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Saturday, January 28, 2023

[The Last of SQUAWKS: E2] Infected |The Last Of Us

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This episode of HBO's The Last of Us gave us a lot more motion and, oddly enough, contained another incredibly performed opening sequence that jumped us back to the past to give us more context to the thrilling events that occur in our characters' present. This episode contains both our initial reactions and follow-up thoughts on second watch, both of which you can get on our YouTube channel (we recorded the reaction LIVE for folks who just watched to join in the afterglow). Head here to both subscribe and enable notifications, so you don't miss a thing: https://YouTube.com/SQUAWKINGDEAD.
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David Cameo:
Rachael Burt:
Sherrandy Swift:
Bridget Mason-Gray:

Initial Reaction

  • Be sure to check out our last blog covering The Last of Us' series premiere, which contained some massive reference materials (be sure to tap the pictures, as they link to more articles)!
  • Although we covered much of what was in the first episode, between both the livestream and the blog, something we didn't mention was how the woman behind Marlene was mirroring a movement Ellie Williams made while Joel Miller and Marlene were talking.
  • Just like Henry Cavill is what got Dave's wife to watch the The Witcher, so too was Dusty Daddy Pedro Pascal what got her to watch some of The Last of Us with him.
  • Bridget, yet again, managed to play the game just enough to cover the events that transpired in this, the second episode. The same can't be said for her playthrough of The Walking Dead: Last Mile.
  • It was nice to see that this episode gave us a little more movement than the last, while still maintaining a healthy amount of world-building and backstory. As far as the latter goes, unlike The Walking Dead, this episode of TLoU wholeheartedly tells you where the parasitic fungal infection comes from and why there's no hope.
  • This CNet article discusses the very possibility of a Cordyceps outbreak:
  • As amused we are by the levity Ellie gave us this week, we still have our TWD brain on and want her to stop being stupid.
  • Someone stopped Takeerah to comment on her SQUAWKING DEAD hoodie. To get your own, head here.
    @tashiyama Squawking Dead hoodie close-up @squawkingdead #StemDrop001 #squawkingdead #twd #newhoodie #newmerch #fyp #foryoupage ♬ BIG MAD - Ktlyn
  • We love how realistic it is for both Joel and Tess Servopoulos to be incredibly cautious (to the point of being standoffish) towards Ellie, at first. Joel has personal reasons why he feels he must reject Ellie.
  • In many ways, since the infection isn't transmitted through spores on the TV Series, becoming infected is close to how it is on The Walking Dead. How easy it is to still become infected, despite the TV limiter of no spores, and how overwhelming the infected are is a whole other story. With the Mycelial Network on top of all this, TLoU has found so many ways to dread the end of days.
  • Nature making residence where civilization once was: as we open on the hotel foyer, it looks a lot like a bog, complete with a piano playing frog. It reminds us of photos taken of abandoned theme parks and malls. Also, Bladerunner's concept of kipple.
  • In real life, some fungus do release a chemical to alert itself and connected clusters of predators, just like the mycelial network of infected on the show.
  • (Not) Subverting expectations: since we don't know where the TV series will diverge from the video game, for a moment, we thought Tess might survive. In the video game, Ellie isn't bit again, but the show wanted to make it super clear that she is immune, despite Joel's earlier spiel about some infected surviving a month (or 20 years).
  • The stuffed animal our gang pass by, under the car, was relatively clean. This confirms what Joel was saying about many people trying to leave or enter the QZ, over the years, and getting caught in that large cluster of infected.
  • Along with their ferocity, it takes more than a one-and-done headshot to take the infected down.

