Post Mortems

The Last of Us' Bloaters: How the Gnarliest Infected Got That Way and How (Whether?) They Can Be Killed

Just when you thought you’d reached peak fungal-freakout, Sunday’s The Last of Us introduced a new nightmare: a hulking, merciless version of Cordyceps-infected human known as bloaters.

Aficionados of the video game on which the HBO series is based know that bloaters show up in the school gymnasium with Bill (R.I.P.), and that even with molotov cocktails, nail bombs and shotguns at your disposal, they are very difficult to kill. The TV adaptation’s first bloater showed up toward the end of Episode 5, when it — and a lot more infected — crawled out of the ground during Kathleen and Henry’s standoff in the cul-de-sac. (Read a full recap here.)

The towering monster looks and moves differently than its lethal brethren because it has somehow been able to synthesize infection differently than most people who get bitten, series co-creator Neil Druckmann explained in HBO’s official podcast about the episode.

“When you first get infected, there’s a thing called a ‘runner,’ which is just a recently infected [person],” he said. (Think Joel and Sarah’s elderly neighbor in the premiere.) “Then, if you’ve survived long enough, eventually the Cordyceps grows through your face, cracks it open, takes away your eyes, your vision, and you become what’s called a ‘clicker,’ because now these infected use echolocation to find their way.” (See also: those nightmares in the museum in Episode 2, and the contortionist kid that pursues Ellie in the car in this week’s hour.)

But as the fungus continues its takeover of human bodies, it doesn’t always follow the same path, Druckmann continued. “We’re saying, OK, there’s gotta be some people that — because, again, this thing is eating away from your inside — eventually when they know they’re going to die they go underground to a dark place and they settle against a wall, they settle against a corner and the infection, they become part of the environment. It grows over the walls and the ceiling and the ground.”

the-last-of-us-bloaters-season-1-episode-5-endure-and-surviveBut those who don’t eventually become one with their environment are destined for something terrifying. “There are certain people that are so strong and big that can survive even longer, and those are the bloater,” the executive producer explained. “That’s why you’re seeing this person is so tall and massive in their strength. And it just becomes that much scarier, again as we go forward, there’s just these new types of infected.”

Even worse, per co-creator Craig Mazin? There’s no stopping them.

“We also thought, look, whatever this thing is and however it got that way, there was this notion that it might be scarier that at some point you realize, you’re not killing it,” he said. “No one’s killing it, ever.”

He added that the script originally called for the bloater to kill Kathleen’s comrade, Perry, by picking him up and tearing him in half at the torso. However: “People don’t rip along the waist,” he said, laughing as he added that they eventually went with the game-loyal decapitation move you see in the episode. “It’s just really hard to do.”

What did you think about the introduction of the bloater? Let us know in the comments!

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