The Federal Disaster Response Agency, also known as FEDRA, is inspired b the real-life Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which coordinates the response to a disaster on U.S. soil. In the world of “The Last of Us,” FEDRA coordinated the response to the Cordyceps brain infection, but it quickly organized a coup, took control of the government and the military, and declared martial law. As we learned in episode 3, FEDRA rounded up survivors across the country and relocated them to Quarantine Zones in the major cities, which they controlled like an authoritarian government.
FEDRA has been a kind of quiet and unseen villain throughout “The Last of Us” so far, with many of their horrors being mostly implied. There was Ellie complaining about poor education under FEDRA, or Bill joking about the government being all nazis. But then there’s Joel telling how FEDRA would outright execute healthy civilians if there was no room for them at a QZ, or Ellie saying that she learned to shoot a gun from FEDRA schools.
Episode 5 makes things worse. We learn from Henry and Kathleen that FEDRA used to just kill and rape people for decades in Kansas City. They had citizens inform on their neighbors and loved ones, leading to their executions. After 20 years of hell, no wonder a resistance rose up, with Kathleen leading a militia that took FEDRA down.
And yet, the episode also makes it clear that replacing one dictatorship with another is not good. Kathleen executes all collaborators, and even wants to kill 8-year-old Sam, because of the sins of his brother. This hits at a major theme from the games about abuse of power, and how all types of post-apocalyptic governments inevitably fall to violence and oppression.