  • Sherrandy cracks a joke about tomatoes screaming when they're distressed: reminds Dave about a Tool song, Disgustipated.
  • Both Dr. Neuman (opening scene of the first episode) and Ibu Ratna Pertiwi confirm that parasitic fungal infections in humans would likely be untreatable. Antifungal medication is toxic in large doses and aren't guaranteed to always work. This is why the Cordyceps are so effective at decimating humanity. Check out this article from Chemical & Engineering News on the subject.
  • Bridget goes through some of the differences between the events that occur in the TV Series and the games:
    • Events and characters from the opening flashback scene in Jakarta, Indonesia are not in the game.
    • The discussion over a meal - while Tess & Joel eat jerky and Ellie eats a delicious chicken sandwich - are only in the TV series.
    • The hotel scene, altogether, was not in the game. The museum and capitol building are there, but there are differences. The game has a whole subway scene that is completely removed from the show.
    • Tess doesn't sprain her ankle in the video game and Ellie actually has dialog as she crosses the plank across the museum's roof to the other building.
    • The scene in the hotel foyer where Ellie says she can't swim happens right in front of the capitol building in the video games (as they really do have to swim across deep waters to get to it).
    • Bridget takes a moment, while discussing differences, to attribute the lack of gas masks in the tv series because actors have egos. Dave explains it's because it brings your wives in to watch Daddy Pascal when they otherwise would never watch the show.
    • The Cordyceps Mycelial network is actually in Part 2 of the video game series, so it might not be readily apparent to those who are just starting out in their gameplay (like Bridget).
    • Tess' sacrifice, in the video games, is not against the cluster of infected rushing to attack, rather Fedra soldiers.
  • Watching Ellie take joy in and be in awe of even the most disgusting things was a really wholesome and inviting experience for some watchers.
  • Someone in the chat calls out Fear The Walking Dead for having too many clean zones, compared to the ruin, filth, and dilapidation everywhere and on everyone in TLoU.

  • We're all eager to see how the bond forms between Joel & Ellie, with Takeerah saying that this might be at the expense of many newly-introduced characters. Equally eager to see where the tv series differs from the games.

  • Takeerah's husband points out how The Clickers resemble an enemy in the Halo series called The Flood.
  • Worst make-out session, ever, between Tess and the last infected she ever sees. We almost didn't think she would be able to light the payload (considering the divergence the show may have from the games).

  • Dave takes a minute to appreciate how immersive our first encounter with Clickers was in the museum and the getaway scene in the pick-up truck was in the 1st episode. It felt like you were there, with them, much the way a video game would be.

  • To some of us, the mycelial strands that come out of both the living and dead infected look like beansprouts. Dave says young spruce leaves.

  • Please don't add VR to either the game or the tv series. Bridget is already having a hard time with the video game. Dave takes a moment to showcase the Thief series of games, made by Eidos & Looking Glass Studios, for their level of immersion. Thomas says we should just stick to Jackbox Games.
  • The frog "playing" the piano (somewhat well) also reminds Dave of the scene in Tales of The Walking Dead with Davon playing the piano (also well).
  • The mycelial network alerting other clusters of infected reminds us of both the movie Tremors and A Quiet Place.

FULL BREAKDOWN

  • The return of Rachael! …who wanted The Last of Us to be terrible so that we could be like other podcasts and destroy these episodes, in the style of Sherrandy.
  • Which brings us to Sherrandy taking the slightest of issue with Joel & Tess not informing Ellie why she needs to be silent (so that The Clickers don't hear them). Rachael has kids, so she knows exactly why you need to go out of your way to explain things to them. Dave mentions something his friend, Chris (who hosts a YouTube Channel called On Tap), told him about film: show; don't tell.
  • On the note of The Clickers, when they find that mangled, fresh corpse in one of the first rooms of The Bostonian Museum, we wanted to pick apart why Joel & Tess were in denial about there being anything dangerous in the building. At first Dave thinks it might be because they aren't completely informed about the horrors and varieties of infected, but the ladies point out that, just like Tess complaining about having to climb 10 flights of stairs, maybe they are getting too old for this…stuff. Oh yeah, and Seth LoRusso pointed out to us that The Bostonian Museum isn't real.
  • On the note of getting too old, Sherrandy points out a terrific visual element: as the story brings us back to the present (after the title sequence), the scene opens with Ellie sleeping in the fetal position, inside a structure whose floors are lush with plant growth. Ellie is born into this world anew. This also reminds her of Nick Clark's final episode on FearTWD.

