How does Tess die in The Last of Us? Game & show explained

Tess' death in The Last of Us game and showSony/HBO

How does Tess die in The Last of Us? Episode 2 cut the life of Joel’s smuggling partner short in skin-crawling fashion, so here’s what happened in the show and how it compares to the game.

In our review, we said Episode 2 “builds on the tragedy, suspense, and horror of the show’s opener by adapting one of the key moments from the game: the museum and its clicking terrors.”

We last saw Joel, Tess, and Ellie leaving the Boston quarantine zone and heading for the city’s Capitol building, hoping to find a group of Fireflies who’ll get her where she needs to be.

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Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a series if things went swimmingly, and Tess is the show’s biggest casualty since Joel lost his daughter in the prologue – so, here’s how she died.

How does Tess die in The Last of Us show?

Tess dies after being bitten by a Clicker in the museum. Knowing she’s doomed, she sacrifices herself by blowing up the Capitol building while it’s full of infected, allowing Joel and Ellie to escape.

When they arrive at the Capitol building, they find nothing but boxes of gear and dead, bloody bodies. “One of them got bit, the healthy ones fought the sick ones, and everyone lost,” Joel tells Ellie, but while he seems fairly accepting of this being a sign to go home, Tess desperately tries to think of a solution.

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Unfortunately for Tess, she was bitten in the neck by a Clicker off-screen during their scuffle at the museum, and the infection is already starting to run its course. “Our luck had to run out sometime,” she tells Joel. 

She gives Joel her last wish: she wants him to take Ellie to Bill and Frank’s, and “save who you can save.” On the ground, a nearby corpse suddenly crawls forward, and Joel shoots him in the head – but one death begets a horde, as the vibration of the gunshot is felt along the vast network of fungi, and hundreds of infected start sprinting their way. 

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Joel grabs Ellie, and Tess awaits a fiery death surrounded by fuel and grenades – but her lighter won’t work, even as an infected gives her a horrid, yucky kiss of death, with tendrils going into her mouth and down her throat. At the last moment, it comes alight, and she sacrifices herself in the explosion. 

How does Tess die in The Last of Us game?

In the game, Tess was bitten by a runner in the museum. Joel found her fighting it off, but she doesn’t reveal what happened until they get to the Capitol building.

Similar to the show, the Fireflies they were supposed to meet are all dead and scattered around the building. Again, Tess tries to work out how to find the next nearest group, but Ellie soon realizes she’s been bitten.

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“I’m not going anywhere. This is my last stop… our luck had to run out sooner or later,” she tells Joel, comparing her bite to Ellie’s. “Give me your arm. This was three weeks, I was bitten an hour ago and it’s already worse. This is truly real.”

“You’ve got to get this girl to Tommy’s. He used to run this crew. He’ll know where to go… look, there’s enough here that you have to feel some sort of obligation to me. So you get her to Tommy’s.”

Unlike the show, it’s not a horde of infected who flood the building, it’s FEDRA soldiers. “I can buy you some time, but you have to run,” she says.

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“I will not turn into one of those things. Come on. Make this easy for me.”

As Joel and Ellie escape, they overhear her managing to kill two guards before she’s shot dead.

Tess actress addresses death in The Last of Us Episode 2

Anna Torv, who portrays Tess in the show, spoke to Inverse about the character’s tragic fate, and whether she believes she would have bonded with Ellie much like Joel does over the course of the game.

“Yeah, and I think they were on the way to it. I think that they did become a little bit of a family. I think that the journey would have been different,” she said.

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“And I think that the bond between the two of them is different. But I think Tess and Ellie were on their way to, to having to having a pretty deep relationship. They didn’t get there, life had a different plan.”

Unsurprisingly, Torv also thinks her death scene was “pretty gross…but thankfully, that all kind of came in post, so it wasn’t as gross on the day, which was a relief,” she told CinemaBlend.

“But yeah, I didn’t really know what that was supposed to be. When I read it, or when they were describing it, I thought it was gonna be a bit more operatic or something, I wasn’t quite sure. And then I’m like, ‘Oh, no, it’s just gross.’ And it’s done, like mwah.”

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The Last of Us Episode 3 will be available to watch on January 29 in the US and January 30 in the UK. You can check out the rest of our coverage here, and the trailer for the weeks ahead here.