The Last of Us (Season 1), Episode 2: The second episode, ‘Infected,’ is directed by the game and the series’s co-creator, Neil Druckmann. It’s an apposite decision as the first episode dealt with the show’s world history, whereas this episode is about world-building. It’s fascinating the degree to which those working on the show have recreated the game’s world, from how cityscapes have been reclaimed by nature down to the texture of the fungal outgrowths.
The episode also introduces us to the game’s most notable type of Infected, Clickers, with their spine-chilling croaking and knobbly faces. And, like in the first episode, we get to witness some more iconic scenes from the game. For instance, Ellie’s comment on seeing the shining dome of the Massachusetts State House. It seems that the showrunners have clearly adopted the motto ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ and given the richness of the source material, who can blame them?
The Last of Us (Season 1), Episode 2: Recap
In 2003, Ibu Ratna, professor of Mycology at the University of Indonesia, had her meal at a restaurant interrupted by two government officials. She’s taken to the office of the Ministry of Health and shown a specimen of Ophiocordyceps that was extracted from a human being. Unwilling to believe that it’s possible, she’s shown the dead lady’s body with an infected bite near her heel. When Ibu Ratna probes into her throat, a live strand of fungus growing inside the corpse, emerges from the mouth. The dead lady was a flour and grain factory worker. She suddenly turned violent and attacked her co-workers, biting three of them. Those she bit were executed out of necessity, but about fourteen workers are still missing.
Agus Hidayat, the official speaking with her, asks her about the possibilities of developing a vaccine for this novel disease. But a dejected Ibu Ratna informs him that no vaccine or medicine exists for such a disease. With patient zero untraceable, the infected from the factory, and whoever infected the dead lady in the first place all missing, Ibu Ratna suggests bombing the city and killing everyone in it as the only way to stop the spread of this catastrophic disease. In the first episode, the news on the radio in Joel’s house, talking about ‘continuing disturbances’ in Jakarta, means that Ibu Ratna’s advice was followed.
In 2023, Ellie wakes up to see herself being watched at gunpoint by Joel and Tess. They find out that Marlene found Ellie after she had been bitten. Subsequently, she had Ellie locked up and tested from time to time. Joel wants to take Ellie back to the QZ and find another way to get a battery. However, Tess sees Ellie as their best option. She also clearly cares about her as she doesn’t want Ellie’s infection to be discovered and, consequently, have her executed. Ellie informs them that she is precious to the Fireflies. Before the shootout, she is to be taken to a base camp of theirs out west where there are doctors.
Ellie’s immunity will be worked on to develop a cure for the cordyceps infection. Joel finds this to be outrageous as he doesn’t believe a cure is possible, given how often people have had their hopes raised by talk of cures and vaccines. Marlene, nonetheless, wants to complete the delivery. All that matters to her is that they keep their end of the bargain after the task is completed. Joel reluctantly agrees, stating that he’ll kill her if she shows the slightest signs of transformation.
Out in the city, Ellie discovers the vastness of the world beyond the QZ. Craters inform her that in the early days of the infection, cities were bombed to slow the spread. Boston was a rare instance where this method worked. Despite the legal restriction, she tells Marlene how she got infected from being bitten after sneaking into a boarded-up mall in the QZ.
To avoid swarms of the infected, the trio decides to take the longer route. But not before surveying the road they’re to take from a vantage point in a hotel. Ellie and Joel have a surly conversation inside the hotel when Tess leaves them for a while. Joel tells Ellie about how the Infected generally live for a month or two but can live for much longer in many cases. They realize from the hotel’s balcony that the path they were meant to take is unfeasible because it is teeming with the Infected.
Marlene gives Ellie lessons on how the Infected work. They spread across the city owing to people who arrive searching for the QZ and are unfortunate enough to get bitten before they can reach it. The infected have hive minds. The fungus growing all over the city underground connects groups of Infected with each other. Therefore, attacking one group or stepping on a patch of Cordyceps in part of the city can inform a group of Infected about their location, thereby bringing down swarms on them. They decide not to abandon the planned route and cut through the Museum, a shorter but far more dangerous path.
Outside the Museum, the dead and dry Cordyceps outgrowths give hope to Joel that there aren’t any Infected inside. Upon entering though, Ellie notices a recently dead individual who has been ferociously bitten in a manner not characteristic of the Infected. The sight petrifies Tess and Joel, who know they’re up against something terrible.
It turns out that the Museum has Clickers inside, an advanced and highly lethal form of the Infected who are blind but are more sensitive to sound. Joel stepping on glass informs the two Clickers of their presence, and a perilous encounter ensues where he and Tess manage to kill them both with great difficulty. Ellie gets bitten again, and Tess’s ankle gets twisted. Joel worries that the second bite might finally turn Ellie, but Joel’s cynicism antagonizes Tess.
The Last of Us (Season 1), Episode 2: Ending Explained
Joel, Ellie, and Tess reach the State House but find no Fireflies there. Tess enters the State House against Joel’s advice, only to discover that all of the members of the Firefly team they were supposed to meet have died as a result of one of them becoming infected. Tess tries to find out if any of them have a map with which they can continue their journey westwards to the Firefly camp that Marlene told Ellie about. Her determination not to abandon Ellie is fuelled by the fact that she is infected. A wound on her neck shows that it’s visibly spreading, unlike Ellie’s, which still looks like a bite.
When Joel shoots and kills one of the infected Firefly members, Infected all over Boston are informed of their presence in the State House by the Cordyceps network Tess had spoken of earlier. Realizing that the Infected are on their way, Tess starts to prepare a plan to kill them all once they enter, in a suicidal attack with fuel and grenades. She urges Joel to leave with Ellie and save her as she is indeed a ray of hope for mankind.
The pragmatic Joel doesn’t waste a second and leaves with Ellie, who doesn’t want to abandon Tess and has to be dragged out. When the Infected arrives, one detects Marlene’s infection and kisses her, possibly catalyzing her transformation. She flicks and drops her lighter, causing an explosion that kills all the Infected inside, along with her. Joel and Ellie witness the carnage, following which he quickly turns away and proceeds on his journey while Ellie still struggles to comprehend how he can be so cold.