Infected don’t spread using spores anymore on HBO’s The Last of Us show

Image: HBO/YouTube
Image: HBO/YouTube /

In the 2013 video game The Last of Us from Naughty Dog, a zombie plague spreads around the world, spread through spores in the air. A mutant version of the Cordyceps fungus grows insides a person’s brain and makes it so they care about anything except spreading these spores to others.

HBO is adapting The Last of Us as a TV show of the same name. But they’ve changed the mythology a bit. Instead of spreading by releasing spores into the air, the zombies (or “infected” as they’re called in this universe) use little tendrils to spread the fungus from one person to another.

Basically, if you get bitten, you turn into a zombie, which makes the zombies on The Last of Us a lot more like the zombies in…well, every other zombie thing that’s come out for the last 50-plus years.

Instead of spores, the infected on HBO’s The Last of Us show spread with tendrils

Why did the producers do this? Neil Druckmann, who wrote the original game and is helping manage the TV show alongside Craig Mazin, gave a hint while talking to Collider:

"The game had spores in the air and people had to wear gas masks, and we decided, early on, that we didn’t wanna do that for the show. Eventually, those conversations led us to these tendrils. And then, just thinking about how there’s a passage that happens from one infected to another, and like fungus does, it could become a network that is interconnected. It became very scary to think that they’re all working against us in this unified way, which was a concept that I really liked, that got developed in the show."

He doesn’t say it, but the note about people having to wear gas masks makes me think that they changed this element of the story because they didn’t want to hide the faces of their actors under masks. If that’s the case, then they’re a bunch of cowards, because the idea of a zombie plague spreading through spores in the air is cool and unique, whereas the idea of a plague spreading via touch or bite has been done a million times before. It’s not like this is The Mandalorian where star Pedro Pascal would have to keep his helmet on practically the whole time; even if the characters did wear gas masks when venturing into the wild, there would still be plenty of opportunities to show their faces.

The tendrils are creepy and the show is good, but I wish they would have stuck with the spores. In any case, The Last of Us premieres on HBO and HBO Max this Sunday.

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