HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ Originally Gave Tess An Origin Story

HBO’s serialized take on the acclaimed video game The Last of Us has thus far been a hit with fans. The show has been praised for its ability to recreate key moments from the original game while also offering expansive new information about the origins of the fungal pandemic and its leading characters. This week, the series debuted its second installment, which featured a heavy focus on Anna Torv‘s Tess, the smuggling partner of Pedro Pascal‘s Joel and co-caretaker of Bella Ramsey‘s Ellie. While the episode mostly sticks to the same character arc Tess has had since 2013, showrunner Craig Mazin was quick to reveal this wasn’t always the case.

In the latest edition of HBO’s The Last of Us Podcast, an official weekly companion series in which Mazin and franchise creator Neil Druckmann discuss adapting the game to live-action, the former explained that the second episode nearly gave Tess a full-blown backstory. After being asked by podcast host Troy Baker about the character’s vulnerability and willingness to feel hope, Mazin stated they had actually written an origin for her that would have expanded upon the complex emotions she displays throughout the episode:

There is something we had talked about, and we wrote it. We never shot it. It was a little bit of a backstory for Tess, and the fact that Tess had a kid. She had a husband and she had a son, and they were infected and she had to kill them. She killed her husband, but she could not kill the son. She couldn’t do it. She locked him in the basement, where theoretically, he’s still a Clicker.

Craig Mazin

Druckmann then elaborated further, chiming in to give more details on how the backstory would have been told and why it didn’t make the episode’s final cut:

We had a cold open where we just like, the camera pushed on this door and you just hear this pounding coming from this basement and then we cut out. Then later, Tess would tell the story of how she couldn’t kill her son…it didn’t fit, but it was fun to think about.

Neil Druckmann

Whether or not fans choose to take this as the canon origin story for Tess is up to them. It hasn’t actually been included in any official in-world content, so it could be altered in the future if the creatives decide on something else. Or, as is often the case with The Last of Us, Tess’ history before Joel could remain a mystery forever. Either way, like Druckmann said, it’s still fun to think about.

Source: HBO’s The Last of Us Podcast

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