Wednesday, January 25, 2023

I'm two episodes into The Last of Us on HBO and I really like the cordyceps explanation for zombies.

A cordyceps infected ant. This served as inspiration for The Last of Us. 

In this post there are some spoilers for HBO's The Last of Us. You have been warned :).

I've been watching The Last of Us on HBO. I haven't played the game, but a long time ago (I can't remember how many years it was) I first heard of the cordyceps fungus which takes control of ants and turns them essentially into the walking dead. This is when I thought to myself, "someone should turn that into a story." That's basically what someone did, and it turned out it was a good idea. I'm not saying that I was the first one to have this idea, and that I missed out on anything. I know I wasn't (obviously). And I've never ever had any desire to write a zombie story. I seriously just thought (in the moment) that it would make a good show or story, and I'm glad that someone who I've never met had the ability to make it happen to entertain me in 2023.

In the HBO show, they've done a really good job in making this fungus pretty darn terrifying. They've had at least two scientists in two episodes weigh in that, "There is no antidote for fungus." In other words, there is no vaccine. Those words coming from subject matter experts is actually terrifying. To anchor the phenomenon and its disastrous effects on humanity even further, the show explained that the cordyceps fungus (ordinarily) couldn't survive in humans. The reason is that our bodies run too hot.

And then they explained further that global climate change and a hotter planet had made this fungus evolve into something that could survive in humans. I was like..."yeah...that's good stuff right there," because it is so believable. And the rest has been just pretty great and enjoyable to watch. The fungus zombies are suitably gross, and they're scary because they're all connected through the fibers of the fungus. So, it has strands that go underground and if you step on one of these strands, it can instantly communicate with a huge host of infected beings and send them running your way.

I also appreciate that this particular adaptation of a popular video game seems to not have the feel of a video game. I think that this is a silent acknowledgement that to get emotionally invested in characters, you have to forgo the gameplay perspective of fighting zombies, and the showrunners know this. Don't get me wrong...there is some fighting of zombies in some tense situations. But the impact of living in the zombie world is the most important thing in the story of The Last of Us, and I'm kinda diggin' it thus far. I'm only two episodes in, and I'm invested in this apocalyptic world.

Anyone else watching this show? If so, what do you think?


  1. I don't have HBO so no plans to watch it for a while. Meanwhile, someone whose blog I saw through Laplume's blog had a different take on the virus vis-à-vis Covid-19 that you might agree or disagree with.

    Since it stars Pedro Pascal, it's too bad he couldn't wear the Mandalorian's armor. That would be really useful in fighting zombies; I mean there's no way they're biting through beskar.

  2. A local radio station has been playing old Depeche Mode saying that it's because the song was featured in the show. That only slightly tempts me to watch, but I have an aversion to zombies, so...

  3. Yes, and the second episode really ramped up the tension. Best game to movie/show I've seen and it is plausible.