Spoilers forward for episode 2 of The Final of Us.
She was by no means meant to outlive; that a lot we already knew. Within the 2013 PlayStation sport upon which the HBO sequence The Last of Us is predicated, the smuggler Tess Servopoulos has solely a relatively transient period of time to spend with 14-year-old Ellie Williams. As an alternative, it’s her work (and romantic) accomplice, Joel, who will get the majority of the bonding alternatives with Ellie, whom he shuttles throughout the nation in scorching pursuit of the Fireflies, a insurgent group intent on crafting a vaccine from Ellie’s fungus-immune blood. Tess dies early within the story: Earlier than she has the prospect to ship Ellie safely, one of many monstrous infected rips off a piece of her shoulder, dooming her to a gradual demise because the cordyceps fungus steers management of her mind.
Within the sport, Tess refuses to “flip,” as an alternative sacrificing herself to the incoming FEDRA troopers so Joel and Ellie could make their escape with out detection. However within the HBO adaptation, Tess—in a pitch-perfect portrayal by Anna Torv—dies whereas combating off contaminated, not people.
The scene is purposefully intimate. Tess, Joel (Pedro Pascal), and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) have arrived on the capitol constructing, a rendezvous level the place the Fireflies are supposed to decide up Ellie. As soon as there, they uncover solely fungus-ravaged corpses, prompting Tess to spiral as she hunts for one thing, something, which may clue them into the Fireflies’ location. Joel urges they as an alternative return residence to the Boston quarantine zone, and he or she snaps, “That’s not my fucking residence!”
Her response clues him into the reality: Tess is contaminated, and now Ellie represents rather more than worthwhile cargo. Tess isn’t going residence once more.
Her plan B is the very best she will supply. She calls for Joel get to Invoice and Frank, two of their smuggling connections who supposedly can get in contact with the Fireflies. Joel could be very a lot not on board with this concept, however earlier than he can argue an contaminated awakens beside them, and Joel’s trigger-happy instincts get the very best of him. When he shoots the monster within the head, its fungal hivemind awakens different zombies within the space—most of them seemingly runners and stalkers—and Tess bursts into motion: She instantly begins spilling gasoline drums and hand grenades onto the ground. “Save who it can save you,” she pleads with Joel, and as he drags Ellie out of the constructing she turns to face the approaching horde.
Right here’s the place the present takes a decidedly sudden strategy. When the contaminated burst by the capitol door, most appear unaware of her presence as she backs away, making an attempt—in useless—to ignite the lighter in her shaking hand. However one lastly notices her ragged breaths, and it approaches her slowly, virtually curiously, as if confounded by the truth that she’s not making an attempt to run away. Because it staggers nearer, Tess tries the lighter many times, just for the stalker to get inside inches of her face. As soon as there, it doesn’t chunk; in a grotesque change of tempo, it kisses her, permitting the fungus tendrils in its personal mouth to unfold into hers. Solely with this horror realized does the lighter lastly burst into flame, and the capitol blows to excessive heaven as Joel and Ellie make their escape.
Why, then, was this refined however sudden change important to the variation? For one factor, it supplied important context for the way cordyceps operates on the planet of The Final of Us. It’s not essentially violent by nature; it’s violative. In an interview with Variety printed shortly after the second episode aired, director Craig Mazin put it this fashion: “I believe it’s very primal in the best way it invades your personal physique. To make use of an overused phrase, it’s triggering.”
Neil Druckmann, co-creator of the present and one of many sport’s unique builders, added additional context for the choice. “We had an extended dialog about what’s extra thematically acceptable for this episode, which is known as ‘Contaminated’ and is about the specter of the surface,” he advised Variety. “We’ve left the quarantine zone, and that led to this different model the place she’s giving a gap to flee to Joel and Ellie by blowing up a bunch of contaminated. As a result of we’re merciless to the characters we love a lot, it felt like she is aware of she’s completed for, after which the lighter doesn’t work, and we take her all the best way to the sting of horror earlier than we lastly give her an out.”
Followers instantly jumped on the scene after it aired on January 22. Some criticized the kiss of demise, calling it “unnecessary,” “nasty,” “kinda weird” and saying they “just couldn’t buy into it” and that it “really threw me off though and it ruined the ending.” Nonetheless others known as it “well thought out and terrifying” and “perfect, but horrifying.” Many of those followers are additionally followers of the sport, that means they knew Tess would die however had been shocked by how precisely the demise performed out.
Within the Variety interview, Mazin sheds a bit of gentle as to why it was however important for Tess’s demise to really feel significantly traumatic: It’s one among a number of turning factors for Ellie as a personality. Tess is Ellie’s first reference to the surface world, somebody Ellie thought would take her to the top of the road. Ellie—already affected by survivor’s guilt—then has to desert her to the creatures from whom she, alone, is immune.
“When it got here to Ellie, Tess was the one she appeared as much as,” Mazin defined. “Tess was the one she related to. Joel was not any individual she had an instinctive reference to … Watch who she talks to, who she’s standing subsequent to, who she walks beside, and a part of that was to suggest this alternate storyline the place it’s not Tess who meets her demise, it’s Joel. After which the present is about Tess and Ellie. That’s possibly the story that Ellie is imagining in her thoughts, which makes what occurs all of the extra tragic and irritating. Joel doesn’t need her, and he or she doesn’t need him. What they don’t know and what we all know is they’re two magnets that had been destined to click on collectively and type this inseparable and, at occasions, harmful bond.”
Though Ellie doesn’t see the contaminated kiss, it’s actually one thing she will think about. Having the suddenness of that demise, the violation of that demise, weighing on her? It’s one thing that may affect Ellie’s decisions properly into the remainder of the sequence.
Lauren Puckett-Pope is an affiliate editor at ELLE, the place she covers movie, TV, books and trend.