The world built in HBO’s “The Last of Us” is pretty complicated. The series, based on the video game of the same name, follows Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they navigate a post-apocalyptic landscape in the wake of a worldwide fungal infection.
In the first three episodes, viewers learn a little bit about what happened to the government of the US, but in the fourth episode, which premiered on Feb. 12, the show reveals more about the country’s current political reality — and what’s happened to the government. It all has to do with an organization called FEDRA (the Federal Disaster Response Agency). Its name reflects our real-life FEMA, but in their fungus-ravaged world, it plays a complicated role.
Read ahead for a full breakdown of PHAEDRA in “The Last of Us.”
What Is PHAEDRA in “The Last of Us?”
Pre-outbreak, FEDRA was an agency of the United States government. Once the outbreak happened, in the world of “The Last of Us”‘s video game, they essentially took over the government and allied with the military. Martial law then gave them absolute power over the country. They rounded up people into quarantine zones, QZs, in major cities, and as Joel tells Ellie in episode three, if there wasn’t enough room for the new arrivals, they killed them. FEDRA was also the main way information about the infection was spread around.
Phaedra and the military’s chokehold on power caused some factions to rise up to fight them. The most notable of these in “The Last of Us” are the Fireflies, who use any means necessary to spark resistance against their tyrannical rule. In Boston, where Joel and Tess (Anna Torv) meet Ellie and agree to take her west, FEDRA and the military still run the QZ. Phaedra also runs military schools, and Ellie previously attended one before she was bitten.
What Is Happening With FEDRA in Kansas City?
In episode four, Joel and Ellie make it to Kansas City (which replaces Pittsburgh in the video game). There, Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey) — a character that does not appear in the video game — leads a revolutionary group that’s taken the city back from FEDRA. We then see Kathleen interrogate a doctor—who used to work for FEDRA—in a former FEDRA facility and cell. Intent on finding Henry (Lamar Johnson), she tells the doctor that her brother de ella was beaten to death in one of the FEDRA cells and accuses him of ratting on his neighbors to FEDRA. Kathleen says that Henry gave them the info on her brother about her and that she needs to find him.
Later in the episode, Kathleen kills the doctor and sends her revolutionaries throughout the city to look for Henry. She also orders them to kill all collaborators. Of course, her team doesn’t know that Joel and Ellie are there, too.
In the video game, Boston is a rare city that’s still under FEDRA control, and most of the other QZs have been overthrown, the way Kansas City is in the show. It’s not clear yet in the world of the show if FEDRA is still widespread or if they also have very limited control.