The Last of Us’ Tess’ Zombie Kiss Explained: Why It Was Meant to Be ‘Disturbing and Violative’

Viewers were shocked by Tess’ last moments in HBO‘s The Last of Us, when she allowed a “clicker” zombie to kiss her on the lips and directly infect her with the cordyceps fungus rather than fighting back. Scroll down for everything we know, but beware: spoilers ahead.

‘The Last of Us’ Tess’ Zombie Kiss Scene Explained

Co-creator and showrunner Craig Mazin wanted fans to recoil in horror, calling the deadly smooch “nightmare fuel,” in an interview with Variety on Sunday, January 22, after the episode aired.

“It’s disturbing and it’s violative,” Craig said of the kiss. “I think it’s very primal in the way it invades your own body. To use an overused word, it’s triggering.”

He credited Neil Druckmann‘s direction, Anna Torv’s acting and their visual effects department for making “it all come together and feel real and terrible,” as Tess stood still and allowed the male clicker to slowly approach and kiss her, with a closeup of the fungus tendrils transferring from his mouth to hers in a spine-chilling moment.

“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?” Craig explained about the scene.

Courtesy of YouTube

Tess had already been bitten by a clicker and revealed she was infected by the fungus when she arrived at the Capitol building with Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). The Firefly soldiers they were supposed to meet were all dead and infected with the fungus. The corpses sent a signal to a mass of clickers a few blocks away, who began to storm the Capitol with Tess, Joel and Ellie trapped inside.

In a final act of heroism, Tess dumped barrels of fuel on the ground and tossed grenades throughout the room hoping to cause an explosion and take out the clicker army, allowing Joel and Ellie to escape. She then tried to flick on her lighter to trigger a massive fireball but couldn’t get the flame to ignite.

Knowing she was facing a certain death, Tess kept flicking the lighter over and over while the clicker approached her, biding herself some extra time. Just as he kissed her and transferred the fungus, she got a proper flame and dropped the lighter to the ground, causing the room to explode and killing the clicker army.

A shocked and heartbroken Joel and Ellie watched from outside the building as Tess sacrificed the last moments of her life to allow them to escape and continue their journey west. The pair hope to find his brother Tommy in Wyoming, while also locating a Firefly hospital working on a cure. Ellie has been bitten twice by the clickers but has been immune from turning into a zombie, proving to be a possible hope for creating a vaccine that could save mankind.

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