Warning! This article contains major spoilers for The Last of Us episode 2. If you've not watched it yet and don't want to know what happens, then turn back now.
HBO's The Last of Us adaptation has been pretty faithful to the Naughty Dog game on which its based so far. The premiere included the essential narrative beats – the tragic prologue, 20-year time jump, Joel meeting Ellie, and more – and expanded everything around them. Episode 2, however, tweaks one big moment in a major way: Tess's death.
Instead of being gunned down by FEDRA soldiers in the Massachusetts State House, like her NPC counterpart is, on-screen Tess (Anna Torv) sacrifices herself to a bunch of infected, to give Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) time to escape. While her plan was to blow herself and the monsters up before she succumbed to the clicker bite she'd fallen victim to earlier on, one winds up getting a little too close before the blast, and extends its tendrils directly into her mouth. Then, it seemingly plants a "kiss" on her right before she sets the place alight. Now, creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have explained their thinking behind deviation...
"We were doing early research on how fungus appears in reality. 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 recalled to Variety (opens in new tab). "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?
"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."
In the same interview, Druckmann added: "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."
The Last of Us continues on Sunday, January 29 on HBO and HBO Max in the US, and Sky Atlantic and NOW TV the following day in the UK. Ensure you never miss an episode by checking out our The Last of Us release schedule and our breakdown of how many episodes are in The Last of Us.