‘The Last Of Us’ Season 1: How The Three Episodes Offer Three Perspectives Of Fear So Far?

The third installment of HBO’s “The Last of Us” has given us a wider perspective on the series and the world we see. Initial episodes showcased horror, hopelessness, and tragedy that seemed to have been so deeply rooted in the lives of those living. It seemed that nothing good could come out of it. The third episode, however, focuses on hope, love, and a fulfilling life amidst the terror of the apocalypse. Carefully dissecting the three episodes, we find three very different worlds in three very different time zones. When these distinctive timezones merge, they not only unleash terror but also bring hope and a little joy, which beautifully decodes what human existence is all about.

It is fair to say that the first two episodes tormented the viewers mentally and emotionally, as the horror of the survivors was vividly portrayed. The third episode is more like a friendly breeze that whispers love and positivity. It majorly reminds us of P.B. Shelly’s line, “If winter comes, can spring be far behind?” The third episode provides us with momentary relief from the chaos inflicted upon us by the deadly cordyceps fungus.

Let’s dive into the three episodes and see how brilliantly the makers distinguished each of the episodes from the others yet connected them with a much stronger bond.

Episode 1: Fear Of The Unknown

The story begins with a TV show of the late 1960s, the setup and tools, and the audience, all taking in the vintage tone and props. As the story takes us to 2003, we see the swift change in color, capturing the urban mood of a teenager’s life but maintaining a certain kind of gloom, probably to indicate the impending danger that is about to be unleashed upon them. Soon, at nightfall, we see the horrors: the plane crashes, the fires, and the horror of the zombies. All this time, it feels like a known world in which we have lived and breathed (excluding zombies). But, once we shift to 2023 and are introduced to the life of a quarantine center, a certain fear creeps in. Smuggling and rebellion are all very common, yet the terror of the unknown magnifies itself. When we witness Joel (Pedro Pascal) dropping the dead in the pyre, it is a bright day, but nothing feels right. 

As we see him peddling drugs to one of the FEDRA militaries, the uneasiness about the entire situation seems to slap us. Unfortunately, when Tess (Anna Trov) is all tied up and sore from the thrashing and beating, we don’t feel uneasy. A weird sense of comfort comes from the fact that she is human and dealing with another human. This comfort quickly gets washed away when Elli (Bella Ramsay) is introduced. She was held captive by the fireflies in a mossy hiding place. We could see the light of the bright day, but the mossy room added a sense of utter discomfort. It was no pleasure knowing she was infected yet somehow immune. While Elli was handed over to Tess and Joel, the world seemed much more unfair, as deep down, we knew Joel was not the same man he was back in 2003. Throughout the episode, a sense of terror engulfed the audience. It was not only for the young, infected Elli; fear crept in equally for Tess and Joel and what awaited them.

However, at the very end of the episode, when a violent and angry Joel almost kills the military officer who held a gun toward Ellie, he provides us with much-needed relief. It helped us evaluate the character of Joel. Finding out that deep inside, he still mourns his lost daughter and shares the same compassion with Ellie was the only time true light crept into the predominantly dark episode.

Episode 2: Terror Of The Clickers

The second episode of HBO’s “The Last of Us” has unleashed the worst nightmares. Although it was expected that the show would introduce body horror at some point, the magnitude of horror presented has overshadowed every anticipation. The cordyceps-infected monsters would scare away the “Demogorgon” from “Stranger Things.” The horrors of the first episode were predominantly the fear of the unknown. In the second episode, we come face to face with the danger we were so scared and uneasy about. By this time, knowing and witnessing Elli’s truth, the fear associated with her condition had lessened. Weirdly enough, we sympathize with Elli for being born in an infected world and for having the curse of not knowing the simple yet basic pleasures of the non-infected world. The horror surpasses what we felt in the first episode, for here we see the trio (Tess, Joel, and Ellie) cross once-significant buildings that now stand as witness to the horror inflicted.

