The Last of Us series’ biggest change to the games is also its most disgusting to date

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Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first two episodes of The Last of Us, as well as the first game up to the moment.


After two episodes, HBO’s The Last of Us series has revealed its first significant change from games, and it has to do with how the cordyceps infection can spread. No more spores, presumably too vague and unthreatening on screen. Instead, we have tendrils, whose threat seems more terrifying and cinematic.

Although we are still in the early stages of the season, Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin, directors of The Last of Us, have stuck quite closely to the original start of the 2013 video game. The changes we see on screen have to do with minimize the number of shootings and expand the world outside of Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), either further exploring Sarah’s (Nico Parker) perspective on Outbreak Day or tracing the origins of the cordyceps infection to Indonesia.

But the series creators confirmed a major change with this week’s episode, namely that we will not see spores as an infectious threat important to Joel. Instead, Terrifying tendrils sprout from the Clickers, simulating the way fungi communicate with each other through a root-like network.

There is a practical reason for the change, and that is that the use of spores in the series would mean that big stars like Pedro Pascal would be forced to wear a gas mask every two scenes. Although this works in The Mandalorian thanks to his cool helmet, in The Last of Us a lot of tension would be lost.

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The tendrils are also much more threateningvisually speaking.

“It’s disturbing and violent. I think it’s very primitive in the way it invades your own body,” says showrunner Craig Mazin in an interview with Variety about the decision to change the spores to tendrils, especially in the final scene in the that Tess receives what can only be described as the world’s worst goodbye kiss.

One of the infected confronts Tess in what's probably the biggest change from the game so far.
One of the infected takes on Tess in what is probably the biggest game changer yet.

“Because we are cruel to the characters we love so much, it seemed that she [Tess] she knows she’s finished,” says The Last of Us game writer Neil Druckmann, who directed the episode. “And then the lighter doesn’t work, and we push her to the brink of horror before finally giving her a way out.”

The parasitic aspect of cordyceps infection it is unlike any other we have seen so far in the zombie genre. The most popular vector so far has been the bite, which allows creators to revel in the gore and violence of a zombie apocalypse. But the tendrils? The idea of ​​something that grows inside you and dominates you from within? That’s new, and as an image it’s vile and disgusting, but it certainly draws attention.

The image of the tendrils not new to The Last of Us. Druckmann cites concept art from the game’s production (which was included in the 2013 official art book) showing Clickers sprouting hideous roots from their bodies.

Strictly speaking, the spores in the original game weren’t really a gameplay factor. Although characters noted spores in certain areas and donned gas masks, there were no real mechanics attached to any of these things, such as needing to change the gas mask filter or possibly taking damage to the skin. own mask. Instead, the spore was more effective as an image. Drifting dust motes in the sunlight are an essential visual element of The Last of Us, and traversing the dark haze is one of the most tense and beautiful moments in the game.

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It’s hard to say what is scarier to find in real life. Although a web of contagious tendrils growing from the bodies and mouths of gruesome zombie-like creatures is certainly a terrifying sight, What about the possibility of running into something harder to see but just as deadly?

Spores, as an infectious organism, they are like a gas leak at home. By the time you realize it, it may already be too late. I don’t check my house for mold (maybe I should), but I’ve probably woken up at night to make sure the stove is off.

As a last resort, the spores vs. tendrils is a matter of preference. It’s clear that the team at HBO believes in the core story of The Last of Us (or as Mazin puts it, the greatest video game story ever told). The dynamic between Joel and Ellie is straight out of the games because it’s what has worked best for them. Since that base already exists, it carries over to television without a problem.

If we see any more changes from the original material in this adaptationit will probably be similar to the removal of spores, something that expands on the foundation established by The Last of Us video game, rather than altering its canon.