Cordyceps take over heads and homes in latest series


Angelina Rifenburgh

Makeup recreation of the zombie commonly referred to as a “Clicker” done by Angelina Rifenburgh on April 19, 2023.

Fungi can expand for miles, from connections in the deep forest all the way to suburban backyards.

HBO Max’s newest hit show, based on the video game, The Last of Us, ran from Jan. 15 to March 12, 2023, and the story illustrates how cordyceps, very real fungi, spread and infect a modern society, turning a normal weekday into a zombie apocalypse overnight.

“There is potential that something could go wrong in the future, but a zombie apocalypse is not likely to happen,” said senior Justin Kim.

Ophiocordycept Unilateralis, also known as the zombie-ant fungi, is a type of fungi that spreads throughout the brain of small insects becoming the new host. The fungi drain the host of its nutrients, then fills its body full of spores that allow the fungi to reproduce, according to 

As scary as that sounds, cordycepts infecting human brains isn’t a possibility. In the show version, it spreads through flour and wheat whereas in the game it’s airborne, spread through spores, which is one of the many distinct differences in the show versus the game. 

“It’s talking about motivation, backstory, who they are and blocking,” said co-director and creator Neil Druckmann in an interview about how changes impact re-telling this story. 

Character developments, deaths and overall stories are what make or break a show. In the show, characters such as Bill, portrayed by Nick Offerman and Frank, played by Murray Bartlett, had drastic changes to their story. In the show, Bill and Frank have a love story full of laughter and sorrow, with both dying at the end of episode three. 

In the game, however, Bill joins the main characters Joel and Ellie, played by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsy, in comedic banter and roughhousing. Only Frank dies in the game, never exploring the past he and Bill may have had. 

“I loved the part where they said ‘I’m old, I’m satisfied and you were my purpose’ in the death scene,” said dolphin alumna Aly Schelder. 

The show and game brought life to cordyceps, a story based on some stretch of imagination and some realistic factors. All the actors and actresses bring a newfound joy in those characters people see on the big screen, the same characters who were once codes in a hard drive.

With season two on the way, filming starting as early as the end of 2023 or the beginning of 2024, The Last of Us has swooped the zombie apocalypse into full swing. 

“I could ramble about the show for hours. I loved it so much,” said Aly.