Warning: This article contains spoilers for episode two of The Last of Us.
It's probably best to assume that we're going to get some gory moments on HBO's new zombie series The Last of Us.
But in episode two of the new hit game adaptation, fans were left feeling a little queasy after one particularly gruesome moment.
The newest episode saw Joel, Ellie, and Tess making their way further into the torn remains of Boston in an aim to hand Ellie over to the Fireflies. Along the way, they came face to face with some terrifying monsters, and we finally got our first horrifying look at the infamous Clickers.
But even with the spine-chilling moments and major scares, there was one scene in particular that had everybody talking.
In the episode's finale, we discover that Tess has been bitten after a shocking encounter with the aforementioned Clickers, meaning that she will be unable to continue on with Joel and Ellie. After triggering the interconnected mutant fungus that trails across the city, a hoard of zombies is alerted to their presence and is making their way towards the group.
Tess, knowing her fate, chooses to sacrifice herself by setting the building on fire whilst Joel and Ellie escape. As the hoard bursts through the doors, one particularly eerie zombie makes its way to Tess, who is desperately trying to ignite her lighter before it's too late.
But the nail-biting tension isn't what caused viewers to be up in arms. Viewers watched in horror as the infected figure comes up to Tess, opens his gaping, fungus-laced mouth, and...kisses her?!
It wasn't a pretty sight: the image of long, spindly trails of fungus reaching out of the mouth of the infected and into Tess's own. Thankfully, we didn't have to watch this for too long, since Tess was finally able to strike a light and set the building alight in explosive flames.
Still, it was enough to elicit some questions from fans...
very curious to know what artistic inspiration drove Neil Druckmann to include a scene in the newest last of us episode where a zombie french kisses Tess
— Doctor Contra (@DrGrimEvil) January 23, 2023
— Nas 🎥 (@ICEBLUMINK) January 23, 2023
— Aaron Vargas (@EchoFalcon) January 23, 2023
We can't lie, this grisly image definitely left us squirming in our seats. But the show's creators have since come forward to confirm that, yes, there was a reason for this grim moment.
In an interview with Variety, Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann spoke about the scene and how it was a combination of playing with the forms of the fungus and a few bigger questions.
"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," Mazin explained.
"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?"
Of course, this resulted in an extremely disturbing sight, a fact which Mazin is aware of.
"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."
Druckmann also explained that it came from wanting to approach the scene differently from the game, and how it adds to the theme of the episode.
"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," said Druckmann. "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."
Whether creatively justified or not, it's still a memorable image. And with only two episodes so far, it bodes well for those who are gunning for more spine-chilling and shocking moments to come.
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