How Tһe Lаst of Us is сһаnɡinɡ its story from tһe ɡаme (аnd һow it isn’t)

Bella Ramsay and Anna Torv as Ellie and Tess in a still image from HBO's The Last of Us.

HBO’s The Last Of Us has won praise for how close the series sticks to its video game roots.

But the second episode has shown that even with involvement of those who created the game, this adaptation isn’t afraid to make significant changes.

Let’s break down how the show is already diverging from the games in some crucial scenes, and why the creators felt the need to go a different direction.

Spoilers ahead for the first two episodes of The Last of Us, obviously.

Tess’s story played out differently

Anna Torv, Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal in talk in a still image from HBO's The Last of Us
Tess (played by Anna Torv) met her demise in episode two of HBO’s The Last of Us.(HBO)

As fans expected, in episode two fellow smuggler (and it’s complicated to Joel) Tess met her end, leaving Joel and Ellie to continue on their journey as a duo.

But even video game fans who knew the outcome didn’t expect the journey the show would take to get there. That is, if you could call the one of the grossest kisses on television ever a journey.

In the game, after making their way to their meeting point to deliver Ellie, Joel and Tess find their Firefly contacts dead.

But in its original incarnation, it’s FEDRA who’s responsible. Shortly after the revelation that Tess is infected, more FEDRA troops show up. Tess promises she’ll buy Joel and Ellie time, and the pair leave her to a fatal showdown with the heavily armoured FEDRA soldiers.

As players walk away, they hear a gunfight in the background, and later overhear that Tess took out several of the troops so Joel and Ellie could successfully escape. You can see the game version below:

YouTube Tess’s death played out very differently in the games.

No infected horde. No grenades. No grossest TV kiss ever.

Why the change then? The creators said the kiss was ‘thematically appropriate’

Show co-creators Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin told Variety that changes to Tess’s demise came when they started exploring what might happen if their characters didn’t resist the spread of infection.

“They’re (the infected) 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?,” Mazin told Variety.

“Then we landed on this nightmare fuel. It’s disturbing and it’s violative. I think it’s very primal in the way it invades your own body. To use an overused word, it’s triggering.

“It’s a remarkable combination of Neil’s direction, Anna Torv’s acting when there isn’t obviously anything there and our visual effects department doing this gorgeous work to make it all come together and feel real and terrible.”

Druckmann, one of the game’s original creators who’s helping steer the adaptation, added:

“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.”

Still, even Anna Torv found the scene “revolting” just like the rest of us.

But the so-called “clicker kiss” wasn’t the only deviation from the games this episode.

How the cordyceps infection works is very different in the games

In the show so far, the cordyceps tendrils have been heavily featured as the means by which the infection spreads from host to host.

During episode two, Joel explains the infected are connected. Stepping on one tendril could alert a horde of infected miles away.

Bella Ramsey as Ellie in a still image from HBO's The Last of Us. 
HBO has changed details about the cordyceps infection, but not Ellie’s mysterious immunity.(HBO)

Notably missing from the television adaptation, however, are spores. This might be a good thing depending on your tolerance for mushroom-related horror.

In the video game, being bitten by an infected still means certain death (for everyone except Ellie). But as the infection develops, spores become the primary way the fungus spreads once the host eventually dies.

That means in the game, gas masks are a critical tool for crawling through the decayed ruins of America outside of the quarantine zones. Dark and dank smuggling tunnels are filled with spores, making the journey even more treacherous, especially for those without Ellie’s immunity.

In the Variety interview, Druckmann credited his more television-minded colleague for the idea of switching up spores for tendrils.

“They’re connected, and it’s scarier when it feels like they’re working as a unit than as individuals. Touching one could trigger ones that are miles away to come after you. That makes the world even scarier,” he said.

Speaking on the official The Last of Us podcast, Mazin said, “because we aren’t doing spores” more changes were worked into Tess’s final moments.

In the game, Joel starts to believe in Ellie’s immunity when he sees her breathing spores and is fine. The fact that Ellie and Tess both got bit in the Clicker fight was added to the show instead.

“She (Tess) goes over to Ellie and she shows Ellie’s arm. And we can see the difference,” Mazin said.

“Ellie’s not going to be infected. She is immune. And Joel has to absorb the reality of that at the moment. He has no choice otherwise.”

Still, the show has been remarkably faithful in other areas

Both episodes have left fans stunned at how the beloved video game is being translated to the television screen.

Highlights include early scenes with Joel and Sarah and their dramatic attempt to escape with Tommy:

One of the narratives earliest and saddest moments:

And even the small character beats that endeared gamers to the characters of Joel and Ellie a decade ago making an appearance for those new to the story:

One-for-one recreations of video games don’t have the best track record (2005’s DOOM including a first-person sequence that’s aged like milk).

But if record-breaking viewer numbers are anything to go by, fans and critics are in agreement that HBO has been getting it right so far.

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