We've crossed the midway point in season one of The Last of Us, and the series continues to deliver a generational video game adaptation. Week after week, showrunners strike the perfect balance of feel good moments, suspense, and devastating heartbreak. The series has mostly focused on the major characters to this point, as opposed to the infected. One of the stand-out moments of episode five, however, is the jaw-dropping introduction of the infamous bloater, which has stolen the emoji from the clicker for the official #TheLastOfUs Twitter hashtag.
The point at which the bloater is introduced to us in the series is slightly different from the source material, but the terror that accompanies is one and the same. In the game, the first encounter with a bloater comes when you're visiting Bill. However, in the largest game-to-show change in the series thus far, Bill perishes with his husband Frank in episode three, long before Joel arrives to ask for help. This leads to our bloater introduction coming a bit later, during a standoff with the Kansas City resistance.
The Last of Us: An infected showcase
Up until this point in the show, we had already seen a modicum of different infected. We see runners scattered throughout all the episodes, as these are the most common and infantile infected. Episode two brings the introduction of the clicker in the harrowing museum sequence, along with a stalker arriving at the end to extend its terrifying tendrils directly into Tess's mouth.
The grand entrance of the bloater will be remembered for a few reasons. First off, this is our best look at the infected yet. When they have strength in numbers like we see in episode five, the destruction they leave behind is devastating. However, the introduction of the bloater truly stands out in the suspense it brings. Viewers see the plow-truck crash into the house and begin to sink into the ground, and in the back of their mind recall Henry's story; “FEDRA drove all the infected underground.”
What is a bloater?
The vile infected come pouring out of the ground like water out of a bucket, with numbers too big to count. Clickers are jumping on people left and right, and just when you think things can't get any worse, slow, heavy footsteps are heard, and the bloater emerges from the sinkhole. Shortly after, audiences are treated to the creature ripping a man's head clean off his body. (How's this episode for zombies, Ben Shapiro?)
Bloaters display an immense amount of power. While most infected only live for about a month, bloaters are completely overtaken by the fungus for years, and barely resemble a real person. It's unclear exactly how long it takes for the infection to reach this point, but the best guess is somewhere between 10–15 years. Most bloaters are also able to reach that point due to lack of sunlight. They are commonly found in basements and other dark areas throughout the games.
The Last of Us is a television marvel
The Last of Us is nothing short of sensational thus far, and the series is only ramping up as we head into the latter half of the season. The beloved duo of Joel and Ellie are bonding and learning more about each other with each passing episode. After starting out in Boston, the two have now passed through Kansas City and look to be heading towards Jackson, Wyoming in search of Joel's brother Tommy.
As someone who loves both game installments dearly, the pain and thrill we've experienced so far are nothing compared to what's coming. While it's unfortunate that we now have a nine-day gap between episodes, it gives us a little extra time to process any trauma left behind from Sam and Henry. The series continues to elevate week after week, and writers Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin deserve every bit of praise.
The Last of Us episodes 1-5 are now streaming exclusively on HBO Max. The Fandom Academy Podcast contains our in-depth thoughts on each episode of The Last of Us. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below or on our socials.