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What are FEDRA and the Fireflies? Your Guide to ‘The Last of Us’ Factions

Marlene (Merle Dandridge) and Kim (Natasha Mumba) are standing in a hallway, bleeding from gunshot wounds in a scene from 'The Last of Us.'
(HBO)

The Last of Us is great because it’s not just another zombie survival story. The new HBO Max series, like the game it’s based on, doesn’t flinch from the implications of a cordyceps pandemic that turns people into hosts for voracious mind-controlling fungi. How would society transform in the wake of a fungi apocalypse? How would the government respond? How would the inevitable civil unrest manifest? In The Last of Us, we see two answers to those questions: FEDRA and the Fireflies.

But what exactly are these two factions in The Last of Us? Here’s what you need to know.

What is FEDRA?

FEDRA, or the Federal Disaster Response Agency, is the government organization that rises to power after the initial wave of the cordyceps pandemic. We first meet FEDRA after the time jump in episode 1, when we catch up with Joel (Pedro Pascal), who’s now living in a Quarantine Zone, or QZ. In the 20 years since Cordyceps hit, FEDRA has created the infrastructure to keep its enclaves save, including scanners that detect infection and heavily policed borders.

It quickly becomes apparent, though, that FEDRA is an absolutely brutal regime, making life hell for everyone under its power. QZ residents are forced to rely on smugglers for basic goods. Trying to leave the QZ for any reason is punishable by death. Every structure in the city is falling down, since there doesn’t seem to be anyone in charge of turning the QZ into a livable community. When we see Joel, he’s throwing bodies on a fire while a public execution takes place nearby.

That’s not to say that FEDRA is just a cartoon villain, though. In the first act of episode 1, we see in chilling detail what happens when Cordyceps isn’t contained. And when we first see the QZ, it’s through the eyes of a child who’s wandered in from the outside. The kid is infected, but one FEDRA soldier offers them toys and their favorite food as they’re gently euthanized. It’s a bit of compassion that complicates FEDRA in a good way.

Who are the Fireflies?

Every military dictatorship needs a group of rebels to resist it, and that’s where the Fireflies come in. Led by the steely-eyed Marlene (Merle Dandridge), the Fireflies are a group of freedom fighters trying to overthrow FEDRA. “We are in a war against a military dictatorship to restore democracy and freedom,” Marlene says in episode 1.

However, the Fireflies don’t seem to be making much progress on that front. Mainly, their modus operandi is blowing things up, leading smuggling operations, and spray painting their logo and motto everywhere: “When you’re lost in the darkness, look for the light.” We learn right away that Joel and Tess aren’t fans of the Fireflies. Making matters worse is that Joel’s brother Tommy has a history with the Fireflies—and now Tommy is missing.

The Fireflies’ lack of momentum changes, though, when Marlene and the rest of the Boston Fireflies realize that Ellie (Bella Ramsey) is immune to Cordyceps. Suddenly, the Fireflies have a solid plan: they need to get Ellie out of the city and to a distant Firefly base camp where doctors can use Ellie’s immunity to create a vaccine. For the first time, the Fireflies have a real source of hope, and their motto isn’t just lip service.

However, when Joel, Tess, and Ellie finally make contact with the Fireflies in the Old State House, they find that the group has become infected and torn each other apart, leaving Joel to carry on the Fireflies’ mission.

Joel and Ellie might be out of the QZ’s borders, but we’ll likely see plenty more of FEDRA and the Fireflies as The Last of Us continues.

(featured image: HBO Max)

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Julia Glassman (she/her) lives in Los Angeles, where she reads tarot and watches Marvel movies. You can check out more of her writing at linktr.ee/juliaglassman, or find her on Twitter at @juliaglassman.