You’ve in all probability observed by now that the fungus in HBO’s The Final of Us present works a bit in another way than it does within the video games — significantly in how the Cordyceps fungus, based mostly on the real-life fungi of the identical identify, spreads amongst people. Spores are out, and the mushroom community is in.
Spores within the video games serve the sport’s environment: With the correct gentle, you’ll be able to see spores spilling out from cracked doorways, a warning of the hazard that lies inside. It’s the sign that the characters, sometimes Joel, should put their masks on as a way to keep away from an infection, although Ellie’s immunity means she’ll solely ever want the masks to mix in. However there’s no approach the gasoline masks might work within the present. You’ll be able to’t have your primary characters’ faces hidden behind a cumbersome masks; this isn’t The Mandalorian, in any case.
“The present [is] taking a extra reasonable method to the story and the world,” The Final of Us author and creator Neil Druckmann informed Polygon. “If we needed to deal with it realistically, and there are spores close to, characters would put on gasoline masks on a regular basis. Then we lose a lot, which is perhaps a very powerful a part of the journey is what’s occurring inside behind their eyes, of their soul, of their beings. For that logistical motive we had been like, Let’s discover a totally different vector.”
The vector Druckmann and The Final of Us’ writers selected was the mushroom community. It’s an idea based mostly on the real-life science of mushrooms: We see mushrooms once they burst by grime. The items we see are the fruiting our bodies of the entire organism, the remaining hidden beneath the floor of the Earth. That half is known as the mycelium, the threads that unfold underground and join mushrooms and bushes right into a “mycorrhizal community,” a pure community not in contrast to the web — some mushroom consultants name it the “woodwide net.” Bushes, mushrooms, and different vegetation use these networks to move water and different vitamins and to “talk” in several methods, typically prolonged for miles and miles.
The mushroom networks, made up of sprawling tendrils, work the identical approach in The Final of Us on HBO, however as a substitute of transferring details about the place vitamins must go, it alerts the community of contaminated to a possible host: people. Particular person contaminated individuals be part of the “community” as spindly tendrils develop into a gap of their physique, typically a chew. (In episode 2, we see a extra distinctive methodology of spreading: An contaminated physique leans into Tess for a kiss, tendrils sprouting from his mouth into hers.) The fungus spreads rapidly and overtakes all capabilities besides the urge to unfold.
“[We wanted] to really feel like this stuff are interconnected. They’ll come out in opposition to us as a mass,” Druckmann mentioned. “But additionally how they go it from one individual to the opposite, it simply grew to become this actually disturbing factor, which was like, Oh, that is scrumptious. Now we have to make use of this.”
The change from spores to tendrils and the mushroom community provides one other layer of rigidity to the way in which the contaminated work. It’s not sufficient merely to remain stealthy and quiet — one mistaken transfer might imply activating a community of monsters that transfer en masse and know your actual location.
It’s change — within the online game, spores themselves don’t pose a menace. You’ll be able to’t select when to placed on a gasoline masks or when to take it off; builders made that call for you, and the participant is simply alongside for the journey in that sense. Take the gasoline masks away, and the sport wouldn’t change very a lot. It’s simply one thing that occurs: gasoline masks on after which gasoline masks off.
There’s additionally the consideration of framing the present round an airborne pandemic, like gaming web site Kotaku wrote after the primary episode premiered. The Final of Us generally is a onerous watch in that regard, and doubtlessly a motive why the idea of spores was axed in favor of a mushroom community. In spite of everything, there’s nonetheless that very same sense of thriller with the tendrils, however with the added rigidity of the communication between contaminated. Mushrooms have a map of the world that’s invisible to anybody else; their solely purpose is spreading the fungus.