  • Whether the infected are dead or alive, the fungus continues attempting to infect living hosts. Rachael expresses how disgusting it was to watch Tess make out with the infected at the end. Couldn't she have done anything else? Sherrandy and Dave take a moment to explain: she was either already succumbing to the side effects, being collectively controlled by the fungus, or most-likely didn't want to risk being attacked like the fresh corpse was near the museum entrance by making any sudden movements. Dave takes a moment to re-read the Time to Full Infection chart we posted in the last blog (on the wall of Fedra's border crossing).

  • The mycelial strands in the mouths look like living hair, which was the most disgusting scene during our watch party of The Old Ways. We take a moment to try and explain why anything coming in or going out of "what appears to be a mouth" is so gross.
  • Neil Druckmann, co-president of Naughty Dog Entertainment (co-creator of The Last of Us video game) and writer and director of the TV series explains in another CNet article that anything that would've prevented an infected person from infecting another host would've resulted in violent retaliation. This validates what Dave says earlier that Tess doing anything else in her final moments would've resulted in a wasted sacrifice to save Ellie and Joel from the infected horde.
  • After receiving even higher initial ratings for this episode than the series premiere, HBO is probably kicking themselves for turning down The Walking Dead, more than a decade ago.
  • Any dumb thing Ellie does tweaks our TWD brain: when she starded waiting in the Hotel Foyer's waist-level waters, Bridget was foolishly nervous that there'd be a zombie waiting to get her. Bridget finally reads the CNet article we mentioned earlier in this blog about whether this type of outbreak would be possible.
  • Hanako Ricks of Fandom Hybrid mentioned in their breakdown of the 1st episode that Joel being on the Atkins Diet spared them from the infection (by taking out gluten/wheat and grains from their caloric intake). No cookies, no birthday cake, and no birthday pancakes.
  • Ibu means mother and is a distinguished/honorific title for the esteemed Mycologist, Doctor Ratna Pertiwi: The Motherland's Mother of Pearl, the thing which she cannot symbolize in light of this frightening pandemic. The exposed corpse of the infected woman on the slab she examines illustrates how vulnerable we are.
  • The entire concept for the video game came from this David Attenborough's BBC Series Planet Earth special:
  • Speaking of Cordyceps, they are used in Chinese remedies. This makes us think, if this outbreak were to come to fruition, it would probably start there. Again.

  • Sherrandy takes a moment to compare the behavior of Clickers - from both the clucking-ish sounds they make to their jerky movements - to chickens. Rachael says their faces look like multiple waddles. Dave relays that their faces are often referred to split open-raw chicken breasts.
  • Sherrandy remarks how when The Clickers are shot in the head, you can see the bits of their chicken meat faces fly off and how that reminded her of Stephen King's episode of Creepshow: how when he tried to shoot himself in the head, chunks of dirt flew off.
  • Because a headshot isn't one and done and the fungus will manage to live off even a dead host, burning would be the most effective method of disposal. At least taking down an infected host prevents the fungus from chasing after you.
  • If nature is making residence where civilizations once dwelled, The Cordyceps are making residence in or alongside nature itself. If not for the need to feed off humans, they would be the apex predator. It also seems that humans - fleeing for survival and getting caught by the Cordyceps - may have caused them to spread, after the worldwide bombing campaign attempted to suppress the outbreak.

  • Sherrandy liked that their confrontation with The Clickers was in a history museum, illustrating how - in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs - (our attempts at preserving) history is effectively meaningless and falls to the wayside (until it isn't? In the event a remedy or cure is documented somewhere in our archives). This brought up a funny about how desperate Victor Strand (from Fear The Walking Dead) was in trying to preserve his own artifacts in the midst of a bombardment by Arno and his men.
  • SARS signs in the flashback/opening sequence remind us of both the era we were living under - two years after the 9/11 tragedy and the Afghanistan War - and the other name for our own pandemic: SARS-CoV-2. Joel was also a Desert Storm veteran.
  • Tis the season of Pedro Pascal: though he's best known by many as Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones, his string of successes have only continued to pick up speed with no sign of slowing down.

