September 29, 2023

“Contaminated,” episode 2 of The Final of Us, will get us intimately acquainted with the present’s Clickers. And after I say “intimately,” I imply intimately.

Initially of the episode, the Clickers — individuals who have been contaminated by cordyceps lengthy sufficient for the fungus to take over their sight — are an unknown risk, a sequence of ominous screeches within the distance. Nevertheless, by the episode’s finish, we have watched Clickers assault Joel (Pedro Pascal), Tess (Anna Torv), and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). We have skilled their lurching actions and chilling clicking noises. And, maybe worst of all, we have seen how they welcome new Clickers into the horde — with what can solely be described as a fungal kiss.

The Clicker kiss is one of some adjustments The Final of Us makes to its model of the online game baddies, however like most of those deviations to date, it really works. Components just like the kiss and the newly added cordyceps community are aligned with the spirit of the supply materials, but they maintain viewers acquainted with the sport on their toes. Most significantly, they flesh out the Clickers so that they are greater than only a senseless horde. They seem to be a neighborhood — and that is probably the most scary change of all.


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The cordyceps community emphasizes the Clickers’ interconnectivity.

A Clicker from

Credit score: Liane Hentscher / HBO

When Joel, Tess, and Ellie discover a vantage level in an deserted resort, they see a large group of Clickers mendacity on the bottom exterior. As daylight passes over them, they writhe in unison, prompting Ellie to appreciate “they’re related.”

“Greater than you recognize,” Tess replies. Seems, the cordyceps fungus would not simply develop inside its hosts. It additionally grows underground, stretching for lengthy distances. If you happen to step on a chunk of cordyceps in a single place, Clickers miles away can really feel you and start to hunt.

This community replaces one of many in-game types of cordyceps transmission: spores. In a video breaking down “Infected,”(Opens in a new window) co-creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann describe how it might be robust for viewers to purchase that spores stay localized when in actuality they might simply unfold in every single place. To give you a brand new means for the cordyceps fungus to present itself on this planet, they drew on the real-life “wood wide web”(Opens in a new window): an underground community of roots, fungi, and micro organism that assist vegetation and timber talk with one another.

The present’s model of this community provides an additional sense of dread to an already dreadful world. The very floor you stroll on may betray you — one misstep and also you’re completed. The cordyceps community additionally lays the bottom for the deep connection between the Clickers, which performs an enormous position in Tess’s demise.


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One Clicker kiss captures the horror (and the sweetness) of cordyceps.

Tess from

Credit score: Liane Hentscher / HBO

The ultimate act of “Contaminated” is Tess’s swan tune. As soon as she realizes she’s been bitten, she pushes Joel to take Ellie to the Fireflies and blows up the oncoming Clicker horde to purchase them time to flee. Nevertheless, because the Clickers rush previous her, they cease, realizing she’s contaminated too. One attracts close to her, tendrils of fungus rising from its lips. Then it kisses her, and we see the tendrils enter her mouth in excruciating element.

The instinctual response to the kiss is one in every of horror. “It is very Jungian, it’s extremely upsetting,” Mazin says of the scene in HBO’s official The Final of Us podcast. “Something penetrative is disgusting and scary if you’re coping with monsters… There’s one thing so creepy and gross and primal about it, and but additionally weirdly…lovely.”

A part of that unusual magnificence comes from the Clickers’ design, courtesy of prosthetics designer Barrie Gower. Fungus followers out from Clickers’ heads in a means that’s directly mesmerizing and alienating.

Then, there’s Druckmann’s course of the scene, which stylistically eschews straight-up horror for one thing extra romantic. Within the podcast, Druckmann remembers eager to convey the intimacy of the second regardless of the horrors taking part in out onscreen. “As an alternative of taking pictures it in a creepy means, let’s shoot it in probably the most lovely means: backlit, silhouetted, profile view, and we slowly are available in and in and in as if it have been the intimate kiss of two lovers,” he says.

As Mazin places it within the podcast, this second helps set up “a sick form of neighborhood” among the many contaminated. “The fungus loves too,” he says. “It makes extra of itself. That is what we do after we love one another, that is how the species propagates.” The kiss, then, is a manifestation of that fungal love — a young motion so far-flung from the biting and flesh-tearing we have seen from any contaminated beings to date.

The romantic framing of the kiss additional will increase the horror of Tess’s demise. We see the fear in her eyes as she surrenders to the embrace of the contaminated, and we all know that she’s being introduced into the neighborhood that she’s spent a lot of her life preventing. It is also a reminder to us, as viewers, that the Clickers are a much more nuanced risk than we could have initially thought.

What we come to appreciate is that within the 20 years for the reason that preliminary outbreak, the contaminated have developed their very own programs of communication and affection. They’ve expanded their numbers relentlessly, taking increasingly more of town as their very own. Within the face of this fixed development, there is a good probability that Tess’s destiny is the long run that awaits the remainder of humanity. And that concept of assimilation right into a hive thoughts that we do not perceive evokes the worst worry of all: plain outdated existential dread.

The Final of Us is now streaming on HBO Max(opens in a brand new tab) with new episodes airing weekly on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.