Joel, Ellie, and the gang go on a video game-style quest—and things get messy.
After a very promising debut episode, The Last of Us is shaping up to be the best video game adaptation we’ve ever seen. Say what you will about the Halo television series or the groan-inducing Sonic the Hedgehog movies, but HBO and The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann are truly working on a whole other level. Whether it’s because of Druckman’s involvement, or commitment to the source material, The Last of Us’s premiere simply had the right sauce. It certainly helps that the series has a spectacular leading man in Pedro Pascal—who plays Joel, a smuggler in a post-apocalyptic zombie world—but The Last of Us has such a phenomenal tale that the odds were always in favor of its success.
That story, featuring classic Lone Wolf and Cub elements, features Joel smuggling a young girl, Ellie (Bella Ramsey), who was infected by the mushroom zombie virus, cordyceps—but never turned. It feels eerily similar to other stories, such as Netflix’s Sweet Tooth, James Cameron’s Aliens, Star Wars’s The Mandalorian (which also stars Pascal), or—dare we say—The Walking Dead, but when it works, it works. And The Last of Us just works.
When we left off last week, Joel, Ellie, and his smuggling partner, Tess (Anna Torv), are now off the grid. They escaped the QZ, a quarantine zone run by Fedra (the Federal Disaster Response Agency), where uninfected survivors are kept as prisoners. A cool rebel group exists there, named the Fireflies, but we’re now long gone from that place. (Hope those guys are OK!) Instead, we have a somewhat complicated plot involving Joel needing a car battery to find his missing brother, Tommy (Gabriel Luna). Sadly, that car battery was sold off to the Fireflies by a guy named Robert. So now, Joel was forced to make a deal with the Fireflies to smuggle Ellie out of the QZ in exchange for the car battery. It’s a classic video game-style quest. Go slay the boss, bring me its eye, and I’ll upgrade your armor. Maybe Joel could get an even nicer jacket.
We pick up this episode in ty, Indonesia, where the initial outbreak seemingly began. A doctor tells us that there is no vaccine and no medicine that can stop this outbreak. “Bomb,” she says. “Start bombing. Bomb this city… and everyone in it.” If the infection has reached America by the time we catch up with Joel and Ellie, then it all must have been really bad. The city we saw with the slanted skyscraper at the end of the premiere episode wasn’t a good sign that anything is inhabitable outside of the QZ, either.
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