‘The Last of Us’: Who are the Fireflies and Phaedra?

‘The Last of Us’: Who are the Fireflies and Phaedra?

if you are looking The last of us, you would have heard the words “Fireflies” and “Phaedra” in the first episode. But who are they again?

The two groups appear in both the game Naughty Dog and the HBO adaptation of Chernobyl director Craig Mazin and The last of us creator Neil Druckmann. Now, it will be impossible for me to tell you everything about the fireflies and Phaedra, since we are only in one episode. If you’ve played the game, you’ll have much more insight into what goes on with these two groups. and the people in them as the story progresses. And beyond these two, there are many more muggers, smugglers, black market traders like Robert (Brendan Fletcher), militant groups and armed communities that Joel (Pedro Pascal), Tess (Anna Torv) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) find in his travels


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But this is what I may tell viewers of the HBO series so far about the fireflies and Phaedra.

Who are the fireflies in The last of us?

Two women in military tank tops stand considering a map on a table in a dilapidated apartment.

Natasha Mumba and Merle Dandridge play the fireflies Kim and Marlene.
Credit: Shane Harvey/HBO

The Fireflies are a group of highly-skilled revolutionary militias who rebel against the US government’s FEDRA military arm in Quarantine Zones (QZs) across the country. Using repurposed (read: seized or smuggled) FEDRA equipment and weapons, their goal is to free the QZ from FEDRA forces and overthrow the military dictatorship, but the authorities brand them terrorists. The Fireflies’ signature logo is an abstract design of a firefly, which the rebels spray all over the walls of QZ along with written graffiti that reads, “When you’re lost in the dark, seek the light.” It’s Firefly’s motto, one Joel instantly recognizes when approached by a recruiter in the market.

When we meet the Fireflies in the HBO series, we meet Firefly leader Marlene in her Boston QZ hideout, issuing orders for Firefly teams to be placed all over the city. Perfectly played by Merle Dandridge, reprising her role from the game, Tess refers to Marlene as “Boston’s Che Guevara.” Having strategically blown up Phaedra targets for two weeks and despite the misgivings of her second-in-command, Kim (Natasha Mumba), the plan is for all of Boston’s Fireflies to leave the city.

A woman peeks through a secret door with a torch in a corridor of bodies.

Tess (Anna Torv) didn’t expect to find the fireflies here.
Credit: Shane Harvey/HBO

“We are in a war against a military dictatorship to restore democracy and freedom,” says Marlene. “Fight for 20 years and you get nowhere, you’re not a rebellion. Just spray paint.”

One of these explosions is the car bomb that interrupts Tess’s conversation with black market dealer Robert: “Liberate Boston now, you sons of bitches!” calls in a nearby Firefly sniper who engages the PHAEDRA Incident Security Force from the rooftops. When these authorities arrest Tess, she yells, “I’m not a firefly!” and he is sent to jail.

A teenager sits on the floor, chained by the ankle, in a dilapidated apartment.

We first meet Ellie (Bella Ramsey) held captive in the Fireflies’ Boston QZ hideout.
Credit: Shane Harvey/HBO

Marlene’s biggest firefly plan is to leave Boston and take Ellie west with a group of fireflies supposedly waiting at the old State House in another QZ in Massachusetts. Marlene has known Ellie since her youth: Ellie was training at the Phaedra military school, as Marlene explains, she enrolled Ellie there to keep her safe, but Ellie ran away from her and was bitten by an infected. Marlene stopped them from killing her.

When they try to find and pulverize Robert for ruining them, Joel and Tess follow the trail to the fireflies’ hideout, where Ellie has been held captive and monitored for signs of infection. Joel’s brother Tommy has had a history with fireflies, which means Joel isn’t exactly in love with Marlene. But when Marlene is shot in her bad dealings with Robert, Joel and Tess set off on the journey with Ellie.

Who is PHAEDRA in The Last of Us?

A man raises his hands in surrender before a soldier who points his gun at him.

Joel (Pedro Pascal) is seen by a PHAEDRA officer outside the Boston QZ.
Credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO

The Federal Disaster Response Agency (FEDRA) is the leading authority in the US following the Cordyceps outbreak, a military arm of the government that essentially replaced it.

You will see PHAEDRA warning signs scattered throughout the buildings in The last of us, such as quarantine zone markers, rules and regulations to manage the fungal pandemic. “Safety starts with you,” reads a PHAEDRA poster listing the signs of Cordyceps infection. “Report Cordyceps to authorities immediately,” read another diagram detailing how long it takes for full infection. FEDRA also runs factories to make ammunition and pharmaceuticals, as the FEDRA officer tells Joel in episode 1 of a factory in Atlanta QZ that supposedly only makes both.

FEDRA acts like the law in the QZ, with surveillance marking the streets and the perimeter in person or through security cameras. They enact a 6am-6pm QZ curfew “to fight infection and insurrection”, as can be seen specified on a sign Tess walks past in episode 1. PHAEDRA also has an Incident Security Force, which works to “secure areas”. Inside the QZs: This team confronts a firefly on the rooftop and wrongfully arrests Tess after the car bomb goes off.

Wearing navy armor and helmets with ballistic shields, PHAEDRA officers patrol the entrances to the QZs, making sure no one gets in or out. If people arrive at the QZ gates, they are taken to a processing station, where they are checked for infection. When we first met FEDRA in The last of us, an officer is questioning a boy who collapsed outside the QZ. They are scanned with the FEDRA biodevice and, when found to be infected, are injected.

A boy sitting in a wheelchair next to a military officer in a dilapidated building.

Red is bad.
Credit: Shane Harvey/HBO

However, the infected are not the only ones executed by FEDRA. Joel witnesses a public hanging in Boston’s QZ of people accused of violating FEDRA. In these cases, unauthorized entry either leave in a quarantine zone. Each person was “tried in a court of military justice” and found guilty off-screen, but we don’t know how fair these trials were.

FEDRA has a list of jobs available for people in QZ to sign up for, including street sweeping and sewer maintenance, of varying pay levels. In fact, Phaedra hires people to burn infected (and probably uninfected there too) bodies to prevent further spread, so they can earn ration cards – Joel Miller is one of these people.

Essentially, FEDRA is the military authority in America in The last of us and the main focus of the Firefly Rebellion. And there will be more for each faction as the series progresses.

The Last of Us is now streaming on hbo max(opens in a new tab) with new episodes airing weekly on Sunday nights on HBO.

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