The Last of Us HBO Series Set Photos Show the Effects of the Cordyceps Fungus

The latest photos from the set of HBO's The Last of Us offer our best look yet at the Cordyceps fungus and how it changed the world.

The Last of Us
Photo: Sony Computer Entertainment

While previous production photos from the set of HBO’s The Last of Us series have focused on the show’s main characters, the latest set of leaked shots offers a much better look at the show’s version of this franchise’s Cordyceps fungus ravaged post-apocalyptic world.

For those who don’t know, the inciting incident that triggers the effective end of the world in The Last of Us game is the rapid spread of a mutated strain of the Cordyceps fungus. Because the fungus directly attacks the brain within just a couple of days of infecting a host, it effectively turns them into a rage-filled monster. The longer the host is infected, the more of a monster they become both physically and mentally.

The Last of Us‘ lore tells us that 60% of humanity was either killed or infected by the mutated Cordyceps fungus within several months of its initial spread. Because there is no cure for the infection (and Ellie is the only known person who is immune from the fungus’ effects), those who remain have to wear gas masks when walking through hotspot areas filled with Cordyceps spores. Even areas that aren’t necessarily considered to be hotspots typically showcase the effects of the Cordyceps fungus’ fast spread and sudden impact.

These latest set photos offer a better look at what appears to be some of our main characters standing near an area that was clearly physically impacted by the Cordyceps fungus:

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We don’t see Joel or Tess wearing gas masks in these shots, so it doesn’t seem like this is supposed to be one of those aforementioned hotspots filled with airborne spores. Ellie is also not wearing a mask, but because she is the only known person who is immune from infection, she does not need to protect herself from the spores.

What’s especially interesting about these shots, though, is the way they show us just how bleak and horrifying the world of the show will be. While nobody was under the impression that this series was going to feature a surprisingly upbeat narrative set in a bright and promising vision of the apocalypse, it’s certainly fascinating to see the show’s interpretation of how the Cordyceps fungus has physically altered the world. It looks just as horrifying, and gross, as similar areas look in the game, which is really about as high of a compliment as we can give the show at this point considering how visually impressive those games are.

While the fungus featured in these shots is understandably stealing most of the attention at the moment, some fans are also theorizing that the shot of Tess and Joel yelling at each other could suggest that the scene featured in those photos is essentially a recreation of one of the most important narrative moments from the original The Last of Us. While everything we’ve heard about the show’s story at this point indicated that it will borrow liberally from the plot of the games, this certainly seems to be the first time we’ve seen one of the most important narrative moments from the game recreated in the show.

We’ve also talked about this before, but the show’s characters seem to look the part. There’s always a risk of everything in these kinds of adaptations coming across as little more than an elaborate bit of cosplay, but for whatever it’s worth at this point, Joel, Ellie, and Tess all look about how you would expect them to look.

We look forward to bringing you more about HBO’s The Last of Us ahead of the series (hopeful) 2022 premiere date.

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