The second episode of the adaptation of The Last of Us, on HBO, showed the desolate landscape of the world that survived the outbreak of the fungal infection. Also, the death of a central character, in a scene that directly refers to the video game. But rather than accurately recreate the events known to all fans of the story, the screenwriters Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann made some storytelling decisions. Which included an image that angered and uncomfortable a good part of the audience.
It is about the “kiss” between an infected person and Tess, the character played by actress Anna Torv. In the same way as in the source material, Joel’s smuggling partner (Pedro Pascal) ends up dying in a tragic situation. In the Naughty Dog story, the beloved figure is killed by a group of Phaedra soldiers. But in adaptation, the situation is posed differently. Infected and aware of what awaits her, she decides to immolate herself in the middle of a crowd of clickers (clickers) that invade the place where they are.
It is then, when the sequence occurs: Tess remains standing while one of the infected approaches her. Finally, she stops next to her, bows her head, and ends up resting her face on the woman’s. During the supposed kiss, the creature opens its mouth and the contagious tendrils of the fungus that lives inside can be seen.
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An image that seems meaningless, disgusting, but has an explanation
The scene caused rejection from a large part of the audience, especially from fans of the game. From what the creators of the story explained during an interview with Variety that the situation explains a key detail of the series. As they explain, it is a way of showing the nature of the Cordyceps fungus. Specifically, how the infection could spread from one body to another to continue reproducing. Therefore, it was not a sequence in which the infected tried to express affection; as some mistakenly understood.
“We were doing initial research on how fungi appear in the real world. I found the image that an artist had created of someone who had been subsumed by fungus. In his mouth there were signs of contagion, ”explained Mazin, adding:
“We were already talking about tendrils coming out and asking ourselves these philosophical questions. Why are infected people aggressive? If the point is to spread the fungus, why do they need to be violent? We come to the conclusion that they are because we resist, but don’t you? What would it look like if you just stood completely still and let them do this to you?”
“We were doing the initial research on how the mushrooms would appear in the real world, and we already had a good idea of what it would look like in-game. I found an image that an artist had created of someone who had been subsumed by fungus and had mushrooms in his mouth. We end up asking all these philosophical questions like ‘why do infected people become violent?’ If the goal is to spread the fungus, why do they need to be violent? We came to the conclusion that no. The infected become violent because people resist us. But what if we are not? What would it look like if you just stood perfectly still and let them do whatever they want with you?
“So we ended up filming this awkward moment that leaves you with nightmares. It is disturbing and violating. It is a very primitive way of invading a body. The scene was the result of great directing by Neil Druckmann and a performance by Anna Torv. Especially since there’s actually nothing there, after filming the scenes, the visual effects team did an incredible job to make everything fit and absolutely terrible.
Definitely, the infected are only aggressive when provoked or resist being infected. And that “kiss” that, when you see it, makes you feel bad, is actually the “natural” way – within the context of the series, of course – in which one infected person infects another. No blood, no physical violence.
For Mazin, it was important to point out that contagion is a natural fact that obeys biological rules. In fact, more than a kiss, the producers wanted to show a body irruption. On the other hand, Druckmann agreed that the sequence tried to show the reactions that anyone can have an infectious circumstance. “It’s like she already knew she was done. And then the cigarette lighter didn’t work. We pushed her to the limit of horror before she finally had a way out.”
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The “kiss” of episode 2 of ‘The Last of Us’ has an explanation
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