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Sunday, January 22, 2023

[The Last of SQUAWKS: E1] When You're Lost in the Darkness |SERIES PREMIERE of HBO's "The Last Of Us"

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BEYOND #TheWalkingDead UNIVERSE, we go #LIVE just after #HBO's #TLoU, featuring #PedroPascal & #BellaRamsey! We'll be giving our own initial takes, as well as your own. Some of us have played the #videogames from where the source material is derived, but most of us haven't, so there should be a decent mix of judging the show on its merits while at least gleaning some #EasterEggs into the original #videogame series.
Considering this is a #Livestreamed episode, there's no unedited episode recording available; however, consider at least following either our Patreon or Ko-fi accounts so you don't miss out on future recordings: recordings are FREE to attend, but schedules aren't posted on Social Media. If you'd like to support this episode, tip us at Ko-fi.com/SQUAWKINGDEAD or join a membership tier on either Ko-fi or Patreon for as little as $1!

David Cameo:
Sherrandy Swift:
Bridget Mason-Gray:

  • Check out Brian Castrillo's new Facebook Group dedicated to The Last of Us series on HBO
  • The first season will comprise of 9 episodes. Check out this tweet thread we posted a few days after we published this episode for some behind-the-scenes cross-promotion for the upcoming video game release on Steam
  • Bridget attempts to play the video game in order to be able to relay the game-to-screen easter eggs, parallels, and call-backs, but barely made it past what the television series premiere covered. She's also terrified of Zombie-based video games, as opposed to movies & television series. Her motto? Quitters always win.
  • Takeerah mentions that the TV Series plans to go beyond the video games.

  • Kirsten Acuna's impression of the entire first season of HBO's The Last of Us
  • …but you don't have to take her word for it: we're going to give you our own take in our usual, mostly positive, value-based spin, while welcoming your own insights, thoughts, and feelings.
  • Throughout our episode coverage, Bridget and the audience point out that - especially in the flashback to 2003 - most scenes and dialog were shot-for-shot from the video game.
  • The first scene in present day 2023, with the child roaming the post infected apocalypse, reminded us a lot of the Teddy Bear Girl walker from The Walking Dead pilot.

  • Bridget takes a moment to explain that the game starts off in 2013 and time-jumps to 2033, while the TV series starts in 2003 to time-jump to 2023 in order to align ourselves with what we went through the last few years throughout our own pandemic.
  • Sherrandy loved the 1968 talk show flashback scene with Dr. Neuman, who explained that the most devastating pandemic would be that of a parasitic fungal infection that could affect living humans. The actor who played him, John Hannah, was also in the movie Sliding Doors, which got her thinking throughout her watch whether things could've turned out differently had one thing changed.
  • Along with Sherrandy, there were quite a few people who knew nothing about the video game from which the series was sourced, which was a real treat. Unlike Dave (who is a soulless analyst), many folks jumped and screamed throughout their watch (especially in the 2003 scenes).
  • On the note of the talk show scene from 1968, the filmcraft of Dr. Neuman explaining how the fungus parasitizes its host while the camera cuts to many points of view from the transfixed audience, who's attention is also hijacked by the show's guest, was super brilliant. There was also a conscious effort to include watches and clocks throughout this episode, but to what end? What did you make of that?
  • In 2023, Fedra is clearly in charge, while The Fireflies rebel against their strict, authoritarian measures. Will the show find a way to set the audience on their haunches for siding with the freedom-fighters? We take a moment to compare this scenario to TWD's The Commonwealth, though that debate was a lot more difficult.
  • Interestingly enough, the TV series will not use spores as the transmission mechanism for the Cordyceps infection. Check out this article from Comicbook.com on why that was (TL;DR: masks covering actors' faces). Thus keeping the series a lot closer to what TWD fans are used to, making the infection mechanism a lot more visually terrifying, especially the scenes with the old woman, next door.

