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Season 1 Episode 2 of “The Last of Us”: Exit Through The Gift Shop

This week, we took a deeper look at Boston post-apocalyptic and provided more information about the events on the planet.

“The Last of Us” Season 1 Episode 2: “Cordyceps Seclorum”

We were able to see the future Boston from the Quarantine Zone for a few seconds last week’s “The Last of Us” episode. This week’s episode is more like a grand tour. It’s actually quite amazing. Many people love watching movies and TV shows about End Times because there is something both thrilling and eerie in seeing the bones of the world, as they are gnarled and repurposed.

Joel and Tess accompany Ellie on a safe hike to the Firefly compound at Beacon Hill. They trek through a city that is in decline, with some skyscrapers having fallen and others being overtaken and destroyed by nature. Ellie is seen in her first episode. She lies on a patch of grass and watches a butterfly fly by. Only by changing the angle of the camera can we see that Ellie is actually sleeping indoors in one those old, decaying buildings.

Ellie has, naturally, never known anything other than this. It was her childhood, it shaped her, and she has learned how to thrive in it.

This episode features several “get to know” scenes with Ellie. She was originally introduced as a sassy, angry, detainee. This week she’s still very sassy, laughing at Joel and Tess about the plague-paranoia. She even pretends to twitch as an infected person. She also cracks amusingly dry jokes. She also cracks a joke when she is asked where she learned how to juggle sharp knives.

This episode is also a “moving parts into place” episode. It explains more about the events on Earth and takes the characters to the next pivot-point. Joel and Ellie will be leaving Boston on their feet, without any Fireflies or Tess.

A pre-opening credits prologue is again presented in Jakarta, 2003. It reveals the origins and causes of the chaos we heard last week on Joel’s Austin radio station. The government summons Ibu Ratna, a professor of mycology (Christine Hakim), to examine the body of a woman who went on a rampage under the influence of “cordyceps,” a mushroom that emits bad vibes and is generally unfriendly to be around. According to the doctor, there is no cure for this and the best way to get rid of the fungus is to bomb all cities where it is present.

This is exactly what happened in Boston. The bombing “worked” in Boston because the government was able long enough to stop the spread and establish a safe zone. Joel and Tess explained to Ellie that there were still many infected killing machines throughout the city. They writhed on the streets to keep connected to an underground fungal network. They also explained that Ellie is not the only one who cannot be “turned by” one of these humanoid beasts. However, they said, “You aren’t immune from being ripped out.”

With the risks in place, this episode is tense and taut. Ellie will be taken to the Fireflies who will take her to west to provide a resource for humanity-saving vaccine. Joel and Tess will get a truck with a battery-charged engine that they can use for personal purposes.

It is important to remember that Joel, in particular, has no altruistic instincts. If they offered him a similar reward or if it was necessary to save his life, he would surrender Ellie to the authorities immediately. At least, he doesn’t have a relationship with her. This episode is about halfway through. Tess leaves his two companions behind to search for a path behind rubble. Joel and Ellie’s awkward conversation with each other is almost painful.

The plan quickly goes haywire. The trio attempts to sneak through an old museum but is unable to do so because “the long road” is too difficult. This causes the mushroom hordes to awaken. The second half of the episode is a thrilling scramble through Boston ruins. This is where everything about the monsters, including their ability communicate with the ground, comes into play.

The gang finally reaches the base of the Fireflies at the gold-domed Massachusetts State House. They discover that all the people they were supposed meet have either been infected with the virus or killed. Worse, Tess was bit herself during one of their narrow escapes. She takes the risk and blows up the Capitol Building, keeping the creatures away long enough to allow Joel and Ellie escape from danger.

This explosion that destroys a piece of American architecture is symbolic. Our heroes actually end up destroying a lot of the past throughout the episode. When they try to navigate through museums, they end up destroying antiquities and the road ahead seems to close off with every step. This means that there is no going back to the old ways. It doesn’t matter what Tess said before she died: “Save whomever you can.”

Side Quests

We are amazed at the show’s beautiful depiction of the destruction of cities. Let us laud the director Neil Druckmann, Ksenia Seda, the cinematographer, and the crew for taking some great low-angle shots that provided Alex Wang’s visual effects team with a backdrop.

This zombie-style apocalypse inspired some incredibly creepy imagery. From the tiny tendrils that grow out of infected’s mouths, to the dark-dwelling creatures with heads like split mushrooms, the fungal origin has been a source of much of the frightening imagery. The Jakarta prologue shows that the professor can cut into the leg of a subject and not let out any blood — it’s a fibrous white substance. Ick!

I am a little obsessed by the food that TV and movie characters eat. I hope there are more scenes like this one where Joel and Tess munch on bone-dry jerky, while Ellie enjoys a big, juicy chicken sandwich.

We say goodbye to Tess and Anna Torv. They will both be missed by me. I was a huge “Fringe” fan and wrote reviews for almost every episode. It was hard to miss Torv. Tess was an excellent character, with her talent for portraying tough women with broken souls.



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