It’s a truth universally acknowledged that a great zombie apocalypse show must be in want of a military dictatorship to serve as its main villain. (We’re pretty sure Jane Austen wrote that about HBO’s The Last of Us.)
In the first episode of the Neil Druckmann-penned video game adaptation, a fungal pandemic turns most of the world’s population into undead spore generators capable of decomposing human flesh, hijacking our brains, and spreading at a dizzying pace. In other words, zombies. The fungus turns people into zombies.
But, as terrifying and nauseating as that visual is, the Infected aren’t the only enemy the show’s main characters – Joel, Ellie, Marlene, Tess, etc. – are facing. In fact, when we pick up some 20 years after the initial outbreak in episode one’s “When You’re Lost In the Darkness,” these fungi avatars are low on the threat level watchlist. With most of the living residing in Quarantine Zones run by the firm and ominous hand of a shadowy government, it’s the United States military – or, what’s left of it – that might be the real big bad of this season.
Here’s what we know about FEDRA on HBO’s The Last of Us.
What Does FEDRA Stand For?
FEDRA stands for the Federal Disaster Response Agency and yes, the similarities that can be drawn between it and another, real-life government disaster organization are completely intentional. Though the agency is more of a background villain in the games – an excuse for rebel alliances to forge and cause problems for main characters – they feature a bit more heavily in the first episode of HBO’s show.
When Did FEDRA Form?
The timelines between the video game and the TV series are a bit skewed so it’s hard to tell when the FEDRA of HBO’s The Last Of Us formed. We do know that when the outbreak wreaked havoc in Texas in 2003, forcing Joel and company to flee their home, the Army was responsible for rounding up the Infected and disposing of them. In the show’s first episode, the military blocked off roads and cordoned zones and even killed innocent civilians in an effort to curb the fungi’s spread.
By 2023, when we check in with Joel at the Boston QZ after a 20-year time jump, FEDRA has established a stronghold, replacing elected officials with military leaders that run other quarantine sights and use violent force to ensure the uninfected stay in line.
What Does FEDRA Want?
When FEDRA formed soon after the outbreak, the agency likely wanted what we’d all want when faced with a parasitic fungus that could invade our brains and use our bodies like a beat-up Chevy – they wanted order, a safe space for the living, and a way to beat back the infected hordes. But, as they rose to power, their obsession with keeping it might have influenced some of their more questionable and downright barbaric practices.
Without spoiling too much, it’s clear from how FEDRA runs the Boston QZ that they’ve devolved into a full dictatorship with the military enforcing punishments that range from unlawful detention centers to public executions. While most citizens work for ration cards and try to scrape out some kind of existence, soldiers can be seen dealing on the Black Market and wielding their authority unchecked.
If FEDRA is looking for a cure for the Cordyceps Brain Infection, the Fireflies and citizens of the QZ aren’t aware of it. In all likelihood, considering FEDRA takes orphans like Ellie and trains them to be soldiers from a young age, the group is probably content to keep to the new status quo, ruling a defeated remainder of mankind rather than waging any real war against the virus.
The Last of Us airs Sundays on HBO at 9 p.m. ET.