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Review of 'The Last of Us' 1.5-1.6


By Paul LevinsonPublished 28 days ago 3 min read

Another superb two episodes of The Last of Us on HBO Max -- 1.5 and 1.6 -- in what is shaping up, hour for hour, as the best post-biological apocalypse series I've ever seen (and as I keep saying, right, that includes The Walking Deads).

[Big spoilers ahead ... ]

Tunnels play a crucial role in episode 1.5. First, they almost provide a safe escape route for Henry and Sam and Joel and Ellie out of Kansas City. And when they're attacked near the end by the fascist anti-Fedra militia, it's the horde of fungus heads coming out of tunnels -- well, at least from under the ground -- that saves the four again.

Yes, again, but not for very long: in one of the most profound series of scenes in the series so far, it turns out Sam has been bitten ... Ellie tries to save him by coating some of her blood on Sam's wound ... but that doesn't work, and Henry kills what Sam has become, and then he kills himself.

But why didn't Ellie's blood stop the infection in Henry? I had a feeling it wouldn't, as she was painting her blood on the outside of Sam's wound, because the fungus infection was likely already inside and all over his body via his circulatory system. Maybe a blood transfusion would have saved Henry. But Ellie's curative blood on the outside of the wound just wasn't enough.

The truth is, we still don't know much if anything at all about why Ellie has survived. Maybe it was something in her lymphatic system, and not in her blood at all. Or there could be something else in her DNA that makes her resistant, which cannot be transfused via her blood or lymphatic system at all. We'll see a bit of discussion in episode 1.6 about why Ellie's attempt to save Sam didn't work, and I'm looking forward to finding out more in the episodes ahead.


I should have known when Tess was killed so early in the season of The Last of Us -- played by no less than the iconic Anna Torv -- that anyone and everyone was expendable in this superb narrative. (As I said in my review of the first episode, I haven't played the game and know nothing of its story.)

But I didn't expect that Joel would go, and certainly not in the way that he did in episode 1.6. The scene with him and his brother Tommy convinced me that Tommy would escort Ellie, Joel would stay behind in Jackson with the Christmas lights and the movies, and we'd see him again sooner or later in the story. In fact, I thought his change of mind was not quite believable, at least not to me.

I have a principle regarding life and death on the screen, which I usually mention as soon as a major character is killed. The principle is: if the head isn't severed or blown to bits, there's a chance the character survived. I guess I saw too many characters on 24 come back to life, i.e., not really killed.

So although we didn't see Joel in the coming attractions, I'm holding out hope. I assume he was killed in the game. But even if he was, that doesn't mean he was killed in the TV adaptation. Adaptations are after all by definition not the same as the original.

In any case, The Last of Us continues to be one masterpiece of a series. I said earlier that it's become my favorite post-biological apocalyptic series, and that only becomes more so with every episode.

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I talk about The Last of Us, beginning at 40mins 40secs

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About the Creator

Paul Levinson

Novels include The Silk Code & The Plot To Save Socrates; LPs Twice Upon A Rhyme & Welcome Up; nonfiction includes The Soft Edge & Digital McLuhan, translated into 15 languages. Details here. My Twitter. Prof, Fordham Univ.

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