The Last of Us left off in a familiar section where Joel, Ellie and Tess leave the QZ for the first time, into Boston’s own bombarded ruin. What’s amazing about the pacing of the show is its desire to bring life to the background of the infection – rich with tension and dread. The episode doesn’t kick off directly after episode 1, instead brings you to the other side of the world, Indonesia – which seems to be the place of origin for the mutated cordyceps. You see people roaming about as you’d expect in everyday life only to be introduced to Ibu Ratna, a professor of mycology. The set up this episode brings is the same level of exposition episode 1 brought with the talk show host speaking to epidemiologist about the potentiality of human extinction regarding parasites and fungus. With this episode, we get a presentation of the mutation and the cost of it.
Ellie wakes atop a bedding of grass. It’s a sweet scenery only to be disrupted by Joel and Tess pointing a M4 at her – anticipating that she would mutate to an infected any given moment. It’s a dynamic we didn’t experience much of in the game – sure, they discussed a bit about the dangers of having her with them shortly before getting swarmed by FEDRA, but what the series is trying to convey seems sensible here – this time FEDRA isn’t chasing them, this time they can breathe and think things through without immediate pressure. Joel’s outburst led to a potential setback, broken knuckles. It’s a hairline fracture, but the fact that it’s swelling showcases a potential foreshadowing that we are not ready for what’s to come as viewers. HBO’s adaptation is grounded, and they want the viewers to know this world is real.
The Tilted Towers
As they trek through Boston, you immediately notice that the desolation is definitely a thing. In the video game, you’re often encountered with hunters or a horde of clickers to keep the players engaged while the story progresses – in HBO’s adaptation, Joel and crew walks through the ruins of Boston discussing the history of the bombardment while staying aware of potential threats. It’s a route they would normally take as smugglers so it’s relatively familiar to them, but with dilapidation comes unforeseen path obstructions, which led them to a rooftop lounge overlooking a horde of infected. We learn in this section that they’re connected in more ways than we know. The cordyceps also connects deep underground and acts as a hive network for the infected – much like how fungus works in reality. Because the horde is in their path, they have no choice but to take the scenic route, the Museum.
The Museum section is perfect, absolutely spot on to the video game. The level of environmental detail is beyond expectation and to say anything below it is a disservice to entertainment as a whole. You get moments like the ceiling collapsing, but this time they’re not separated nor is there a horde to flee from – instead they’re separated by 2 Clickers and the tension it brings is otherworldly. Before I get into the section, my goodness the Clickers presentation and performance is phenomenal. From intricate details like strands under the skin, to the leathery texture and the rough edges of the mushroom bursting out of their face is absolutely exceptional. It’s a wonder how the actors managed to see through it – pure magic. And just like the presentation of the Clickers, the daunting tension it brought was as you’d hoped it to be – dire and dangerous. You can see the fear the actors brought; the short breaths, the struggle to refrain from shaking, it’s tangible and there. It didn’t take long to get noticed by them and soon after Joel struggles to fight them off. The scene was excellently done, sure we didn’t get a horde to fight off, but again it’s conveying reality much denser than a game can ever achieve without being it feeling “boring” to players.
The Hotel and Museum
After surviving the skirmish, we get the scene overlooking Boston into the capital building. A magnificent replication done so well in terms of pacing, you’d wish that the game turned out this way – same lines, same mood; it plays so well to the baseline of what the show is trying to convey to the audience, newcomers and fans alike. What struck me though is we also get the Hotel segment of the game, in episode 2. It’s such an odd sensation having Tess also walk in that environment with you – and yes, it is absolutely recognizable to the game’s rendition. Ellie even goes about the reception area and does the dialogue pretending to be of service – the classic “you’re a weird kid” is uttered from Joel bringing that sense of familiarity.
After cutting through, they finally make it to the capital building – and if you played the game, you’ll know what comes next. We learn the Fireflies that was stationed for Joel, Ellie and Tess were recently eliminated. A trail of blood leads to the group of bodies. Supplies and communications devices scattered intact. Because part of the group was infected, the other half decided to eliminate them, but they rebelled back and soon after all died because of it. This brings the sense of defeat the crew and Joel is ready to go back home, only to find out that Tess isn’t going back – she’s infected and needs to see the job done for the sake of hope. A harrowing sequence that never gets easier to watch. What happens next should be left for the viewers but let me tell you – it’s not what you’d expect.
REVIEW SCORE: 9/10
HBO’s The Last of Us continues the momentum Episode 1 brings in delivering yet another excellent adaptation – and if these episodes is the baseline of what’s to come, expect utter greatness.
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