What We Know About The Infected: ‘The Last Of Us’ HBO Show vs. Game!

If the game has taught us anything, we can’t escape tragedy. Episode 2 of HBO’s The Last Of Us delves deeper into the terror of the infected and the stakes of Ellie’s survival.

A record-breaking 5.7 million people tuned in to episode 2 of HBO’s The Last Of Us on Sunday. Titled “Infected,” this episode taught us a lot about the cordyceps fungus, including its origins, how it spreads, and how it grows once it latches onto a human host.

Writers Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin decided to change some aspects of the game when it came to the infected, most notably doing away with spores in favor of tendrils as the way the fungus spreads. Let’s dig into the terrors those changes hold.

The Infection Began in Indonesia

The episode begins in Indonesia following Ibu Ratna, played by Christine Hakim, a professor of mycology (the study of fungi). She examines the body of one of the first victims of the cordyceps infection and learns that (1) the person who bit her is missing and (2) so are fourteen of her coworkers. Her only advice is to bomb the city, hoping it will stop the infection in its tracks.

@rynnstar #lastofus #bombthem ♬ original sound – mishfish17

Joel later tells Ellie that the US military did the same when it reached their country. It may have helped Boston set up a quarantine zone, but it didn’t stop the cordyceps from ravaging the globe and ending the world.

Tendrils Are More Than Skin-Deep

On their way to the state house, Ellie spots dozens of infected lying on the ground in a horde. Tess explains that the fungus doesn’t exist independently in each infected victim. It grows deep into the ground and can spread for miles, connecting groups of infected, so stepping on a patch of fungus in one place can trigger a stampede in another.

This idea isn’t far-fetched, considering the biggest single organism in the world is a fungus, and it comes to terrifying fruition once our protagonists reach their destination. The aforementioned horde comes running when they step next to an infected body of a Firefly meant to extract Ellie from Boston.

@15econdreviews Watch your step out there @hbomax #thelastofus #thelastofushbo #hbo #thewalkingdead #meme #joke ♬ original sound – 15econdreviews

Bites Aren’t The Only (Or Worst) Way To Become Infected

The most heartbreaking part of this week’s episode is losing Tess, and the way she dies is even more terrifying than the game. The group gets separated while passing through a museum, and the show gets to reveal what the fans were all waiting for: the Clickers.
The creators of the show truly honored the source material in their adaptation of Clickers on screen. Clickers are the third stage of infection in the video game; the cordyceps have grown from their brain over their eyes into hardened plates, making the host blind and reliant on echolocation.

Voiced by the same actors as the game and portrayed by fans, the physicality of these creatures is horrifying. The “Inside The Episode” segment credited Barrie Gower, a prosthetic make-up artist who has worked on Chernobyl, Game of Thrones, and No Time To Die, with bringing the design to life.

Once they reach the state house, Tess reveals she was bitten in the museum. She pours gasoline on the floor and tosses out a bag of grenades, insisting Joel and Ellie leave her behind so she can slow down the oncoming horde. Her final words to Joel resonate deeply: “Save who you can save.”

When Joel and Ellie reluctantly leave, Tess struggles to spark her lighter as the infection takes over her body. In the game, the group was chased by FEDRA soldiers, and they take her out with a hail of gunfire, but in this universe, it’s the infected who burst in. They all run straight past her except for a lone Stalker. It slowly walks up to her and, in the most disturbing scene of the show so far, attaches to her face and sticks its tendrils down her throat, helping her along in her journey to join the infected hivemind. Tess’ last act of humanity is dropping the lighter and blowing up the building.

This scene shows that the infected don’t have to be outwardly violent or bite to spread the cordyceps. The tendrils will gladly help you join them if you don’t resist.

Ellie Really Is Immune

In case you’re like Joel and didn’t believe her, Ellie proves her immunity in this episode. While in the game, she can breathe in spores without any difficulty; since there aren’t any spores in this universe, the show has Ellie get bitten for a second time while they’re in the museum. This event may have thrown new fans off the trail of Tess’ fate when Ellie jokes that it’s better she got bit than anyone else. As she and Joel run from the state house, Ellie is completely fine (physically at least). On Tess’ dying wish, it’s time to get to Bill and Frank’s to figure out if this girl really is gonna save the world.

This episode wasn’t all devastating. We got some iconic banter between Joel and Ellie:

@velvetcloxds The start of friendship ∞ #thelastofus #thelastofushbo #ellie #joel ♬ Greek Tragedy (Oliver Nelson TikTok Remix) – The Wombats

Some game mechanics:

@davidkangyt It’s just like the video game! #tlou #thelastofus #thelastofushbo #videogames #playstation #naughtydog #pedropascal ♬ original sound – davidkangyt

And a wicked looking sandwich:

@ihavegamesonmyphone Loving the show so far❤️ #thelastofus #hbomax #joel #tess #ellie ♬ original sound – Sandra Webb

Next week’s episode is another long one at 80 minutes and will introduce us to Bill and Frank, a duo we never got to see together in the game. This show continues to stun us, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

You can catch The Last Of Us on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.

About the Author

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Christopher Ikonomou

Christopher Ikonomou is a 4th year at the University of California, Los Angeles pursuing Communication and Disability Studies. He has a particular interest in the entertainment industry and representation of marginalized people in film and TV. On campus, he is the Editor-in-Chief at OutWrite Newsmagazine, the oldest queer college publication in the United States, and an activist with the Disabled Student Union. He’s a horror superfan and has been featured by Buzzfeed, UCLA College, Bored Panda, and Teen Vogue for his vocal involvement in the fight for better representation of the disabled community on screen and in the genre, particularly those with Marfan syndrome like himself.