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'The Last of Us' creator and stars talk about those Clickers in Episode 2
The Clickers are back in Episode 2 of The Last of Us.
The second episode of The Last of Us is a decidedly more horror-centric hour than the premiere. "Infected" gives audiences their first real look at the scale of what the outside world looks like now in the wake of the Cordyceps infection of the world. From the chilling cold open that reveals how the breakout of the fungus terrifies a Jakartan professor of mycology so much that she recommends bombing the city, to Ellie (Bella Ramsey), Joel (Pedro Pascal), and Tess (Anna Torv) navigating Clickers in the wild, this sophomore episode in the series was not one to watch in the dark.
***Warning: There are spoilers below for Epsiode 2 of HBO's The Last of Us, "Infected"***
Directed by game writer and series executive producer/writer Neil Druckmann, "Infected" filled in series-only viewers with a lot of necessary world-building and broke our hearts with a major character loss that pushes Joel and Ellie to get over their trust issues. SYFY WIRE got Druckmann, Ramsey, and Pascal to provide their insight into the structure of this episode, that scary Clicker cat and mouse scene, and what that character death sets up going forward.
Planning the Big Moments
In "Infected," you get Joel, Tess, and Ellie on the road, stage some major horror/action beats, kill a character, and set the stage for the duo's defining road trip. Can you talk about pacing out the early episodes and what landed in this episode and why?
Neil Druckmann, Showrunner/Director: We do a lot of work on the front end. In our early conversations, [showrunner Craig Mazin and I] would just talk through the entire season. Like puzzle pieces, it all I had to connect to lead us to the final ending and that final shot in the final episode. When I'm working too, as much as I can, I block out what I think the audience will like and not like. And just keep focusing on like, "What's the most honest moment for these characters that are in front of us? What's the most honest way to portray this narrative moment?" And then the challenge obviously, for that episode, is showing the state of the world. Showing the fear that the characters have for the threat that's out there, and then eventually showing the threat itself. And the consequences of it.
Bella, what was it like venturing out into the "outside world" that the production created for you to travel through?
Bella Ramsey, Ellie: There was a lot of detail. Craig and Neil are obsessed with detail. If you were to zoom into any frame, throughout the whole show, there's nothing that would be out of place, wrong or inaccurate. And there's so much detail in everything. Which I think really does make the world more real, and richer.
The Horrors that Happen
Neil Druckmann directed this episode — how did that impact the horror beats of what you had to play, especially with the Clicker sequences?
Ramsey: Having Neil there was really helpful. I felt like we were very protected. As soon I found out that Neil was going to be directing an episode, I felt like we would be in good hands because he's the creator of the show. And every time that he said that we did a good job, you can't help but believe him because this is his baby and he knows the story more deeply and intricately than anybody else. So it was really cool to have him there and have his presence on set.
Pedro Pascal, Joel: In having Neil direct an episode, surprisingly, he was the most open and excited about interpretation that wasn't his own. He was the one that was way more into the questions and the not knowing, in terms of what our takes were. I found that really, really surprising and exciting. And then when it came to very specific horror sequences, like the museum, it felt like being in the game. It was really insane, and visually, nothing left to the imagination.
Ramsey: The horror moments in terms of the Clickers, it was so immersive that we didn't have to try very hard. These were real actors with real prosthetics and had movement coaching and incredible design. It was very immersive and very terrifying. The reactions that you saw from us were mostly real, so that was pretty easy, really, in terms of being scared.
Druckmann: This episode is really about, eventually, the loss of Tess. This character that Ellie is actually connected to more than to Joel. And now this character is gone. And these two characters that don't like each other are now forced to connect with each other as they set off on this journey. This episode is about a bunch of setup that gets paid off at the end of the next episode.
New episodes of The Last of Us premiere Sunday nights on HBOMax.
Looking for more horror? Check out SYFY's Chucky. The first season is streaming now on Peacock, and Season 2 can be found on SYFY.