Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for the second episode of The Last of Us.After the first episode of The Last of Us, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness,” with its tragic flashback between Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Sarah (Nico Parker), the reveal that Ellie (Bella Ramsey) might be the only person who is immune to the cordyceps infection that has decimated the world, and presenting us the characters and horrific world that this story will take place in, the show’s second episode is much quieter, yet almost as heartbreaking.
Directed by Neill Druckmann, the creative director and writer of the original game, this second episode is much quieter as we leave the Boston quarantine zone and begin to see the world that Joel and Ellie will have to face going forward. But with this episode, The Last of Us gives us a stronger look at who Tess (Anna Torv) is. While she’s the leader of the smuggling operation that she and Joel run, there’s also a much deeper relationship going on that was only hinted at in the games, but subtly comes to light in these first two episodes.
Even though this episode is full of action and tense moments, it’s also one of the quieter episodes of this season, as Joel and Tess try to figure out what to make out of Ellie, as Ellie also starts to open up and trust her two companions on this trip to find the Fireflies—who might be able to make a vaccine, with the help of Ellie.
The Beginnings of an Outbreak
Like the first episode of The Last of Us, “When You’re Lost in the Darkness,” this second episode begins with a flashback to before the world was destroyed by Cordyceps. We begin in Jakarta, Indonesia on September 24th, 2003—two days before the world-ending Outbreak Day. We meet Ibu Ratna (Christine Hakim), the Professor of Mycology at the University of Indonesia, who is brought in by police to investigate a specimen. She states that it’s Cordyceps, but doesn’t believe that the sample was taken from a human.
She is then taken to the corpse from which this sample was taken—a bullet in the middle of the corpse’s forehead. When Ratna investigates the corpse’s ankle, she finds a human bite mark, and upon cutting the bite, she finds fungi inside. When she goes to explore the corpse’s mouth, she finds tendrils, moving and seeping out of her mouth, before Ratna understandably runs away in fear.
The police tell Ratna that this incident happened about 30 hours ago at a flour and grain factory on the west side of the city. A normal woman suddenly turned violent, attacked four coworkers, and bit three of them. They locked her in a bathroom, and when the police came, she tried to attack them, which led the police to shoot her. The people that were bit were taken in for observation, but after a few hours, they were also executed. However, the cops have no idea who bit the woman, and with 14 other workers at the factory missing, it seems like the beginnings of the outbreak are already underway. Ratna states there’s no way to make a vaccine or medicine, and that the only thing to do is start bombing. Bomb the city and everyone in it. Tearfully seeing that the end is near, Ratna asks to be driven home, so she can be with her family before the world completely falls apart.
Immune or False Promise?
After the credits, we find Ellie sleeping in an abandoned building, being watched over by Joel and Tess, who are both understandably unnerved by this girl who is seemingly immune to the outbreak. She shows that the bite isn’t getting worse, and states that she isn’t infected. The head of the Boston Fireflies, Marlene (Merle Dandridge), found Ellie after she was bitten, locked her up, and her men did tests on her to see if she was getting sick.
While Ellie goes off to pee, Joel and Tess discuss their new traveling partner. Tess believes it must be real since she didn’t turn in the night, but Joel believes it’ll happen eventually. While Joel wants to return her to the Boston quarantine zone, Tess sees Ellie as the best way to get the supplies Marlene promised. When asked why Marlene was protecting her, Ellie says it’s because there’s a Firefly base camp with doctors who are working on a cure, and that she could be the key to finding a vaccine. But Joel’s heard this all before, a false sign of promise in a world that has given him no hope. Yet Tess wants to finish the job, and regardless of if it’s true or not, Joel and Tess get what they want if they deliver Ellie—and that’s good enough for her.
The Journey Through Boston
As they walk through the city, Tess explains how most of the major cities were bombed to help stop the spread. While it worked in Boston, it didn’t in most places. When they see that their path is blocked, they decide to take the long way around, instead of taking the shorter, “we’re fucking dead” path. Probably a smart choice. While they continue down the long way, Ellie tells Tess that she was bit after she snuck into an old mall in the quarantine zone. She also says that she explored the abandoned, closed-off mall by herself and that she’s an orphan who won’t have any parents or boyfriends coming after her. Ellie also mentions how surprised she is that outside the QZ isn’t swarming with infected, and it seems like maybe the rumors about overrun cities might have been over exaggeration.
