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Tess' Final Stand On The Last Of Us Paints A Tragic Picture Of How Joel Failed Her

Contains spoilers for "The Last of Us" Episode 2

The first episode of HBO's "The Last of Us" put Nico Parker's Sarah in the spotlight. Her role in the grand scheme of things may be just as short and tragic as it is in the game, but she still receives plenty of attention. As a result, the character is much more fleshed-out than in the video game. 

Episode 2 gives the same treatment to Tess (played by "Fringe" star Anna Torv), Joel's (Pedro Pascal) partner in crime. While Tess' arc follows the beats from the source material, Torv infuses her with humanity that, once again, works in the story's favor when the character meets her untimely fate. 

Yeah, speaking of Tess' final moments. In the game, she perishes while fighting against human soldiers. Here, her end is far more dramatic and explosive, as she manages to destroy a massive horde of Infected, going out in a quite literal blaze of glory. Apart from being far more horrifying than the game version, Tess' last stand also paints a tragic picture of how Joel failed her.

Tess' final embrace with an infected highlights Joel's failure to address her feelings

Joel's mental anguish and reserved nature mean that he's not the kind of guy to indulge in flowery speeches. However, he takes his stoic nature to unnecessary extremes with Tess. The two are clearly close — in the game, they have a friendly, mildly flirtatious dynamic that resembles amicable exes. Therein lies the tragedy. 

The show's version of Tess is implied to harbor (quite possibly unrequited) feelings toward Joel, and she goes to her death without ever getting even a hint of closure about this. Joel simply doesn't have anything to say to her, even when it's obvious that this is the last time they'll ever see each other. As a result, Tess spends her last moments completely horrified, and without as much as a kind word from Joel to cling to as she powers through her final act of heroism. It's heartbreaking stuff, and Torv sells Tess' borderline primal terror with subtle expressions and movements that still make very clear what she's going through. 

Tess' final scene mirrors the lack of true intimacy between her and Joel in a terrifying way. After Joel simply stares at her and rushes off without goodbye, one of the Infected approaches her and gives her an unsettlingly intimate "kiss," with its Cordyceps tendrils reaching for her throat. As final moments go, it's pretty terrifying — especially since the show really stretches out the old "malfunctioning lighter" trope while Tess struggles to stay composed. The message here is pretty clear; at this point of the story, Joel's people skills suck so much that even violent fungal zombies are more romantic than him.