Clickers are just terrifying. The way they move, their look, that sound. The Last of Us TV series episode 2 gives us a proper encounter with two, and the tension is real, even if you’re all but sure everyone will survive.
Besides looking the part, the drama series is managing to capture the nail-biting atmosphere of Naughty Dog’s horror game. Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, and Anna Torv skulk around as their respective The Last of Us characters just as the PS5 game requires, and once they’ve cleared the room, you breathe a sigh of relief as if you’d just been sweating over your controller.
‘Infected‘, directed by Neil Druckmann, airs closely to the game when following Joel, Ellie, and Tess. They examine an inner city vista from a balcony, providing exposition on the infected and society’s degradation. Maneuvering through buildings involves hoisting and waiting for each other to unlock the right door.
It’s a curious thing to watch, since The Last of Us placed so much emphasis on being cinematic. Scenes frequently involved very little actual gameplay, making us cinematographers to scripted character development that occasionally required us to move a ladder. It made the videogame feel like a playable horror movie at times, whereas now the show has scenes where you almost miss having the joypad in your hands.
It’s like your brain is missing the jank of doing laps around the room breaking every crate while your NPC partner gradually discovers the hole in the wall that allows progress. In any case, ‘Infected’ begins with Joel and Tess interrogating Ellie about her infected status.
She’s been bitten, but it doesn’t affect her whatsoever. Joel and Tess are incredibly wary of her circumstances, which is fair enough, since it goes against pretty much everything they’ve come to learn about the Cordyceps over the last 20 years.
Eventually, cooler heads prevail, and they start moving through Boston. Ellie’s an Outbreak child, so she’s never been into a metropolitan area like this before, and she’s full of questions. An infected screech echoes in the air, teasing what’s to come.
In a prime piece of environmental storytelling, they walk by the crater of a firebomb from when there was no other option for containing the infection other than to just blow them all up. From the crashing plane in The Last of Us episode 1 to this, the shadow of 9/11 looms large.
The urban sprawl, now comprised of buildings leaning on each other that are part-swallowed by vines and plants, is beautiful to gawk at. Finer details invite the eye to see what can be uncovered, something that usually just leads to a dead body, as Ellie finds out. We’re taught about the collective hivemind, and minding for living branches that can alert runners if kicked or stepped on.
In a sub-plot, a biologist in Jakarta is brought in by the military to examine a mysterious body in 2003. She finds evidence of a living spore that’s embedded itself in this person’s nervous system, taking complete control. They were bitten at flour and grain factory, and although a small group are contained, at least one that’s suffered the same fate is at large, making the infection rate impossible to truly quantify.
Clearly shaken, she offers the only advice she can: raze the entire Indonesian capital. As Ripley puts it in the Alien movies, it’s the only way to be sure. As we now know, this didn’t happen until such a measure wasn’t enough. Grim.
This doubles down on the prologue from episode 1, where John Hannah‘s Dr Neuman talks about climate change and that there may come a point something happens we can’t recover from. The Last of Us TV series is using climate more than the games did, and it’s a fitting evolution.
Back in 2023, and once Joel, Ellie and Tess survive the Clickers, they manage to reach the promised Firefly waypoint to find the group dead. One of them got bit, and the resulting panic and paranoia turned into a shootout. The nest of Runners nearby becomes alert and starts running towards them.
Tess implores Joel to take Ellie, and through their arguing it’s uncovered that she was hurt by one of the Clickers. She’s done for, and the best thing Joel can do is carry on their mission, so at least one of them can live free again.
Joel takes Ellie, while Tess starts spilling gasoline everywhere to burn all the zombies asunder. Once the undead arrive, one approaches her and performs what looks like a kiss, but is actually a larger dose of spores so she’s made mindless quicker. She struggles, but eventually gets her lighter working, and they all go up in flames.
Fire became the only solution when scientific warnings weren’t heeded. The Last of Us is establishing a through-line where expert insight is pushed aside because it’s difficult. In Joel and Ellie’s present, those who remain walk on the ashes of what was, and can only pray they aren’t the next to get burned.
If this has you curious to try the game, check out our sister site The Loadout’s The Last of Us Part 1 review. The Last of Us is available on NOW in the UK and HBO Max in the US.
We meet the Clickers and see what’s left of Boston in a big-budget second episode