The Last of Us Episode 2 Review: Anna Torv Steals the Show as Tess
Written by on January 23, 2023
Jumping forward in time to rejoin Ellie, Joel, and Tess as they continue their trek out of Boston’s QZ feels like a breath of fresh air. Ramsay, Pascal, and Torv are a delight to watch. They don’t just move the plot along with their dialogue—they act with intention, and you can sense the emotional underpinnings in every uncomfortable pause and concerned glance. Joel hasn’t felt happiness or hope in a long time. This isn’t explicitly explained, but you can see in Pascal’s performance that Joel never fully recovered from losing Sarah. His relationship with Tess is clearly a deep (and somewhat dark) one, but the memory and fallout of losing his daughter has reduced him to being a perpetually sad bastard.
Ellie just might be the hope he’s been deprived of for so long, but he’s clearly too terrified to connect with her considering the emotional scars losing Sarah left. He’s standoff-ish during their sit-down chat in the hallway of the abandoned hotel, but you can see his walls start to break down as he spends more time with her.
The episode all delivers a moment fans have been eagerly awaiting: the introduction of clickers in the abandoned museum (whose exterior, halfway swallowed by overgrowths of flora and fungi, looks spectacular, by the way). The clickers look appropriately mortifying, and somehow sound even scarier than they look. They translate perfectly to TV, and in fact, the entire museum clicker melee is masterfully choreographed. It’s taken straight from the game, and even features a shot of Joel and Ellie crouched together behind cover as a clicker lurks around the corner, evoking all the feels for fans accustomed to that iconic visual of the duo in action.
Typically, when a game adaptation makes a direct reference to the game it’s based on, it’s cringe-y and distracting as all hell. But in this show, absolutely none of the nods to the game seem out of place, no matter how directly ripped from the game they are. It also seems to work seamlessly from one medium to the other, another example being the switch to first-person perspective inside Joel’s truck in the first episode. This is more a testament to just how cinematically strong the game was when it launched almost 10 years ago on the PS3.
And like the game, the episode can’t help but take a dark and sad turn by the end. We come to find out later that Tess has been infected by one of the clickers, but they’re so close to completing their mission that she keeps Joel and Ellie in the dark so as not to deter them. She knows Ellie is worth fighting for, and with her heroic last act, she passes on that message to Joel.
The sophistication of Torv’s performance is worth shouting out specifically. The mix of determination and sorrow on Torv’s face as Tess carries out her final smuggling mission is heartbreaking, and her exchanges with Pascal are beautifully complex and downright tragic at times.