Is Tess From the Last of Us Really Dead and if So, What Happened to Her?

The television show and the video game determine the character’s fate. But with a different result. There has been a spectacular death, and one has occurred. Tess won’t be returning.

If you stick around, Episode 2, “Infected,” which plays out as epically as it does in the 2013 video game adaptation of The Last of Us, has a lot to unpack regarding Tess’s demise. The alterations occur before and after Tess’s passing, adding extra narrative weight to those scenes.

Start with the show.

Joel and Tess accompany Ellie to the rendezvous location outside the QZ after accepting the escort job in exchange for a car battery. The world is in hell. Tess has bits. To give Joel and Ellie more time, she commits zombie suicide.

There is one thing to remember. Joel is persuaded that Ellie is the real deal because of Tess’s response to the bite and her insistence that he recognizes the distinction between her bodily response and Ellie’s. Joel will be more motivated to defend her since she represents hope for humanity.

Tess does not necessarily need to tell Joel this lesson, though. And this is the point in the narrative where the two characters’ connection starts feeling shaky.

tess death last of us
tess death last of us

In some ways, Joel doesn’t require Tess. Outside of their connection, he has other motivations. To find Tommy has always been his main objective. Tess seems to support this endeavor temporarily; Joel will travel west with or without Tess. (It doesn’t seem like that much of a sacrifice to bring Ellie along.)

Another challenge is how to make Tess’s last moments memorable. Most of the marketing hinted at her passing. We already know that Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) will be traveling across the nation alone; there won’t be any other characters. This is a problem even in the video game, and since we never play as Tess (but we do as Sarah), there is never any reason to believe she would survive. Since the player never makes a decision that would make Tess’s death their fault, her passing also happens during a cutscene and is therefore not their fault.

Tess occasionally appears alone in the series, giving her character some emotional moments apart from Joel. But even in this situation, she seems incidental, merely as a plot device to connect Ellie and Joel.

However, the game gives Tess’s presence and her additional passing significance and narrative weight.

Does Tess Die in the Video Game The Last of Us?

Yes. But not in such a meaningless way. The relationship between Joel and Tommy is more complicated in the game than in the series. Joel hasn’t spent time attempting to locate Tommy; his main concern is simply remaining alive. (This refers to doing horrible things and evil deeds.) When Joel and Tess agree to drive Ellie in the game, it isn’t to get to Tommy for a vehicle battery. They accept the agreement in return for the weapons. They seek the supply of the Fireflies. Not another.

The show probably invented Tommy’s motivation to soften Joel’s edges and give him a more obvious reason to take Ellie west.

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Tess is Joel’s Motivation in the Game

Tess persuades Joel to accept the assignment, and Tess’s passing spurs Joel to accompany Ellie west; he is merely carrying out her dying wish.

Thus, there is a significant disparity in Tess’s last few seconds. While in the television show, her passing does aid Joel in realizing Ellie’s immunity, his reasons for heading west remain the same. There is still Tommy. Ellie is only going to be a hassle.

However, Tess is the one who persuades Joel to take Ellie into the game. Joel would have just returned to the QZ if this request had not been made. (Or Tess did not pass away.) Joel consents to take Ellie partly because of his commitment to Tess and his remorse over her passing. He cares for this woman, and he will comply if her dying request is to take Ellie. The choice is driven more by guilt, humiliation, and love for Tess than by a brotherly rescue. Tommy still becomes a goal, but he never serves as the catalyst. In other words, Joel won’t defend Ellie unless Tess perishes.

This hypothetical is never made clear in the series. Joel at least has a reason to keep moving west: Tommy, regardless of what happens to Tess. Given that the death occurs in essentially the same way in each media—a bite, a choice, and an epic explosion—it might not seem like a significant change. However, the driving force has changed, and the original motivation for starting the voyage has been replaced.

‘The Last of Us’ Series is now available to stream on HBO Max.

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