  • This brings us to the first reveal of what a longer-term, albeit dead, infected person would look like on the show and what else, outside the mouth tendrils, might be a means for transmission.
  • Krystal Jordan, like many of us, was heartbroken about Sarah Miller's death and wishes she could've survived; however, had she survived, it would've removed the driving force for Joel Miller to protect Ellie Williams as fiercely as he does - which we get to see a little bit of by the end of the pilot.
  • Felicia Wray makes a great comparison, as it pertains to the post-apocalyptic ruin and system, to Children of Men.
  • Lois Martin asks a great question, which Takeerah swiftly answers: how did the old woman even become infected? She was constantly being driven to the city for treatment and the infection seemed to have broken out from heavily populated areas. This also gives Bridget the opportunity to discuss the poster on the wall at the Fedra border describing the stages of infection and the timeframes within each stage. Ellie is clearly infected, but it's either really slow or she is immune.
  • This episode is a massive Fringe (with Anna Torv playing Theresa "Tess" Servopoulos) & Game of Thrones (Pedro Pascal as Joel & Bella Ramsey as Ellie) reunion. Oh and Big Head from Silicon Valley as the host of the 1968 talk show (Joshua Max Brener).
  • We take a moment to talk about Anna Torv's Tess - how awesome a badass she is - and how (Fringe co-star) Joshua Jackson's eternal side-quest is to make Dave's life a living hell.
  • The song that plays at the end of this episode is Depeche Mode's Never Let Me Down Again, which means there's trouble (being an 80s song). Dave waxes on his lack of 80s music, growing up.
  • Dave also remarks on how, after binging a bunch of anime (like Tokyo Ghoul), though there's no lack of action, the show still finds time to slow the pace enough for it to continue to convey emotions and tell story. Bridget chimes in that this is a lot like the video game. Not a lot happens in terms of plot this episode, which would normally generate complaints, but it's so rich with backstory and establishing our characters' motivations that most people didn't even notice.

  • So why doesn't the show just come out and say what we're all assuming: does Ellie have the cure?
  • Speaking of (poorly and purposefully?) burying the lede, another place where the show differs from the game is giving the audience a little more of a romantic relationship between Tess & Joel. The series does find a way of expanding on the story in some places, too, by showing us scenes that weren't present in the video games, such as the conflict between them and Robert and making their smuggling more about drugs and a car battery, rather than guns.
  • The only absolute similarity between the video games is that Marlene (leader of The Fireflies) is played by the same actor in the video game series: Merle Dandridge. Where the show differs a little is giving Marlene a personal connection to Ellie, having rescued and delivered her to the Fedra academy when her parents died.
  • Lois compares the folks hanging in Fedra's square to The Hunger Games, which quickly establishes the hardship under their purview.
  • Further evidence that they may subvert our expectations of Ellie having the cure: the look-ahead teasers for the season show her scratching/rubbing the area of infection. Do you find that as frustrating?
  • Bridget takes a moment to explain smaller moments where the show differs from or is shot-for-shot in the game.
    • Game: Millers don't know or are never seen with the elderly neighbors; Series: Joel putting down the old lady with the wrench, dropping it, and hugging Ellie was exactly like in the game.
    • Game: The getaway sequences and dialog, inside the truck, were exactly the same, save for...; Series: instead of being T-boned by a car, downtown, the falling airplanes cause them to crash.
    • Game: The manner in which Sarah is shot and dies is the same; Series: Bridget felt that the soldier in the video game was more reluctant to shoot The Millers.
    • Game: Escaping the city was almost shot-for-shot with the series; Series: There's no established relationship with the soldier Joel puts down in the game, whereas we see Joel deal him drugs earlier on in the episode.
  • Whether similar or different from the video games, it hasn't taken away from the series, thus far. This is something we're conscious of and is very similar to the effect the comic book had on viewers of The Walking Dead: many didn't take kindly to the way the tv series deviated/diverged. We support creatives taking poetic license and artistic liberties, especially if it enhances the story, but what do you think?