The trio makes their way through a flooded hotel, and when Ellie falls down after discovering a skeleton, Joel helps her up, then for a second, almost feels shaken by the remembrance of his past, when helping a child wasn’t such a strange occurrence. After climbing 10 floors up the hotel, their path is blocked by rubble. Tess goes up to investigate, while Joel and Ellie are left alone for the first time. Joel reveals he’s from Texas, and that Tess is from Detroit. When Ellie asks if Joel and Tess are a thing and how he ended up in Boston, Joel bluntly says “pass.” Ellie then asks how long infected stay alive. Joel says some have a month or two, but others have been walking around since the infection hit 20 years ago. Ellie asks if it’s hard to kill the infected, knowing that they were once people, Joel says “sometimes,” followed by Ellie asking if it was hard to kill the FEDRA guard when they were escaping, but this questioning stops once Tess finds her way back to the group.
As they look out on a balcony at the hotel, Ellie sees her first swarm of infected, many dead, but some still scrounging around. Ellie says that they’re connected, and Tess mentions that the fungus grows underground and connects them, so if one finds you, there’s the possibility even more nearby can find you just as easily. Even though Ellie is immune to being infected, Tess reminds her that she isn’t immune from getting ripped apart. But with the planned route blocked by infected, they decide to make their way through a nearby museum instead—which might also still have infected inside.
You Can’t Deny That View
Things seem to be okay once the trio enters the museum, but then, they find a freshly killed man who has been torn apart. Tess mentions that she hasn’t heard anything inside, as Joel and Tess get extremely quiet, revealing that they’ve dealt with this type of threat before. They tell Ellie that from here on out, they have to be silent—not quiet, completely silent. As they make their way through the museum, part of the roof caves in, drawing the attention of two clickers—an infected who can’t see but detects its enemies through sound. However, as a clicker walks by, Ellie makes the slightest noise, leading the clicker right to her. Joel and Tess run and shoot at the clickers, while the unarmed Ellie hides. After a gunfight, Joel finds Ellie and tries to lead them to safety, but after stepping on a piece of glass, a clicker comes barreling toward them. The clicker falls on both of them, and Joel protects Ellie, shooting the clicker until it gets off them. When they’re free to get up, the clicker comes after them again, but Joel shoots him down for good. When the other clicker comes to attack them, Tess sticks an ax in its head, and then Joel shoots the creature dead as well.
Once the creatures are down, the trio regroups and says they’re all fine—even though Ellie has been bit yet again, and in the same spot as the old bite. After Ellie crosses over to another building, Joel and Tess have a moment together, where Joel worries that maybe the second bite will take. Frustrated, Tess tells Joel that he should just take the good news and accept the positive for once. Tess stays back and Joel and Ellie look out at the city. Joel asks if it was everything she hoped for, to which she replies, “jury’s still out, but, man, you can’t deny that view,” as the State House they’re heading towards looms in the distance.
Luck Runs Out
When they get to the building, there are no signs of the Fireflies anywhere, but a truck covered in blood, a body outside, and a trail of blood leading into the State House aren’t exactly promising. As they enter, they find the Fireflies dead, and it looks like one of them got sick, which led to a bloodbath where everyone lost. But Tess remains determined to find answers as to where the Fireflies were taking Ellie, and Joel says that it’s over, that they should just go home. But Tess yells that the QZ isn’t her home and that she’s staying, saying that “our luck had to run out sooner or later.” Ellie replies that Tess is infected, and Tess’s face gives this away. When she tries to move closer to Joel, he flinches away—a moment we can tell deeply hurts Tess. Then Tess shows the bite mark on her neck, which is already noticeably worse than Ellie’s newer bite.
Tess pleads with Joel that Ellie’s immunity is, in fact real. A shaky Tess says she needs Joel to get Ellie to Bill and Frank’s place, and that they’ll take Ellie off his hands. When Joel says no to her plan, Tess says he’ll convince him, and that she never asks him for anything—not even to feel the way that she felt. Tess says this is Joel’s chance, he can get her there alive, and he can set everything right after all that they’ve done.
When one of the infected comes back to life, Joel shoots it in the head, but the tendrils from the ground seep into the infected’s body, calling more infected from nearby and alerting them to the trio’s location. Joel looks outside and sees a swarm coming, and they only have about a minute. Tess starts knocking canisters of gas open and spreading grenades on the ground. As Joel realizes what she’s doing, Tess comes over and says, “save who you can save.” Joel drags Ellie as they leave Tess behind, moving forward on their path, as Tess stays put.
As the swarms of infected try to break in, Tess attempts to flick her lighter to catch them all ablaze. But as they run past, she can’t get her lighter to light, yet she does draw the attention of one infected, who comes over to the frightened Tess. He gets directly into her face, as the tendrils coming out of his mouth enter hers, as she continues to attempt the lighter. With one flick, the flame finally comes, blowing up Tess and the other infected, as Joel and Ellie make it outside to safety. As Joel and Ellie move on from the burning flames, Joel is understandably upset by having lost one of the last people in the world who meant anything to him, while Ellie seems to realize that even though their journey is just beginning, in the end, it can’t all be for nothing.