The second episode of The Last of Us ended with a scene that was a surprise even for those who already know the game. Although the death of Tess (Anna Torv) was something that the game had already anticipated, the HBO series changed the way it happens and saw the smuggler having a strange and disgusting kiss with an infected. And those responsible for the adaptation explained the reason for this change and what they meant by it.
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According to showrunner Craig Mazin, the idea of such a “kiss” came up as a way to highlight the functioning of the cordyceps, showing how much it remains alive inside the body of the infected. So much so that the episode begins with a scene in 2003 with an autopsy removing the fungus filaments from inside the mouth of an infected woman in Indonesia. In this way, the chapter begins and ends practically the same way.
Heads up! This text contains spoilers for the second episode of The Last of Us!
And the scene with Tess is a way to explore concepts that games have never explored in depth. In an interview with Variety, Mazin reveals that the production team of The Last of Us began to wonder why the infected are always violent. After all, if the idea of the fungus is to proliferate, what is the need to do it in such a brutal way? That’s when they had the idea of doing this counterpoint.
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The showrunner responds to his own question by saying that the violence of the infected happens because the survivors resist the onslaughts of the fungus and, therefore, the series decided to subvert logic and show a moment when this resistance did not happen. With Tess already infected by cordyceps and willing to sacrifice herself to save Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), she didn’t bother to fight the monster, who transmitted the fungus in the most “natural” way possible.
And the result is something quite particular, not only because it opposes the violence with which the episode itself presents the clickers, but also because it is a somewhat disgusting scene. For Mazin, the idea was to show something that was disturbing, with the fungus filaments invading Tess’s body.
“It was a remarkable combination of Neil Druckmann’s direction, Anna Torv’s acting and our VFX department to make it all real and terrifying,” he says.
The Last of Us is available on HBO Max.