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‘The Last of Us’ Season 1, Episode 2 Recap: Exit Through the Gift Shop


For a couple of tantalizing seconds in the course of last week’s “The Last of Us,” we got a temporary glimpse at how the post-apocalyptic Boston looks outside the Quarantine Zone. This week features more of a grand tour — and truthfully, it’s type of awesome. An enormous reason so many individuals are drawn to movies and TV shows in regards to the End Times is that there’s something each exciting and eerie about seeing the bones of our world, gnarled and repurposed.

As Joel and Tess escort Ellie on what they hope might be an uneventful hike as much as a Firefly compound on Beacon Hill, they trek through a crumbling city, where some skyscrapers have collapsed and others have been overtaken by unchecked nature. In Ellie’s first appearance on this episode, she is curled up in a patch of grass, bathed in sunlight, with a butterfly fluttering by. Only when the camera angle changes can we see that she is definitely asleep indoors, in considered one of those rotting old buildings.

Ellie, in fact, has never known anything but this. She grew up with it, was shaped by it and — perhaps greater than anyone, given her immunity to the dreaded fungal infection — has discovered find out how to thrive inside it.

This episode offers several good “get to know you” scenes for Ellie, who was initially introduced as a sassy detainee, aloof and indignant. She’s still sassy this week, teasing Joel and Tess about their plague-paranoia at one point by pretending to twitch like an infected person. But she also makes amusingly dry little jokes. (Asked where she learned to juggle a pointy knife, she cracks, “The circus.” Told that their path to Beacon Hill can go “the great distance” or “the ‘we’re dead’ way,” she replies, “I vote ‘great distance,’ just based on that limited information.”) Because she talks incessantly, by the point the travelers hit their first big roadblock, she has explained rather a lot about what her life has been like up until now: spending her days in classes with the opposite QZ kids, learning in regards to the culture they will’t see firsthand and spending her free time exploring the places she’s not alleged to go.

This can also be in some ways a “moving pieces into place” episode, establishing more details about what the heck has happened to the planet Earth, while getting the characters to the following big pivot-point within the story — which can see Joel and Ellie leaving Boston on their very own, with no Fireflies and no Tess.

The post-apocalyptic video game that inspired the TV series “The Last of Us” won over players with its photorealistic animation and a morally complex story.

Once more there’s a pre-opening credits prologue, set in Jakarta in 2003, revealing the origins of the mayhem we heard about on Joel’s radio in Austin last week. A professor of mycology, Ibu Ratna (Christine Hakim), is brought in by the federal government to look at the corpse of a girl who had gone on a murderous rampage under the apparent influence of “cordyceps” — a mushroom with bad vibes that is mostly unpleasant to be around. The doctor warns there is no such thing as a medicine for this, and that the most effective treatment is to bomb any city where the fungus takes hold.

That is what happened in Boston, where the bombing “worked,” inasmuch as the federal government was capable of stop the spread long enough to determine a secure area. But as Joel and Tess explain to Ellie — who only knows in regards to the plague from what she has read in books and heard through the grapevine — there are still large numbers of mindless infected killing machines all across the town, writhing on their bellies within the streets to be able to stay connected to an underground fungal network. And as additionally they explain, while Ellie stands out as the one one who can’t be “turned” by considered one of these humanoid beasts, “You’re not immune from being ripped apart.”

So, with the risks well-established, this taut, tense episode follows what is supposed to be an easy mission: Ellie is to be delivered to the Fireflies, who will then take her to a base out west to be a resource for a possible humanity-saving vaccine, while Joel and Tess will receive a gassed-up, battery-charged truck that they will use for their very own personal business.

A crucial point to take into accout: Joel specifically has no altruistic impulse here. He would hand over Ellie to authorities instantly in the event that they offered an identical reward, or if he needed to do it to avoid wasting his own life. He has no bond along with her — no less than not yet. There may be a scene about halfway through this episode when Tess leaves the opposite two behind to scout for a pathway behind some rubble, and Joel and Ellie’s awkward conversation is sort of painful to witness.

Not long after this moment, the plan goes haywire. When “the great distance” proves impassable, the trio tries to sneak through an old museum, and in the method they awaken the mushroom hordes. Much of the second half of this episode contains a nail-biting scramble through the Boston ruins, as every thing previously mentioned in regards to the monsters — including their ability to speak via the bottom — comes into play.

When the gang does reach the Fireflies’ base on the gold-domed Massachusetts State House, they discover that everybody they were alleged to meet there has either been infected or slaughtered. Even worse: Tess herself was bit during considered one of their narrow escapes. She sacrifices herself by blowing up the capitol constructing, keeping the creatures at bay long enough for Joel and Ellie to get clear of the danger.

There may be some symbolism on this explosion, which destroys a classic piece of American architecture. In reality, throughout the episode, our heroes find yourself trashing a whole lot of the past. They knock over antiquities once they scramble through a museum, and it looks as if with each step forward the road behind them closes off. In other words, there is no such thing as a returning to the best way things were. All that matters is what Tess says before she dies: “Save who you may save.” That’s “who” — not “what.”

  • Given how amazing this show’s devastated cityscapes look, allow us to throw some praise to the director Neil Druckmann, the cinematographer Ksenia Sereda and the camera crew for framing up some nice low-angle shots, giving Alex Wang’s visual effects team a correct backdrop to fill.

  • The fungal origin of this zombie-style apocalypse has also inspired some spectacularly creepy imagery, from the tiny tendrils that snake out of the infected’s mouths to the darkness-dwelling creatures whose heads appear to be split mushrooms. Even within the Jakarta prologue, the primary real sign that something isn’t right is when the professor cuts right into a subject’s leg and no blood spills out — only a fibrous white substance. Ick!

  • As someone who is probably unduly fascinated by what TV and movie characters eat, I hope we get more scenes just like the one on this episode where Joel and Tess gnaw on bone-dry jerky while Ellie gets to enjoy an enormous, moist chicken sandwich, smuggled into the QZ for her because she’s so special.

  • And so we are saying farewell to Tess — and to Anna Torv. I shall miss them each. As a “Fringe” fan who wrote reviews for nearly every episode of that series way back when, I had missed seeing Torv on my TV; and Tess was a personality worthy of her talents, capturing her gift for enjoying tough ladies with bruised souls.

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