*WARNING: Spoilers ahead for The Last Of Us*
We may only be two episodes into HBO’s The Last Of Us but the series is shaping up to be one of the best new arrivals this year as it captivates new fans with its story while also keeping fans of the original game on their toes with a few tweaks and changes.
The second episode features a perfect example of this in the form of Tess’s tragic death which comes after she gets infected with the Cordyceps fungus.
While Tess’s demise in the game is fairly straightforward, The Last Of Us series uses the scene to elevate the horror as an Infected man appears to kiss her, allowing the tendrils protruding from his mouth to squirm their way down Tess’s throat.
The skin-crawling scene has naturally left many fans with questions but why did the Infected kiss Tess in The Last Of Us in what is quite a substantial change from the game?
Tess’s demise in The Last Of Us
Video game fans will already be familiar with the way in which Tess gets infected in The Last Of Us as she gets bitten while she is separated from Joel and Ellie as they make their way through downtown Boston.
That part of Tess’s fate remains in place in the series thanks to a terrifying encounter with a pair of clickers in the Bostonian Museum.
However, rather than immediately revealing her fate, Tess helps to lead Joel and Ellie to the Massachusetts State House with a newfound sense of urgency, knowing that she doesn’t have long left to get Ellie to the Fireflies.
After the trio arrives at the Capitol Building to find that the Fireflies are all dead after one of them got infected and a fight broke out, Ellie quickly realizes that Tess has been infected and she shows off a nasty bite mark in her neck, confirming that Ellie’s immunity is real as she’s already starting to feel the effects of the Cordyceps while the young girl remains fine.
While they deal with this new piece of information, Joel inadvertently alerts the hoard of Infected out in the street and in order to buy him and Ellie time to escape, Tess stays behind and prepares to blow up the pursuing Infected by emptying two barrels of gas and a crate of grenades onto the floor.
As the swarm of Infected spills into the building, Tess stands motionless, trying desperately to get her lighter to ignite.
Most of the zombie-like creatures rush past her but one stops and slowly stumbles towards her, before finally reaching her and gently pressing his tendril-filled mouth against hers.
At long last, Tess’s lighter finally lights and she is able to blow up the chasing Infected, sacrificing herself in the process.
Why did the Infected kiss Tess in The Last Of Us?
The Infected kissed Tess as a way of speeding up the process of Infection but also to show what happens if a person doesn’t fight against becoming infected.
When we see a person at risk of being infected, they will almost certainly fight back which in turn, causes the Infected creatures to become aggressive in their efforts to continue the spread of the Cordyceps fungus.
Speaking on the official podcast for The Last Of Us, series co-creator Neil Druckmann explained the thought process behind the scene: “What if you shot it like two people kissing? Just think about it that way because there’s already so much horror in what’s happening. These tendrils are coming out of this Infected’s mouth, it’s going down her throat. It’s just horrible to think about.
“So then, instead of shooting in a creepy way, let’s shoot it in the most beautiful way, backlit, silhouetted, profile view and we slowly just come in and in and in as if it was an intimate kiss of two lovers and it made it way creepier.”
Fellow co-creator Craig Mazin then went on to expand further, saying: ”I love the way we did that because it’s underscoring again the theme of love and the way love functions because the fungus loves too. It makes more of itself. That’s what we do when we love each other, a lot of us make more of ourselves, that’s how the species is propagated.
“There’s this sense [from the Infected] that, you know, what we are may look disgusted and the way we reproduce may be horrifying and violent but it is tender when this man comes to her, it’s not violent. Because she’s not fighting. If she ran, if she fought back, they would take her apart.
“But she’s just standing there and he very gently shares of himself and it is very Jungian, it’s very upsetting, anything penetrative is disgusting and scary when you’re dealing with monsters. There’s something so creepy and gross and primal about it. And yet also weirdly like Neil said, especially the way he shot it, beautiful.
“That’s so much more interesting than, like, FEDRA showed up and shot her, you know?”
Tess’s death is different in the game
In the original game, Tess’s death is a much more different affair as a group of FEDRA soldiers catch up to the trio after they make it to the Capitol Building.
In a similar fashion to the series, it’s revealed that Tess has been infected but rather than blowing up a building full of Infected, she instead stays behind to engage in a gunfight with the soldiers to buy Joel and Ellie some time to hide.
As the player experiences the events from Joel’s perspective, we hear gunfire being exchanged as we progress through the building before a view from an upstairs balcony shows that Tess was shot by the FEDRA soldiers but not before she took out two of them herself.
Asked about the change from the game, Craig Mazin explained the decision on The Last Of Us podcast: “Why would FEDRA even be out here, what are they doing? There’s nothing there for them to police really. The whole point of a QZ is ‘we have a big wall, bad guys out there, we’re in here.’”
“I get why they police the buffer zone, so that people can’t freely travel back and forth and bring the infection back into the QZ. It didn’t make much sense to me to have FEDRA all the way out there.”