Episode 2 titled “Infected” starts off in Jakarta by giving viewers more backstory on the events that led to outbreak day. The premiere featured a brief broadcast of events that occurred in Indonesia and we finally know some of what occurred.
Keeping in the theme of scientific openers, a professor of Mycology by the name of Ibu Ratna was brought in to examine an anomaly in cordyceps taking human hosts. At first she’s incredulous to the findings, but is later shown a human host that was infected in a flour and grain factory.
Episode 1 brought about a theory that posited the outbreak had spread across the globe rapidly through the consumption of flour products. This is now confirmed, but there were various clues throughout the debut that supported this theory.
Sarah didn’t have any pancake mix to make pancakes for Joel’s birthday so they settled on bacon and eggs. The Adlers fed Connie’s mother biscuits that Joel and Sarah refused and she was the first to turn.
When Sarah went over to bake cookies, she refused to eat any because the Adlers made raisin instead of her favourite chocolate chip. And last, but certainly not least, Joel never got around to getting that birthday cake after work.
Back at the laboratory, we get a shot of tendrils being evoked from the patient’s mouth which left Ratna distraught. She darts out of the back room and the following scene has her being interviewed by the state officer.
The officer proceeds to ask Ratna if there is some kind of medicine or vaccine that can be developed to stop the spread. Ratna’s response is a chilling one as she simply replies “bomb.” At this point there is no hope for humanity other than completely eradicating the infection with complete devastation.
These opening scenes are used in such an effective manner to expand the base story while using the adaptations medium to great emotional effect.
After a somber opening, viewers get a somewhat peaceful start as Ellie wakes up from a nap only to find Joel’s gun in her face. She’s being held captive and questioned by Tess about her infection and why Marlene is interested in her.
Ellie quips back with humour as her videogame counterpart often does, but she reveals she’s the key to the cure and Tess convinces Joel that Ellie is valuable to their cause. And the journey to the west begins.
The outside world, while in complete ruins, does have some beauty and magnificence to it in the daytime. Ellie’s sense of wonder as a young girl is wildly sparked here. There’s an innocence to her never experiencing the outside world in this manner, like a child playing in a park for the first time.
There’s a funny moment after Ellie reveals she got bit in the old mall in the QZ, where Tess asks her if she’ll be followed by anybody like her mother, father, or boyfriend, to which she replies “I’m an orphan and…no…”
It hasn’t been revealed yet, but there’s a hidden twist about Ellie’s past relationships that video game players are aware of. Another treat for video game players comes immediately after when the group enters the hotel.
The first floor is flooded and they have to make their way across the building. Ellie reveals that she can’t swim, but Joel teases her and reveals the water isn’t that deep.
In the game players would oftentimes have to find a wooden board for Ellie to travel across so it was a funny jab at that idea. But the real treat is that this hotel scene is pulled from an optional conversation in the original game.
Ellie uses her imagination to pretend to check-in to the hotel only to get shook by an old rotted skeleton. The video game reserves this moment for much later and it’s a part only shared by Joel and Ellie, not Tess.
It’s cool to see the adaptation put its own twist on certain story elements because it keeps knowledgeable viewers guessing and engaged. Tess gives us one of these big changes in lore, when she reveals that the infected are all connected through cordyceps fibers that grow underground.
One step in a patch of fibers can awaken infected in a completely different location. This makes the infected infinitely more dangerous in the show than they were in the game.
And it’s not long until we see how dangerous they are. Joel, Tess, and Ellie enter a museum and end up encountering a new type of infected called clickers.
Clickers are people that have been infected with the cordyceps fungus for long periods of time. They’re blind, but use echolocation to “see.”
They are also highly aggressive and a lot stronger than the average human. Joel, a Texas construction worker who beat a military guard to death with his bare hands, struggled to keep a clicker off of him even while armed with an assault rifle.
This scene kept me on the edge of my seat the entire encounter. Clickers are truly terrifying in “real life.”
They also look just as disgusting to their video game counterparts and they’re hard to kill. In fact, they’re even more terrifying than the game because there’s a sense of lack of control in the TV show.
In the game I can choose not to kill them, but if I do, I can choose from a weapon arsenal on how. Conversely, the show plays out how it’s written so there’s no knowledge of what happens next, evidenced by Ellie and Tess’ big reveals later on.
The group barely manages to get out, but viewers find out Tess twisted her ankle and her temperament is on edge. They eventually get to a capitol building where they find a bunch of dead Fireflies.
Joel explains that one got infected and killed the others. At this point he’s had enough, and doesn’t think it’s worth going on, but Tess reveals her big secret: she’s infected.
Joel refuses to believe her but she shows off her infection which has far progressed the cut that Ellie got weeks ago and even her new cut from the museum encounter. With the end in sight, Tess pleads with Joel for him to take Ellie to Bill’s and convince him to take her West and find the fireflies.
They’re interrupted by a runner that was just dormant and as Joel shoots it in the head, its tendrils spark a massive swarm of infected not too far away. In order to Joel and Ellie get away, Tess decides to pour oil and light the capitol building up sacrificing herself and killing the infected in the process.
While this heroic move by Tess is applauded, how the scene that unfolds is not. We get one of the nastiest scenes in TV history as we see Tess attempting to light a lighter and set the place aflame, but she’s struggling as she slowly loses her motor function.
One peculiar infected begins to recognize her as one of their own and approaches her slowly. As he gets to her face he opens his mouth and we’re shown tendrils protruding and sliding into Tess’ mouth as the infected tries to escalate her infection.
Director Craig Mazin revealed that this is another way in which infected can infect others and elevate the process.
This scene was stomach churning and while the episode was great, this felt more of a shock value moment than anything. It works well within the new idea of infected having tendrils but my eyes were in my stomach by the end of the scene.
Thankfully, Tess manages to light the flame and put that terrible scene to rest.
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