  • Dave explains how, while covering TWDU during the COVID-19 Pandemic, he felt he needed to establish stronger bonds with friends nearby in the event things got worse. After watching TLoU, the show made him feel bolder and more motivated to find farther flung friends. TLoU, thus far, hasn't given us the impression that things are so hopeless as to be impossible in the way TWDU has for more than a decade. Bridget's takeaway was that we need SQUAWKING Satellite phones and bug-out bags.
  • Do you think it's possible that Fedra's equipment at the border incorrectly detects everyone as infected to control their population? Do you think the show will find a way to shift our negative impression of Fedra into at least a grey area, much like TWD?
  • Do you think everyone on this show is a little shady, if not a little annoying? Yes, even Ellie. It's not a bad thing; everyone has their quirks.
  • Another interesting divergence from the video games is how Joel deals pharmaceuticals to get by in the future, which establishes an interesting parallel when Sarah tells him that she sells hardcore drugs to fix his (now permanently broken) watch.
  • Continuing the theme of determination and hope the show seems to impress upon us how - as much as Joel hates Fedra - along with his daytime corpse-disposal and drug-and-smuggling side-hustle (rather than giving up and staying in bed), he is absolutely driven to find a way to get to Tommy Miller, who has been missing for weeks after going out on a run. Even The Fireflies have abandoned their normal resistance hustle to smuggle Ellie, whom they assume has the cure. Everyone seems driven and tries to claw their way into something better, rather than feel beaten-down and hopeless.

  • What is Marlene's core motivation in having Joel & Tess smuggle Ellie out of town? Is it the trope of prohibiting her from being studied by Fedra, who might withhold the cure for some and not for all? Bridget mentions that Ellie would immediately test negative and be put down by Fedra before she had a chance to explain that the infection never overwhelmed her.
  • Though Joel exhibits some TWD traits (survival over everything), at first, it may become a lot more clear that his motivations are to protect (found) family over any cure Ellie may or may not have.
  • What made Sarah's death so heartbreaking for those who never played the video games (even if you absolutely know - from reading plot synopses - that she is supposed to die), is that it breaks the trope of someone - especially a child - surviving lethal injury. Sarah's reaction of flailing and repeatedly shouting in pain, just before her death, even makes it seem as though she might.
  • Dave's knowledge of Arabic helped to translate the subtitle-free scene between the Lone Star watch repairman & his wife. It's nothing particularly important, since all she says is, "Have you been listening? I was speaking with my sister on the phone and you can't even imagine what's happening." "Well finish-up and give [the watch] to her, already!"
  • Sherrandy, now in the audience (internet issues), makes a comparison between Ignacio "Nacho" Varga's death (in Better Call Saul) to Sarah's in that you can't believe it happened (even if you know, for sure, it's going to happen).
  • Dave hammers the point of how long The Walking Dead has beaten the hope right out of us, every time, where The Last of Us hasn't really done that yet, even though it has successfully painted a pretty bleak picture (especially by placing the present-day timeline alongside our own, having just emerged from a pandemic).
  • What makes HBO's adaptation even more realistic than placing it our own timeline is a more realistic way the story creates (what are effectively) zombies, rather than the distinct lack of origin TWD fails to provide - which isn't a bad thing: just like the lack of flashbacks, TWD purposefully shifted the focus away from origins (of the infection or people, in general) and emphasized, strongly, that who you are, now, is more important than who you were or what caused or eradicates the zombie outbreak.
  • One thing seems to be evident: even though this show makes us want to find one another, the need to tell each other to "just stay away" is still prevalent... ๐Ÿ˜…
  • Another post-apocalyptic story to watch is Station Eleven on HBO Max. Takeerah compares Joel to Shane Walsh, from The Walking Dead. Also, don't say the word "guns" on YouTube. And, for the love of all that is holy, there are so many cool shows to watch other than The Walking Dead (perhaps better?).

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