Episode two of The Last of Us aired this week and, while it continues to follow the game’s narrative, there are changes made that could have interesting implications.
Ed and Victoria discuss their thoughts on the episode, especially its dramatic ending.
Ed: So Victoria, episode two of The Last of Us has been released and it makes some major changes from the game. I wanted to ask you first about tendrils – what do you make of this new transmission method and the hivemind of the clickers?
Victoria: I have to say, I kind of like it! When I first heard the showrunners were getting rid of spores I was apprehensive, because spores are such a key part of how infection spreads in the games. I also like how claustrophobic they make playing these sections feel, so it was disappointing to hear they would not be in the show.
However, all that being said, I am not missing them as much as I thought I would now that I actually have seen the show. I think the network of tendrils that connects all the infected together is a really neat inclusion, and one that I think could have worked well in the games. Imagine having to watch your step as well as keeping your eyes and ears open! Eesh!
What do you think of it all?
Ed: I was also apprehensive, but I can understand the decision. We’re living through the experience as Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey so we need to see their faces! And I guess wind just doesn’t exist in the game.
The network also allows for some dramatic moments not in the game. I particularly enjoyed when the network was “awoken” in the final scene causing that surge of infected to rush the building. Every action has a terrifying reaction and adds an extra edge to each encounter when Joel and Ellie aren’t just facing one infected but potentially hordes of them.
I’m intrigued to see what will happen in future episodes. Do you think the tendrils will add any implications to Ellie and her infection?
V: Yes, the prospect of hordes is definitely a scary one!
Hmm, ok, I do have one concern about the tendrils and Ellie’s infection. So, these tendrils can essentially act as a messaging network for all infected, and it is implied that the infected can recognise fellow infected in the show, with Tess mentioning how they are “all connected”. This connection is clearly shown in the way they communicate.
But then, this is where I feel a little unclear about at what stage of infection an infected person becomes recognisable as being infected by another infected person (say that after a few drinks!).
In the show, when the infected horde is made aware of Joel and co. thanks to these tendrils, they seem to want to bypass Tess. I have seen several people commenting that she was not immediately noticed because she had been bitten, meaning she was in the early stages of infection and therefore not perceived as a ‘target’ for want of a better word.
However, doesn’t this mean Ellie, who is infected in the sense she has been bitten (twice now, per the show) and who showed up as being positive for cordyceps on FEDRA’s clever scanning machine, should also not be swarmed by infected… Am I overthinking this?
Ed: I think that’s a fair point and a consideration I hadn’t had with Tess in particular. I wondered why the infected seemingly ignored her and you could well have a strong reason there.
But let’s talk about Tess. What are your thoughts on her portrayal here in comparison to the game? And then we should get to that kiss…
V: Ah yes, that kiss…
Personally, I loved Anna Torv’s portrayal of Tess here. I have seen a lot of chatter saying HBO has done the character a disservice by making her appear more afraid of her death than in the game, but I think it fitted with the scene.
In the show, the building is being overwhelmed by a horde of infected rather than soldiers with guns. I believe there was an element of the unknown for Tess here, which speaks to the fear she showed. We know she can take a beating, as we saw in episode one with Robert’s men. Meanwhile, in the QZ she was around guns and the militaristic presence of FEDRA on a daily basis. While of course knowing she was going to die was surely not a pleasant thing in the game, it was territory she was more familiar with.
I also think the threat of the infected, especially in these numbers, is more of a concern for Joel and Ellie, something I am sure Tess was aware of. All of this I think lends itself to Tess’ fear in the show.
What did you think?
Ed: Game Tess is a strong-willed leader. I’d love to have played a game with her protecting Ellie instead of Joel. And when she sacrifices herself to save the other two, it feels like a particularly tragic moment in the early narrative.
Show Tess has more vulnerability, and I do appreciate that depth. I think Anna Torv does a brilliant job in the role.
But I did not like that kiss at all.
I will say that it really ramped up the horror of those tendrils. It’s a visceral moment and I can’t imagine anyone not squirming in their seats – it’s iconic imagery that will likely be memed and shared everywhere, with more than a shade of Alien body horror to it.
But for Tess, I felt it did her a disservice. I was reminded of her line in the game at this moment: “I will not turn into one of those things”. She’s defiant and would rather die than turn fully into an infected.
In the show, though, she’s missing that. Besides the explosion to follow, it’s a quiet kiss of death as Tess just succumbs to the inevitable. It’s a sad end that’s wrapped up in this weirdly tender, almost sexualised image of snogging a zombie that had me gagging. I was more grossed out than moved by Tess’s sacrifice.
V: Yes the kiss definitely added to the ‘ick’ factor with those tendrils coming out. One thing I will say about this moment though is that I liked the way Tess kept her eyes wide open and staring forward. While this kiss may appear tender, it is certainly not pleasant.
One thing I wondered with this tendrils-in-the-mouth moment, though, was if it would speed up the rate at which the infection spread through Tess’ body. The reason I ask this is because you can sense her body getting slower as the kiss goes on. She doesn’t try the lighter as often, and it is as if her ‘human’ consciousness is struggling but still fighting. What did you think?
Ed: That’s an interesting assessment for sure, linking Tess to the network we mentioned earlier. It could be that cordyceps is already controlling her slightly before and during the kiss. I just wanted Tess to put up more of a fight; it felt like that whole situation was created for the purpose of the kiss image, something I cannot get out of my head. I knew there was a reason I hate mushrooms!
V: What, you don’t think they seem like a fungi to hang out with?
Agreed, the kiss was very much put in there to get people talking, and let’s face it it worked. We just wrote an article on it! So, well played I guess…?
What do you think about the kiss? Let us know in the comments!