The Last of Us producers explain that disgusting zombie kiss

The Last of Us Episode 2
The Last of Us Episode 2 /

Beware SPOILERS for the latest episode of The Last of Us below!

We’re now two episodes into HBO’s The Last of Us, based on Naughty Dog’s video game series, and it’s not letting up. In the first episode, we watch Joel (Pedro Pascal) lose his daughter Sarah (Nico Parker) in the first 40 minutes. In Episode 2, he loses his partner Tess (Anna Torv).

Not only that, but he loses her in the most disgusting way possible: at the end of the episode, an infected Tess knows she’s doomed, so she hangs back to fight off a horde of zombies and give Joel and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) enough time to get away. One of the infected calmly walks up to her and basically makes out with her, shoving his disgusting fungal tendrils into her mouth and turning her completely. Happily, she manages to light her lighter, drop it into a pool of gas, and blow up the whole building.

The scene is almost…tender? In a really gross way? The zombie didn’t run up and start slashing at Tess, in any case. “These things don’t have to get violent unless you’re fighting them from spreading [the infection] further,” The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann told Entertainment Weekly. “That is realized in this beautiful, yet horrific way with Anna.”

The Last of Us producers are cowards for cutting the spores from the games

Tess’ death is a bit different in the games, but the big difference that many fans have zeroed in on is how the infected spread the zombie disease in the first place. In the show, they use these tendrils, which unite them into a kind of hive mind. In the games, they spread spores into the air, which means you can become infected just by breathing.

“Part of the issue with the spores is that you run into them quite a bit in the game, although not as much as people think, and if there were that many spores and they were airborne, that infection’s gonna go even faster,” said showrunner Craig Mazin. “It’s hard to imagine how anyone escapes it, and people would probably be wearing masks all the time. In the game, the second you leave a spore space, you’re like, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa! Get a mile away.'”

Mazin said something similar in an earlier interview: “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.” They don’t come out and say it directly, but my impression is that the main reason they ditched the spores in favor of tendrils is because they didn’t want their characters wearing masks all the time.

This could just be me, but I find that…incredibly lame? A zombie plague that spreads through spores in the air you can breath in is unique. The tendrils on the show are creepy, but it still essentially boils down to “if a zombie bites you, you turn,” which we’ve seen a million times before. I understand that you don’t want to hide your actors’ faces behind masks, but if The Mandalorian (another show that stars Pedro Pascal, by the way) taught us anything, it’s that you can still have a rich character arc even if you cover up your lead character’s face the entire time. And anyway, in The Last of Us you would only needs masks part of the time. Lame. Lame, I say!

Don’t pee on my back and tell me it’s raining tell me fungus tendrils are more realistic than spores

Anyway, here’s Druckmann trying to convince himself that the tendrils are a great replacement for spores and very unique and cool:

"Craig smartly said, ‘What can we do to separate our infected even further from zombies?’ It’s more than just a bite. There’s something else going on. I wish we had that aha moment immediately, but we brainstormed so many different things that they could be doing. Some of them were pretty outlandish."

Druckmann also says that the spores “didn’t live up to how realistic the show has become.” Now, we’re dealing with zombies here, so “realism” is tenuous at best, but it’s pretty funny that he’s acting as though fungal tendrils that move like a sea anemone are more “realistic” than spores in the air.

The Last of Us may introduce spores later

That said, Druckmann is hoping that they’ll get a chance to bring in the spores later in the series. “I was like, ‘Is there a way to pull it off?’ If enough people show up on day 1, we might get to show the spores,” he said.

Mazin — who I remind you made Chernobyl, a show that was perfectly comfortable showing the invisible danger posed by radiation — is also on board with doing something like that…eventually. “I don’t necessarily think we’ve eliminated spores from the universe of our show,” he said. “We just haven’t gotten there yet. It’s possible that they may come back. We may have a plan, is my point.”

"If you want spores, watch the show."

Will do.

Next. The Last of Us Episode 2 review: Tess takes drastic action to save Ellie. dark

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