The Last Of Us TV show has ruined the infected – Reader’s Feature

Caption: The Last of Us
Copyright: HBO

A reader is impressed by The Last Of Us adaptation but fears changes to how the infected work have adversely affected the story and tone.

Having watched all but the final episode of The Last Of Us, I think it’s fair to say that this is the adaptation that finally proves, with the right material, video games can translate well to film and TV. The public and critical acclaim appears to back this up and perhaps finally demonstrates that video games can, and do, have compelling, adult narratives to tell.

It wasn’t perfect, of course, and I feel there was one seemingly minor change with the TV adaption which has had the unfortunate side effect of changing the world building of the overall story. The change in question – and we’re getting into slight spoiler territory here, so be warned – is how the fungal spores were handled.

As anyone who has played the game will know; over the course of Joel’s and Ellie’s journey they encounter several instances of airborne fungal spores which are typically found in old dilapidated buildings and other dank and dingy spaces. These encounters don’t add anything in terms of gameplay mechanics, but they do serve to reinforce the threat these fungal spores pose to humans as the characters hastily don gas masks or avoid those spaces altogether. However, in the TV adaption these fungal spores aren’t really mentioned.

In one early TV episode, characters unexpectedly encounter a dead victim covered in fungi and, other than the initial shock, they carry on chatting as normal without any concern for their welfare.

To a degree I can understand why the choice was made. After all, watching someone trying to emote in a gas mask, while speaking in a muffled voice would probably make for a frustrating viewing experience. Just watch Bane in Dark Knight Rises to see how that turned out.

Unfortunately, rather then providing some exposition to explain the natural threat the fungus and is spores pose, the TV adaptation instead chooses to amplify the threat by making the fungus somewhat sentient. That is to say, someone steps on a bit of fungus in one location and it ‘alerts’ nearby infected through a ‘fungal network’ to their presence so they then converge on the hapless human in a murderous rampage.

On the face of it that doesn’t seem like that big of a change but for me it fundamentally alters the entire narrative of the infected and their relationship with the fungus.

To my mind, the game doesn’t portray the fungus as sentient; rather, like all plant life in the natural world, the fungus is simply striving to survive and propagate and has evolved so its fungal spores can infect and thrive in a human host. Consequently, if an unfortunate soul were to inhale the airborne spores they become infected and are thereafter used like a bag of fertilizer enabling the fungus to grow within the host.

This process drives them insane, causing them to frenziedly attack on sight until such time they mutate so badly that they eventually become a heap of compost in which the fungus continues to thrive and release more spores with the potential to infect yet more victims.

It looks the same as the game but it acts differently (Credits: HBO)

Contrast this with the TV adaptation, whereby the infected behave like murderous zombies, actively seeking out other humans to infect at the behest of some malevolent sentient force within the fungal network. Get bitten (or kissed) and you turn into an infected yourself with a taste for human flesh. If that sounds an awful lot like The Walking Dead or any other zombie film or TV show you have ever watched then you would be right and in my humble opinion it doesn’t work nearly as well.

In the game it was always humans which were portrayed as the real antagonists, as the old world order collapsed and humanity devolved into a survival of the fittest – a situation made worse by the new hostile natural world they found themselves in where a deadly fungus has thrived.

Sadly with the TV series, as the threat associated with fungal spores has been left on the cutting room floor, the threat posed by the infected has been elevated to something akin to the infected in 28 Days Later, with the faint suggestion of some kind of nefarious hive mind running the show, and that’s a bit of a shame as, for me, it dilutes the originality displayed in the game’s narrative.

None of this is to say I haven’t enjoyed the TV series and I’m wholeheartedly recommending to my friends that they put it at the top of their watch-list. However, I find it interesting that one seemingly small adaptation, made for all the right reasons, has had quite a profound effect on the overall narrative and I hope the fungal spores make a comeback for the second series while the portrayal of killer fungal zombies is toned down.

By reader Heinz57

The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

You can submit your own 500 to 600-word reader feature at any time, which if used will be published in the next appropriate weekend slot. Just contact us at or use our Submit Stuff page and you won’t need to send an email.

MORE : Naughty Dog has started its next game – doesn’t sound like The Last Of Us 3

MORE : The Last Of Us nearly got a spin-off game about Ellie’s mum says creator

MORE : The Last Of Us show creators hint at season 2 and 3 as they adapt game sequel

Follow Metro Gaming on Twitter and email us at

To submit Inbox letters and Reader’s Features more easily, without the need to send an email, just use our Submit Stuff page here.

For more stories like this, check our Gaming page.

(Visited 1 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *