The first episode of HBO’s The Last of Us made it clear that, much like the game that inspired it, the series isn’t going to be precious with its characters’ lives.
In its second episode, The Last of Us doubles down on that promise. After forcing Joel (Pedro Pascal), Ellie (Bella Ramsey), and Tess (Anna Torv), to endure a horrifying encounter with a pair of infected clickers, Episode 2 reveals that its central trio is destined to become a duo. The episode, appropriately titled "Infected,” ends with the explosive death of a character who casual viewers likely believed was going to have a much bigger role in Season 1.
In case that didn’t make the episode’s climactic farewell noteworthy enough, it’s also worth pointing out that the HBO series sends its latest victim out in a slightly different way than the original game does.
A Fiery Farewell — “Infected” sees Joel, Ellie, and Tess reach their destination, only to discover that the Fireflies they were supposed to meet have been killed. Tess then reveals that she was bitten by one of the clickers they’d crossed paths with earlier, and makes Joel agree to take Ellie wherever she needs to go. Tess then forces Joel and Ellie to go on without her while she buys them some time, a sacrificial act that sees Tess blow herself up alongside an entire horde of ravenous zombies.
Tess’ death plays out very similarly to how it does in the game. In both versions, Tess gets bitten during the same zombie encounter, and she even dies in the same Boston building after forcing Joel to agree to take Ellie with him on a journey west. However, Tess’ game death isn’t nearly as explosive as it is in “Infected.”
Instead of taking out a whole lot of zombies, Tess loses her life in the game at the hands of a group of FEDRA soldiers. After players part ways with her, they hear Tess’ shootout with her pursuers, some of whom then pursue Joel and Ellie. A subsequent section even allows the player to see the aftermath of the shootout, including Tess’ corpse.
In other words, Tess’ original death is far less fiery and zombie-centric than it is in “Infected.” Neither version is necessarily better, though the changes HBO makes to Tess’ death seem to fit its slightly different take on the franchise.
The Inverse Analysis — Across its first two episodes, The Last of Us has already placed far less emphasis on FEDRA than the game. From its opening scene to its last, Episode 2 is far more concerned with the dangers its mutated zombies represent to its post-apocalyptic world.
While there may be some fans who prefer Tess’ game death to her live-action demise, the character’s explosive exit in “Infected” does serve as a fitting final note for an episode so focused on the threat that The Last of Us’ zombies continue to pose to the show’s human survivors.
New episodes of The Last of Us air Sundays on HBO.