Episode 2 of the HBO post-apocalyptic thriller, “The Last of Us,” is one of hope and despair. After the pilot’s accelerated introduction to the world under Cordyceps’ violent rule and the fright that drives the leads, Episode 2 changes its pace. It slows down to take in the inconceivable disaster that was too eager to claim its victims. Craig Mazin’s undeniable mastery in writing an affecting annihilation of society, as we first witnessed in “Chernobyl,” is again at play in another HBO original. Through the lingering eyes of the “Infected,” we are made to take a look at the unforeseen catastrophe that mankind was forced into. And as we mourn the paramount loss that could not be avoided, we are also given the comfort of hope. Maybe all isn’t lost yet. But there will certainly be countless more heartbreaking goodbyes to say down the line before we get to the end, and there may be a possibility for humanity to emerge victorious as the control has been taken away from the player.
A Stirring Cold Open
Following the style of the pilot, we take a trip back in time with the “Infected.” But instead of 1968, we are seeing the first bite of the deadly Cordyceps on the Indonesian population in 2003. If you remember the mention of a violent disruption of life in Jakarta when Joel was having his birthday breakfast with his daughter, you will instantly connect the dots to episode 2’s cold open that touches on the first recorded attack of the fatal fungi. Ibu Ratna, a middle-aged professor of Mycology at the University of Indonesia, has her quiet lunch outing interrupted by a military official. She is then driven to a protected site to examine the corpse of a woman who has an infected bite on her leg. Ibu Ratna may be unmoved by the sight of a corpse, but the wiggly mycelium frightens her enough to make her sprint out of the room. The infected woman used to work at the flour and grain factory, where the sudden rise of rabid symptoms left behind a line of corpses and at least 15 infected individuals unaccounted for. Communicating the acute urgency of the situation disturbingly, Ibu Ratna proposes mass bombing as the only way to effectively vanquish the spread. The anguished scientist can’t wait to leave the premises and spend the last moments of her life in the company of her loved ones.
Rough Path To The West
In the post-apocalyptic dread of the present day, Joel and Tess have found a purpose in protecting the hopefulness that surrounds Ellie. Joel is evidently not an optimist, especially considering the weight of his ghastly experiences with the wreckage inflicted by Cordyceps. He has been through the exhausting cycle of being led on by false hope only to crash against the hard earth of painful acceptance way too many times to fall for it again. But Tess, on the other hand, isn’t too quick to dismiss the belief of Fireflies. As they hike past the haunted remains of what once was a city full of life, the melancholy of a world long gone is seen through the cold eyes of the adults and the indifference of Ellie, who has never even had the chance to experience normalcy. The giant crater left behind by the bomb echoes the grimness of the opening sequence. Countless lives were lost in the process of cleansing the big cities. Ellie’s adolescent innocence peeks through her guarded exterior as she disposes of the extravagant stories about the open city that she had heard inside of QZ.
The three survivors of the apocalypse are to choose the long path to the west over the undoubtedly deadly short path. Making their way through the filthy water that covers the lobby, Joel and Tess lead Ellie to the roof of the hotel. From there, they gawk at the hopeless and chilling sight of an ocean of decomposing, infected individuals squirming on the ground. What overshadows the troubling realization of their relatively safe path being blocked is the frightening mention of the hive-like nature of Cordyceps. Connected through the communicative fungal roots, the shared mind of Cordyceps awakens at every touch a root feels. A wave-like transmission makes it impossible for potential victims to avoid being chased by a horde.
Meeting The Clickers
Now that their planned path is closed, the three are compelled to head to the museum. But not before Joel smashes a root with the end of his rifle to make sure that it’s dry, indicating the infected that may be inside are already dead. As soon as they set foot inside the deserted museum, they run into a fresh corpse with wounds more gruesome than they have seen before. Going in further only pushes them into immediate danger when two zombies in an advanced state of decay (also known as clickers for the sound they make) head their way, following a loud noise made by the ceiling collapsing behind them. The clickers may not be visual creatures, but they have the unnerving ability to hear the slightest of noise. Unable to maintain absolute silence, the group falls prey to the furious attacks of the two clickers. Tess takes charge of protecting herself and the frantic Ellie against a clicker while Joel makes himself busy holding off another one. After a nerve-wracking fight that ends with Joel shooting a clicker and Tess bashing another’s head in with an axe, they realize that Ellie has been bitten yet again. Joel was already apprehensive of believing in Ellie’s immunity to the infection. The second bite makes it even harder for him to keep the little smidge of hope alive. While taping up Tess’ twisted ankle, Joel is asked to appreciate the win for once.
‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 2: Ending Explained: Were The Fireflies Right About Ellie’s Immunity?
All Joel and Tess aimed for was handing Ellie over to the Fireflies HQ and, in exchange, taking the supplies for finding Tommy. On their fateful journey, the taciturn pair got attached to the feisty little girl despite their best efforts at keeping it business-like. By the time they manage to escape the ghoulish museum, Tess has already formed a bond with little Ellie. She is also genuinely hopeful about the Fireflies’ doctors using Ellie’s immunity to find a cure that may make the world go back to its livelier state. But keeping up an optimistic mindset becomes increasingly difficult for them when they find the corpses of Fireflies all over the HQ. Joel concludes that the bloodbath is an aftermath of a brawl between the living and the sick. At this point, no motive or goal seems sufficient enough for Joel to keep Ellie safe. But Tess isn’t giving up hope. She insists that Joel hands Ellie over to Bill and Frank. While Joel can’t see why Tess is hellbent on protecting Ellie, the perceptive little girl sees right through Tess. She is infected. We see a soul-crushing contrast between Tess’ festering shoulder wound and Ellie’s wound, which looks like a minor scratch. There is hardly any doubt left about Ellie’s immunity and the miraculous impact it can have on the doctors’ search for a vaccine. Joel sternly faces the impending loss he is about to feel and crumbles within. He has no wish in his heart to continue protecting Ellie. For a man who has been through all that Joel has, the sense of responsibility for someone’s well-being only comes as a burden. But for the sake of Tess, he agrees to bring Ellie safely to Bill and Frank. The non-gamers amongst us don’t have a clear idea about who they may be, but it can be assumed that they are a notch above smugglers and peddlers such as Tess and Joel.
When the Cordyceps mycelium puppeteers a corpse, Joel shoots it instinctively. Unfortunately for them, the network of fungus sends out signals for a massive troop of zombies that is now on its way to the living. Getting a whiff of her unavoidable demise makes Tess use her death for a noble cause. Ellie doesn’t want to leave Tess behind and is pulled out by heartbroken Joel, who knows that he is once again about to lose someone who means the world to him. As reluctant Ellie and Joel make their way out of the headquarters, the horde is heading Tess’ way. Dropping barrels of gasoline and grenades all over the floor, Tess plans to go out in a blaze of glory and take the hoard with her. In the most disturbing scene that follows, we see a panicked Tess flicking the lighter while the tendrils coming out of a zombie make their way into her mouth. When she is finally able to make the lighter work, Ellie and Joel see the building go up in flames from a safe distance.
What Do We Expect From Episode 3?
The light-hearted back-and-forth between Ellie and Joel will most likely come to a halt now that Joel grieves the loss of Tess. Even if he doesn’t in some way blame Ellie for the death of Tess, he can’t be expected to open his heart to her right after receiving a second blow to it. Hordes of clickers that have heard the sound of the blast will inevitably make their journey to Bill and Frank incredibly dangerous. We are also expecting to finally see who Bill and Frank are and how they plan to utilize Ellie’s rare immunity to Cordyceps.