There are few emotions quite as palpable and forceful in humans like disgust, with the second episode of The Last of Us delivering some truly disconcerting imagery.
The second chapter gave probably the most compelling horror we’ll see in the series, with “Infection” showing our first proper look at Clickers in action, as well as the truly mesmerizing ASMR-like “click” they espouse. Dangerous, deadly, and disgusting, but it only got better from there in the very final moments.
Once Tess realizes she’s an absolute goner, she shares a weirdly touching moment as she is finally put face-to-face with a Clicker and they share possibly the most bizarre and less sensual kiss since David Cronenberg’s Crimes of the Future stomach-zip kiss. Creative duo Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin have broken down the scene, and their thinking behind how it happened.
Like some of the best writers out there, they added a huge amount to a scene with a really simple twist on expectation. Mazin tells Variety the scene is meant to show how the Clickers and the virus itself only attacks because humans resist. So when you don’t resist, they’re more humane and calm.
“We were doing early research on how fungus appears in reality, and we had a really good template for what it looked like in the game. We wanted to go further and say, “OK, what are the different forms and functions?” I found this image that an artist had created of somebody that had become subsumed by fungus and in their mouth there were mushrooms.
We were already talking about tendrils coming out and we were asking these philosophical questions, “Why are infected people violent? If the point is to spread the fungus, why do they need to be violent?” We landed on that they don’t. They’re violent because we resist, but what if you don’t? What does it look like if you just stand perfectly still and let them do this to you?”
Druckmann says the scene is meant to add more of a benevolent tone to a tragic death, and allow Tess more autonomy in her passing and therefore more meaning. Given how much bad luck every character faces, this death feels earned in a good way and one made more beautiful than the original game.
“Part of it was the deviation from the game, where Tess is killed by soldiers. We had a long conversation about what’s more thematically appropriate for this episode, which is called “Infected” and is about the threat of the outside. We’ve left the quarantine zone and that led to this other version where she’s giving an opening to escape to Joel and Ellie by blowing up a bunch of infected.
Because we’re cruel to the characters we love so much, it felt like she knows she’s done for, and then the lighter doesn’t work, and we take her all the way to the edge of horror before we finally give her an out.”
The Last of Us has made some interesting decisions on where to deviate from the source material, with episode two much more free-wheeling with its own ideas and extrapolations.
The third episode will see Nick Offerman’s Bill introduced, with The Last of Us streaming exclusively on HBO Max.