Obviously, we expected to have some spine-chilling introduction to people infected. Also, we expect nothing but the worst when it’s a pandemic. At the same time, the nature of the deadly Cordyceps fungus was well explained in the first episode. But, when we finally met the shambling creatures, it blew our minds. The fungus has completely taken control over those once-human bodies, so much so that mushroom stalks have burst through their faces. It, of course, has blinded them. Now, they are forced to rely on echolocation to find their prey. They make nerve-wracking clicking noises, which have earned them the name “Clickers.” Their visual representation is very disturbing, yet we will be drawn towards knowing about the infected much more. The world we see in the second episode is a world of destruction and devastation, with Clickers awaiting their kill. The gruesome creatures were hard to fight against, and the nightmare about fighting against them got very real for both the characters and viewers alike.

To add to the nightmare, we now know that Tess was bitten by one and is among the infected. So, there is no saving her anymore. In the heartbreaking final minutes of the episode, we stand witness to a bunch of Clickers coming to attack. Severly wounded and unfortunately bitten Tess, was determined to set Joel and Elli free from the deathtrap they’d created. What visually and later emotionally affects us is when one Clicker approaches Tess and opens his mouth like he is about to kiss her, and the fungus crawls from inside his mouth to Tess’s. Fortunately, Tess could light the fire and set the building on fire, making a way out for Joel and Elli. At the end of episode two, we are no longer just scared; we are heartbroken. The fear of the unknown now becomes the fear of surviving among the deadly clickers. Additionally, Tess’s death felt like a personal loss.

Episode 3: Fear Of Losing The Loved One

The third installment picks up in the aftermath of the blast that killed Tess. Although the wound of losing Tess is still very fresh, the duo of Ellie and Joel knew they had come closer. They knew, in their weird distant way, they were far stronger together and would not stand a chance if alone in the face of danger. Also, we witness the combination of pain and rage. However, beyond the pain and suffering, we are introduced to two new characters, Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), in this episode. It took the audience by surprise as this episode spun around love. Bill, a not-so-friendly man, hides inside his bunker as the military evacuates the entire town. Soon after that, he collects all the essential items—food, wine, guns, wires, and everything else—to safeguard his house. Bill would give us the very image of many living in the real-life Coronavirus outbreak. However silly it might sound, his traps are effective, as they were successful in keeping away the clickers. It is a world where the audience can breathe a little. Undoubtedly, pain and sadness dwell, yet it is a far better world than we could ever expect the series to have delivered.

However, the traps also trapped an uninfected man, Frank. After many dilemmas, Bill takes Frank home, cooks him a meal, and gives him fresh clothes. What happens next in the episode seems unbelievable. The two started living together and found love when the old world was breaking down and pretty much falling apart. Throughout the episode, we saw how the two took care of each other while trying to survive in an infected world. Frank, as his name suggests, is a much more cheerful person, which is why Tess and Joel find themselves with two true friends amidst the chaos. Although the duo, Bill and Frank, knew they had everything they needed, they knew it wouldn’t last for a lifetime. Thus, Joel and Tess came in handy for them. Towards the end, the duo is old and sick and decides to call death upon themselves. Joel, unaware of this drastic step, comes to his trusted refuge only to discover that they are gone. However, Bill has left Joel with a lot of resources that he will need to keep him and his partner safe. Although, for Bill, Joel’s partner meant Tess. Unfortunately, Joel is now responsible for Elli.

The episode ends on a very positive note as we see Joel and Elli breaking further ice and coming closer. Somewhere we have a bitter-sweet feeling about the ending, and this episode provides us with much-needed positive relief after tragedies that were unleashed in the earlier episodes.

Three episodes gave us three different worlds, both figuratively and metaphorically. From wider ranges to emotional connections to horrors to tragedies and hope, the three episodes were a roller-coaster ride we were not ready for. However, we are eagerly waiting for our world to rock in the future episodes.

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