Everyone lost.”
Tess goes into a frenzy, looking for a map, a radio, anything they can use to take Ellie to her destination. Joel insists that it’s over and they should go home, but Tess shouts, “this is not my f**king home!” As it turns out, she got bit during that fight with the Clickers and is now Infected. Knowing she doesn’t have long, Tess tells Joel that he has to get Ellie to Bill and Frank’s and that this is his chance: “you get her there, and you set everything right.”
One of the bodies in the Capitol reanimates, and Joel shoots the Infected. In doing so, he alerts the remaining Infected across the city of their location… and the dead start sprinting toward them. Joel notices, and Tess starts knocking over barrels of gas. She says she’s going to make sure they don’t follow Joel and Ellie, and with one last request to Joel—”save who you can save”—he grabs Ellie and runs out of the building. Just before she’s taken into the fungus hivemind, Tess gets her lighter to work and drops it. The building explodes, destroying the Infected—and her. Joel and Ellie get away safely, and Ellie appears shaken by what she’s just witnessed.
The Last of Us, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO