After a long season of waiting, nerves and uncertainty, the landing of ‘The Last of Us’ in the HBO Max catalog on January 16 it was a tremendous relief for all of us who, as a server, enjoy the Naughty Dog adventure in its original format. And it is that the first episode of the series by Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, in addition to a fantastic narrative exercise, was a master class on how to adapt video games to a non-interactive audiovisual medium.
Despite the halo of optimism and hope that ‘When You Get Lost in the Dark’ brought under its arm —that’s how the chapter was titled—, buried somewhere in my brain was the idea that the achievement had been a specific mirage. Luckily, with the second installment, released under the title of ‘Infected’, the production once again postulates itself as a firm and premature candidate to occupy the lists with the best of 2023.
- From this point there will be spoilers for ‘Infected’, the second episode of ‘The Last of Us’.
building the world
After the little ones —and no less juicy for that— added to the video game that Mazin and Druckmann contributed in making contact with ‘The Last of Us’, ‘Infected’ starts by claiming its differences with the source as one of its main virtues and enriching Joel and Ellie’s adventure with a broader view of the Cordyceps pandemic that is devastating the world and the nature and functioning of the fungus.
In this way, the introductory sequence places us in Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia and more than likely ground zero of the catastrophe, where the army tries to get the help of an expert mycologist after detecting a first case of infection. A fragment that not only works perfectly to set the tone and atmosphere —the brief autopsy is horrifying—, but also confirms the theory that the origin of the plague is directly related to flour.
After the introduction to the rhythm of Gustavo Santaolalla, the action brings us back to the present, with Joel, Tess and Ellie outside the Quarantine Zone from Boston en route to deliver the teenager to a group of Fireflies, as ordered by Marlene. So that, the chapter decides to lift its foot off the accelerator during its first barsdedicated to establishing the dynamics between an increasingly interesting leading trio.
During his journey on foot and, again, thanks to a remarkable use of dialogue with which Mazin once again brings out his skills as a screenwriter, we know more details of the personality of our survivors and, what is more important, of the world around them; which includes alleged myths about creepy creatures much more real than or what we would like.
Progressively, Joel loses suspicion -or, directly, fear- towards an Ellie that captures all the essence of the digital character and next to which we discover the status quo post-apocalyptic of a labyrinthine city of Boston that forces the smugglers to take a shortcut, but not before giving us a lesson on the workings of the infected and how they are connected through a kind of underground network of fungi.
The time of the snaps
It is halfway through the episode, which plunges us into the darkness of the Bostonian Museum, when things begin to gain intensity. What at first seemed a fairly safe passage ends up becoming a real nightmare after the dreaded Clickers make an appearance —Clickers for friends—; blind infected with impeccable hearing and shocking violence.
As expected, the clash with the monsters ends up being more frontal than expected, opening the way for a setpiece that combines terror and action with great success and that is adorned by the fantastic production design and the technical and formal invoice of the series – the sound design is pristine. Fortunately, after having a rough time and getting the odd scare, Joel, Ellie and Tess manage to get out of the clash unscathed… or so it seems.
Saved this obstacle, the trio arrives at the meeting point in the Capitol building, where they find the group of dead fireflies – although not everything they should. Apparently, one of them got infected and the chaos caused them to kill each other. It seems that the mission is over and we can hear the mythical “It is over, Tess!” from the video game covered by Pedro Pascal before everything goes to hell.
In an unexpected twist? From the events we discover that one of the Clickers managed to bite Tess, infecting her. As if this were not enough, Theoretical explanation of the interconnectedness of Cordyceps hosts becomes practical, driving a horde of creatures towards our main group. Tess, in a final display of heroism, convinces Joel to go through with Ellie and sacrifices herself by blowing up the building and giving a doomed couple a go-ahead.
As you can see, ‘Infected’ has served us on a silver platter another dose of top quality television with its epic, its character development, its action and a small hint of what is to come; specifically, the presentation of Bill —an old acquaintance of the regular players— and his partner Frank, who appears in the video game after death. We will see what surprises ‘The Last of Us’ holds for us in the future, but the trip, for now, is being priceless.