Title: The Last of Us S1.E02 “Infected”
Released: 2023
Series:  The Last of Us

Previously: It’s been twenty years since a fungus pandemic turned most of the world into flesh-eating zombies and the United States into a military dictatorship; contractor-turned-smuggler Joel had already lost his daughter, Sarah, at the start of the outbreak, but now his brother, Tommy, might be in danger; Fireflies leader Marlene convinces Joel and his partner Tess to take teenager Ellie to the old Boston state house; and Joel and Tess learn that Ellie was bitten three weeks ago but remains uninfected.

Hello, fellow TLoUsers!* It’s my turn at recapping, so you’ll be getting the video-game-mostly-unspoiled version. (I’m trying to remain unspoiled, but I’m also a person who lives on the internet, so I’m being realistic. However, regardless of my own spoiled status, these recaps will always be spoiler-free!)

* I have no idea if there’s a fandom name, so I’m just going with it.

Last week, Stephanie asked me what stuck out the most and if I feel connected to any of the characters yet. Honestly, I was probably most connected to Sarah, since she was the first point-of-view character, but of course I could tell she wasn’t long for this world. However, I still wasn’t that attached to Sarah; her death was sad, but I didn’t feel sad, you know?

As for what stood out, the scariest moment was when Sarah was browsing through the Adlers’ DVD collection and Nana is zombiefying in the background. CREEPY AF and also an emphatic realization that LOL RIGHT I agreed to recap a horror show.

From Bloom to Doom

Jakarta, September 24, 2003.

The Indonesian military brings in mycology professor Ibu Ratna (Christine Hakim) to examine the corpse of Patient Not Quite Zero, a factory worker who suddenly became violent and attacked her coworkers in the last 30 hours, and there are still over a dozen possibly infected people who are unaccounted for. Professor Ratna’s solution is the nuclear one — but, like, literally, she’s suggesting that the government bomb the shizz out of the city to prevent further spread.

Boston, present day.

Ellie (Bella Ramsey) wakes up the morning after Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Tess (Anna Torv) discovered her immunity, and she still “didn’t turn into a fucking monster”. To get to their rendezvous at the state house with the Fireflies, the only option is through a museum that’s covered in old cordyceps. The trio seemingly catch a break, but LOL NO, there be freshly infected. They narrowly make it to the state house, only to find the Fireflies are all dead… and Tess is infected. (Not like how Ellie is (re-)infected but not affected, though.) With the fungal network honing in on their location, Tess sacrifices herself to give Joel and Ellie enough time to escape the horde.

Best Joel/Ellie Moment

I mean, all of them? Their back-and-forth snark was great, and Ellie’s really providing humour and levity that was missing from most of the first episode. For the sake of decisiveness, I’ll go with a rare Joel win.

Ellie: “Well, I don’t know how to swim.”

Joel: “Seriously?”

Ellie: “Do you think we have pools in the QZ?”

Joel: “No, smart-ass. I mean… ” *hops into knee-deep water*

GIF from jdmorganz

Survivor Setting of the Week

Since my picks for this and the next section would have been the same, I’m going to take this moment to hype up my city, Edmonton, which is where most of these Boston exterior shots took place! I actually went around peeking at all of the sets, and the level of detail was incredible for how little of it is actually seen.

Pour One Out For…

Tess, obviously. Even two episodes in, it feels like everybody who’s not Joel and Ellie are on the chopping block, so it’s more of a matter of when and how. Still, her goodbye to Joel, alluding to how she knew her feelings for him would never be reciprocated, was effectively tragic.

At least Tess went out like a badass — although GIRLLLLL the grenades were RIGHT THERE and you were relying on your shitty lighter? (A grenade would have also saved us from VERY VIVID IMAGERY.)

Best Time To Cover Your Eyes

OF COURSE I got the first appearance of the walking dead infected. I foolishly thought that would be the pick, until we got to see the creepy fungal network in action. BUT THEN the fungal mouth-to-mouth transfer, omgggggggg. (So much mouth stuff. Too much mouth stuff.)

We Must Adapt To Survive

Even though I haven’t played the game (and I don’t think I ever will lol), there were definitely moments that felt very much like a video game, like being trapped in the museum with no way to go back — not surprising, since this episode was directed by the game’s creator, Neil Druckmann.

Another game holdover: music composer Gustavo Santaolalla also composed the series soundtrack, so we have him to thank for the INTENSITY IN TEN CITIES.

Anyway, here’s Stephanie with her adaptation thoughts!

• The silly hotel moment with Ellie at the front desk is the same but happens in a different hotel later in the game. It was one of those fun “rewards” you could totally miss if you weren’t wandering around every single nook and cranny of the game before moving on to the next section.

• They cut out the long section of climbing through an office building but kept the museum segment, which looked so similar (even had the ceiling collapsing near them!). The stress you feel just crouching behind old artifacts working up your courage to sneak around the Clicker. *chef’s kiss* Although I kept yelling at Joel to aim for the head because we all know that you can’t kill Clickers with body shots.

• And the Clickers!! Amazing, so good, no notes. The sounds, the way they moved and those hideous fungus heads. In the Behind the Scenes extras, showrunner Craig Mazin said they stuck close to the game design and wanted people who played to go, “That’s it!” (and I did) and for people who hadn’t to go, “Oh my God!!” Neil also cried when he saw them on set because it was his dream come to life.

• Every little moment that felt pulled from the game still worked so well, like Joel having to heave someone up a ledge (lol) and the way Ellie’s flashlight was secured to her backpack strap or her casual walking across the boards between buildings. Even the hotel hallways!

• The way the fungus super highway alerts all the Infected to where people are is a new and SO CREEPY change, and I think it worked much better to have the Infected show up at the end when Tess makes her last stand instead of FEDRA.

Graffiti On The Wall

  • Once again, a very Chernobyl/Craig Mazin cold open to start the episode. I assume this will be the designated flashback spot going forward.

  • Related to flashbacks: it seems like we’ll have to commit the outbreak day (September 26, 2003 in the U.S.) to memory for future reference.

  • Based on the Jakarta scenes, the 2003 SARS outbreak still happened in this alternate reality, but absolutely nobody needs to worry about that now.

  • The opening shot of Ellie surrounded by moss and greenery was really lovely. A nice palate cleanser before all the horror!

  • Things to ponder for next week: Stephanie, what’s the horror level like for someone who knows what’s going to happen? Does being spoiled help?

  • The episode in a nutshell:
Tess: “Are you alright?”
Ellie: “Well, I didn’t shit my pants…”

GIF from foreveryoungadult

What did y’all think of the episode? Were you as stressed as I was? Share your thoughts in the comments!


Mandy (she/her) lives in Edmonton, AB. When she’s not raiding the library for YA books, she enjoys eating ice cream (esp. in cold weather), learning fancy pole dance tricks, and stanning BTS. Mandy has been writing for FYA since 2012, and she oversaw all things FYA Book Club from 2013 to 2023.