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


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. 

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