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‘The Last of Us’ Podcast Revealed One Character’s Heartbreaking Backstory

Save who you can save.

Tess, Ellie, Joel The Last of Us

We are only two episodes into HBO’s The Last of Us series, but it has already been a journey. We’ve seen scientists talking about horrible things that actually exist in nature. There have been gut-punching deaths. This week, we also got our first full look at the terrifying and disgusting Clickers—one of the later stages of the zombie-esque Cordyceps fungal infection. I can’t wait to see what they have planned for us in the rest of the episodes.

While I wait for new episodes on Sundays, I listen to HBO’s official The Last of Us companion podcast. It gives me more time to be emotional over this show and hear some interesting behind-the-scenes information. In this week’s episode, showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann shared a backstory about Tess (Anna Torv) that broke my heart all over again.

**Spoiler Warning for The Last of Us episode 2.**

Setting it right

The second episode of The Last of Us finds Tess, Joel, and Ellie outside of the quarantine zone. While trying to travel undetected by Clickers, the trio has to go through a museum where they know some infected are hiding. During a close encounter with a repulsive mushroom-headed being, Tess, sadly, is bitten. She hides her infection from Joel and Ellie until they reach a dead end. Joel wants to turn back and go home, abandoning the mission they’ve undertaken to get Ellie to the Fireflies in order to hopefully use her apparent Cordyceps immunity to save humanity.

Tess tells Joel that won’t work and reveals her bite. Instead of falling apart, Tess pushes for Joel to finish the mission. Tess believes saving Ellie, and possibly everyone in the world, would atone for the bad stuff they have done over the years. In the short time we have known Tess, she’s gone from not really caring about anyone but herself and Joel to wanting to save the world. When she realized Ellie might be the key to a cure, Tess had hope again. Once Joel agrees to take Ellie, Tess sacrifices herself to buy them more time. (And has one of the grossest kisses ever seen on television.)

Tess’s life before

Of course, this major character’s death was a topic of conversation on the companion podcast. Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann brought up how they wrote more backstory for Tess but never filmed it. They revealed Tess had a child and was married. When the Cordecyps fungus spread to humans, Tess’s family was infected. Although she killed her infected husband, she couldn’t bring herself to kill her son. Instead, she locked him in a basement and ran. Joel said that some Clickers have been around since the beginning, so it is possible that the Clicker version of Tess’s son is still alive.

Not only does this backstory make Tess’s bleak view of humanity’s future even sadder, but it also reframes the hope that blossomed in her with Ellie. Much like Joel, Tess lost everything when the world changed. Protecting Ellie, especially after finding out how special Ellie is, opened a part of the wall that Tess built inside of herself. Right before admitting that she’s infected, Tess snaps at Joel to just be happy with a win for once and to do something good by protecting Ellie. With her backstory in mind, the scene is more than just her being angry but demanding that Joel share her flicker of hope. If she of all people can believe in something, then Joel can, too. If the two of them can save Ellie, maybe that will help them heal the wounds of losing their own children.

(featured image: HBO)

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D.R. Medlen is secretly a selkie that will one day return to the sea. In the meantime, she spends her days fangirling over anything from comic books to folklore podcasts, and everything in between. She lives that hobbitcore life while teaching her offspring the ways of the nerd.