The Last of Us, Episode 2: So Far, It’s Excellent

Another Sunday, another The Last of Us episode. Having recently downed the latest episode last night and rewatched the first one, I think I can formulate some pretty solid arguments as to why HBO’s The Last of Us defies all expectations. All of my reasonable one, I suppose. There’s a thing or two I want to discuss.

But let’s take this blow-by-blow: it was hard to actually get a look at Anna Torv’s face because of the brutalization inflicted on her by Robert’s men in the first episode. Now that it’s cleared up a little and she’s allowed more room for facial expression, she does a stunning job. She was a great actor for the role, despite being a bit older than the Tess from the video game.

Bella Ramsey, while she still looks nothing like Ellie, is really selling me on the acting job. The way she asks for a gun right away, her innocent wonder at things beyond the wall, and her extremely profane mouth all point to the Ellie we know and love. Her lines, while mostly different from the game, are written and delivered exactly like Ellie would say them in the game.

Especially when I went back and rewatched the first episode, I’ve had to revise my view of Pedro Pascal’s Joel. I won’t say he’s pitch-perfect as Joel, but the Ellie-Joel dynamic is 100% there. Even though his Texan accent fails 50% of the time, his low tone and few words make him an excellent Joel.

And let’s take a second to thank the scriptwriter for creating mostly original dialogue that honors the source material. Unlike Disney’s Willow TV show, the characters are gritty, realistic, grounded, brutal, and at the same time, likeable. The lines are appropriate to the setting while staying true to the original video game.

As for the plot, it’s clear and straightforward: very similar to the plot of the game (this goes without saying, SPOILERS) Tess and Joel’s objective is to get Ellie through the city to the capital building, where they’ll hand her off to a group of Fireflies headed west. Seems simple enough, right? ‘Course it’s not that simple. It’s a zombie TV show.

Tess and Joel end up having to fight their way through a building that they assume is abandoned, but actually has three Clickers inside. I was delighted to see the return of the original, terrifying Clicker design and distinctive, guttural clicking. They were very much the Clickers of the game: you could outrun them and hide to temporarily lose them, normal crouch-walking would still draw them to your location, and they take a metric ton of firepower to take down. The CGI and actors for the task, especially in the dark and foreboding lighting, did a fantastic job for this scene.

A few creative liberties were taken after this point, but they’re minor and actually make sense given the changes this show’s made to some established canon. Zombies now swarm your position if you touch a live patch of cordyceps, which may serve as trapped pressure plates. This is put to use at the end of the show, where instead of humans attacking the capital building zombies do when Joel accidentally shoots a patch of fungus. Tess dumps out a few barrels of gas and hand grenades, intending to light the place up and blow the zombies sky-high. The episode ends with Tess sacrificing herself to help Joel get away.

A common complaint some people have with the game is that Tess’ sacrifice, while necessary, didn’t really do any good to help Joel escape. She gets gunned down at the front door by six or seven interlopers, only killing two. As a result, the building is still flooded with soldiers that Joel has to deal with himself. In the show, Joel and Ellie couldn’t have escaped without Tess’ heroic sacrifice. In that way, the show actually improved on the video game.

Well, I should probably address the “bad” in this episode. There’s no real plot problems, character inconsistencies, or bad lines, but there’s a few “but why?” moments. The cold opening where they call in the Indonesian mycologist to check out a dead zombie is…really unnecessary. Like the talk show before it, it honestly does too little with too much time. And like I said before, the video game needed no such setup to tell a compelling story. You can skip the first ten-fifteen minutes of episode 2 and not miss a single thing. The cold opening is dead weight and doesn’t establish anything we don’t know already.

I believe that both this scene and the talk show scene in the first episode could be cut without losing anything important. Without the padding, this episode is 45 or so minutes long, which is pretty good for how much they get done. The suspense in crossing the museum, especially when Joel has to reload his gun, is heart-pounding, even for someone who’s played the game.

The other thing that I just don’t have the foggiest clue why it’s in the episode is the half-clicker that basically Callisto Protocol’s Tess’ face in the final minutes of its runtime. Just…why? It’s horrifying and different, and I don’t necessarily have anything against frightening portrayals, but it seems a bit unnecessary. Also, Tess not struggling against the zombie in her final moments was a little out of character. But then again, the fungi was beginning to take over her body. I’ll let you decide.

So in the end, I couldn’t actually find anything condemnable about the script, the characters, or the plot. Other than the 15 minutes of filler at the beginning, this is a lean and trim episode with a good balance of plot and character development. It’s a nice change from the mess of pacing The Rings of Power was, and isn’t nearly as ambitious.

So far, the show is excellent. Of course, it could pull a Wandavision on us and bait ‘n switch us to oblivion, especially with Joel actually knowing of Frank’s existence. But for now I am well pleased, and so are fans with their 96% Rotten Tomatoes rating. I’d give the show a watch if I were you.

That’s all.


Be sure to check out my latest novel, Book 1 in the Praetors of Lost Magic Series, and our Publications page. Plus, I mean, it wouldn’t hurt to check out the Resources tab. It’s full of super helpful material and I promise it will help you out. Until then, writers!


Published by Van Ghalta

A cold, dark, mysterious character who purposefully wrote a story so that he could fit into it...A story where he himself WRITES stories, practices martial arts, blogs, plays airsoft, collects MTG trading cards, plays outdated video games, and writes weird, third-person bios for himself...

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