For most of the story so far, FEDRA has mostly gone faceless compared to the resistance groups that have fought against their control. We’ve been introduced to Marlene (Merle Dandridge) as a fierce and capable leader, and also seen the more unstable side of Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey).
Ironically, Captain Kwong is depicted as gentle and with good intentions. He calls Ellie to his office to give her a warning and a choice: if she fixes her act, perhaps she can one day end up as a Captain like him. That means having access to her own room and a bed, not going on patrol, and not being bossed around as a soldier by the “Bethanys” of the world until she winds up dead. Despite her attitude, Kwong genuinely wants the best for Ellie. Kwong says to her, “We’re the only thing holding this all together.”
From Ellie’s perspective as an orphaned teenager who has only ever seen life in the QZ, Kwong does make a certain amount of sense; under an oppressive power structure, it’s hard for anyone, let alone a child, to consider a better way of life for themselves as an option. Throughout the first act of this episode, Ellie drinks the figurative FEDRA Kool-Aid.
After four weeks of radio silence, Ellie’s best friend Riley (Storm Reid) sneaks into the dorms and decides to take Ellie on a late-night adventure. Riley reveals that she has run off to join the Fireflies — something Ellie seems to really oppose. “Like, in a way, FEDRA kinda holds everything together,” Ellie justifies to Riley, echoing Captain Kwong’s sentiments. In a subtle, poignant moment, “The Last of Us” depicts how fascism thrives: through the influence of growing minds like Ellie, and the passivity of men like Kwong.