The Last of Us Theory: we’ll see infected spores in season 2

The Last of Us
The Last of Us /

Season 1 of The Last of Us concluded this past weekend with “Look For The Light,” a short, brutal episode that forever changed things between Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Now we begin our long wait for season 2.

We know that the show’s second season will cover some of the events from The Last of Us Part II video game, but not the entire thing. Beyond that, we only have a handful of other clues about what could be in store.

One such clue deals with how the cordyceps infections spreads. In The Last of Us video games by Naughty Dog, the cordyceps plague is spread in one of two ways: getting bitten by an infected person, or breathing in airborne “spores.” The television show did away with spores in favor of creepy tendrils, partially out of concerns over how realistic it is for airborne spores to localize in one particular area without drifting off into the world at large. Surely, the prospect of covering up Pedro Pascal’s million-dollar face with a gas mask had nothing to do with it.

The Last of Us
The Last of Us /

Why The Last of Us show ditched spores in season 1

“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,” showrunner Craig Mazin told Entertainment Weekly. “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.'”

"I don’t necessarily think we’ve eliminated spores from the universe of our show. We just haven’t gotten there yet. It’s possible that they may come back. We may have a plan, is my point."

Co-showrunner Neil Druckmann, who also directed The Last of Us games, agreed. “The way they were in the game didn’t live up to how realistic the show has become,” he said. “So we’ve had some conversations recently. 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.”

Mazin’s final stinger: “If you want spores, watch the show.”

This interview was given before the series aired. Since then, The Last of Us has gone on to become an enormous success for HBO, so people did indeed show up for it. So if we take Mazin and Druckmann at their word, there’s good reason to think we’ll see spores in future seasons of the show. But how and where exactly might they show up?

Here’s our best guess. MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for The Last of Us Part II.

The Seattle hospital is the perfect place for The Last of Us to include spores

Taking everything that Mazin and Druckmann said about spores into consideration, there’s one setting in The Last of Us Part II that would be the perfect place to introduce these airborne particles. The majority of The Last of Us Part II takes place over the course of three traumatic days in the ruins of Seattle, as seen through the eyes of a few different characters. Ellie heads there on a quest for vengeance, hunting down the members of a group responsible for a particularly traumatic incident which we’ll probably see near the beginning of season 2 of the HBO show.

Eventually, Ellie’s hunt leads her to a hospital in Seattle, where she confronts a woman named Nora. The pair are eventually cornered by soldiers; rather than give Nora up, Ellie grabs the woman and leaps down into the lower levels of the hospital, which are filled with spores. Since she’s immune, Ellie can breathe them in without fear of infection. Nora, however, isn’t so lucky. Her grisly demise in one of the game’s darkest moments.

It’s a huge moment in The Last of Us Part II, and it’d be a shame not to see it play out the same way in the series. And this isn’t the only time spores feature at the hospital.

If any place should have spores in The Last of Us, it’s “ground zero”

Later on in the game, we see the hospital from the perspective of Abby, the game’s secondary lead. It’s here we discover that the freedom fighters called the Washington Liberation Front (WLF) have stabilized the upper floors of the hospital, but haven’t dared to go searching for supplies on the lower levels due to the high concentration of spores and infected. They dub these bottom floors “ground zero,” since that was where the first patients infected with cordyceps in Seattle were taken. The outbreak spread from there.

Forced to find vital supplies for a medical operation, Abby dons a gas mask and goes down into these hellish depths. There she encounters horrifying monsters that appear nowhere else in the series. It’s an extremely memorable part of the game we imagine will turn up on the show.

So we have two major moments from The Last of Us Part II that occur in the spore-infested depths of the hospital. The game already established that those lower levels are the only place in the building infected with spores, and the show would have options for explaining it. Perhaps spores are too dense to float to the higher levels, or are only produced in areas with an exceptionally high concentration of very old infected. Or perhaps the WLF managed to seal off those lower floors, trapping the tainted, spore-filled air in operating rooms designed to provide a sterile environment. There are plenty of ways the show could sell why there are spores at “ground zero” in the hospital without seeming unrealistic.

We’ll see how it all pans out when The Last of Us season 2 premieres, likely sometime in 2024 or 2025.

Next. The Last of Us: 8 biggest changes from the video game in season 1. dark

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