The Last of Us Review: As I wrote about last week, HBO’s The Last of Us is making a few changes to the video game for its adaptation. Nonetheless, over the weekend, it was revealed that there would be a major deviation from the source material: the Cordyceps infection in HBO’s version of the series would not be transmitted through inhalation.
Instead, it will spread via “tendrils” that can develop into an “interconnected network.” The show’s co-creators, Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin discussed pandemics and their vision for the show’s infection in an interview with Collider.
For the audience, “it was… important for us to acknowledge that the audience is smarter about pandemics than they were five years ago,” Mazin said. We shouldn’t act like they’re ignorant, he said.
“Look, the context is, there are viral pandemics and they are quite dangerous, but there’s something out there that’s worse,’ which is a big part of the reason this show begins the way it does, with that scene in the ’60s [like the scene shown in a now-deleted behind the scenes video depicting a talk show discussing infection].
It may seem odd but bear with me while I explain. Then you realize, “Oh, that’s not good,” and you take action. Furthermore, it has always been there. Consequently, the outbreak will not occur arbitrarily or unexpectedly. Finally, this is becoming a reality. The inevitable conclusion was inevitable. We’re lucky to be in the area today to catch a glimpse of it,” he said.
Later, when asked about the show’s plan for handling the spread of the infection, Druckmann explained that, unlike in the game, the cast won’t be required to don gas masks. Druckmann elaborated by saying that this realization led to the development of a method of dispersal involving “tendrils” rather than spores.
And then I was thinking, you know, just like fungus does, there might be this transmission from an infected person to the infected person, and it might become this interconnected network. The idea that they’re all plotting against us in concert is terrifying, and it’s a theme I enjoyed seeing explored on the show.
One week until #TheLastOfUs series premieres on HBO next Sunday.
The first episode is 1 hour and 25 minutes in length. pic.twitter.com/6b4CiXTepG
— The Game Awards (@thegameawards) January 8, 2023
The authors also discussed this with ComicBook. At some point in the game, you’ll come into contact with spores, at which point you’ll be required to don a gas mask.
If we put spores in the air in the world we’re creating [with the show], it’s pretty clear that they’d spread around everywhere and everyone would have to wear a mask all the time and probably everyone would be completely infected by that point,” Mazin said.
So, we put ourselves to the task of thinking of a novel method by which the fungus could spread, but ultimately I believe we just made a genuine emotional connection with the game’s core values.
While these tendrils are new to the final cut of the game, they were originally featured in concept art for The Last of Us. According to a Reddit post by user Imissbreakingbad (below), this picture depicts tendrils that “slither along the ground looking for hosts.”
“#TheLastOfUs feels particularly poignant for our world considering the last few years’ events: even when things are at their worst, there will always be something – or more likely, someone – who can save you from that darkness..”https://t.co/j4kDJHbqqZ
— Rory Cashin (@roarEcashin) January 10, 2023
In addition, tendrils can “snap back like a whip” from the slightest touch and “break your arm,” as mentioned in an unfinished voice line from the game (which you can hear in the tweet below). Fans of the games may be surprised by this development, but perhaps they shouldn’t be.
Meanwhile, both Mazin and Druckmann have assured anyone worried about the show deviating too much from the book that they’ve given careful consideration to any changes that have made it into the upcoming adaptation.
Despite being a confirmed GameHead I’ve never played played The Last of Us, but I enjoyed the HBO version all the same, although I’m told the adaptation may upset people who loved the games. Confusing https://t.co/ewS9UiCKSV
— Ed Cumming (@edcumming) January 10, 2023
Druckmann said at a recent roundtable, “there are things that work in the game that would just not work in the show” (via GameSpot). “We can change anything,” Neil would say, “but we need to talk about why,” Mazin elaborated. Let’s just deliver what we have if there isn’t a good reason to do otherwise.
Some of the things we came up with were quite novel, in my opinion. On occasion, I’d give him a call and say something along the lines of, “I’m scared to say this idea,” and after he’d been silent for a while, he’d finally say, “Aw, you know what? In the game, we should have done that. I finally realized that we were onto something and thought, “OK, aha, OK.”
— Naughty Dog (@Naughty_Dog) January 10, 2023
According to Neil Druckmann, “the big secret is, Neil Druckmann was so confident and secure in the story of the game that he was then able to be flexible with me to go wander and fill in and change and alter.”
The Last of Us, an adaptation for HBO, will premiere on January 15–16 and is expected to cover the entirety of the first game (depending on which side of the pond you are).
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