New episodes of The Last of Us are premiering on HBO every Sunday night, and Ars’ Kyle Orland (who has played the games) and Andrew Cunningham (who hasn’t) will be talking about them here right after the episodes air. While these recaps don’t delve into every single plot point of the episodes, there are obviously heavy spoilers contained within, so go watch the episode first if you want to go in fresh.
Kyle: Besides the obvious “move the plot forward” bits reuniting of Joel and his brother Tommy, I was surprised at how deep this episode went on the mental and physical anguish of an aging, obviously traumatized Joel. This kind of thing is hinted at in the games, especially the sequel, but it’s more of a vague undercurrent beneath Joel’s general image as “Unflappable Survivor Badass.”
The Jackson commune where they end up might be the only place outside of flashbacks that we’ve seen that feels genuinely safe, maybe even genuinely comfortable. There’s no FEDRA, no vigilantes waving don’t-tread-on-me flags, no sign of infected. They aren’t doomsday preppers trying to go it alone. They have Christmas lights! They have movie nights.
Something about that setting plus seeing his brother again—it’s easy to revert to a previous version of yourself when you see a close friend or family member you haven’t seen in a while—totally shatters Joel’s defenses, and all the emotional subtext of his relationship with Ellie just comes tumbling out.
Kyle: Kind of a tangent, but this episode, and episode 3 before it, really hammer home how crucial consistent electricity is to a modern peacful society. Just having the ability to give the people some running water, heat, and movies to keep the kids busy seems to be the main difference between fascist dystopia and Jackson’s idealized commune.
Having electricity and alcohol really seems to have taken the edge off for the people in this episode; if it weren’t for the barricades (and the handwritten labels on all the whiskey bottles at the bar, a nice touch), Jackson could almost be a normal town.
All that said, feels like a couple dozen guys from Kansas City with heavy artillery could overtake this idyllic hamlet and ruin it incredibly quickly.
It also doesn’t hurt that Jackson has a consistent source of hydroelectric power, something that just won’t be possible in a lot of other places.
Kyle: Yeah, if this outbreak had just happened 20 years later there would be tons of solar panels around to repurpose!
Andrew: Giant wind farms to tap into! Not to get political but I think renewable energy might be good?
Kyle: We need the Green New Deal to protect us from the zombie apocalypse!
Andrew: “I can’t believe these commies want to take away our right to get infected by the deadly mushroom virus” says Tucker Carlson.