Now that episode one of HBO’s The Last of Us has aired, let’s take a look at the main differences between it and The Walking Dead.

The Walking Dead was the zombie apocalyptic show to watch for many years and now that the show finalized with its eleventh season, fans of the show are looking towards their next survival series and they couldn’t get much better than HBO’s newest lineup.

Picking up the mantle where The Walking Dead left off, HBO’s The Last of Us builds on the foundation the former show helped shape but there are quite a lot of major differences. Other than one stemming from comic books and the other from a video game, let’s check out some of the main distinctions between both shows.

HBO’s The Last of Us vs The Walking Dead – the main differences

Origin of the virus

The Walking Dead never reveals the origin of the virus, keeping where it all started a secret from fans of the comics and fans of the show. It wasn’t until last year that it was revealed in The Walking Dead: World Beyond’s post-credits scene that the virus came about at a biomedical facility in France.

However, in HBO’s The Last of Us’ opening scene, we see scientists on a 1967 TV talk show sitting around discussing how the fungus could spread from plants and ants to humans, given that the world became warmer. Of course, years later, the world did in fact become much warmer, and thus the seed was planted on how the virus came to be.

How the virus is caught

In The Walking Dead, it wasn’t stated outright how humans became infected other than they needed to be bitten by another ‘walker’. It wasn’t until the end of season one that Rick figures out and then tells the group that no matter if you’re bitten or scratched by a walker or not, you will become a zombie once you die because everyone is already infected.

Things are quite different in HBO’s The Last of Us. In the show, the outbreak that has crushed America under its feet was caused by the Cordyceps brain infection, an infection born from a mutated strain of Cordyceps fungus that develops on the brain while they are still alive, changing them from the inside out at different stages. So everyone is alive and well until, basically, they aren’t, and become infected.

Infection rate

In The Walking Dead, once a person is bitten, it’s much harder to determine when they will actually turn into a zombie so it differs depending on how savagely they were munched on. We have seen characters last from an hour to several hours and even a whole day. Although the infection rate can be slowed or completely stopped if the person is bitten on that area by cutting off a leg or arm given that it is done quickly enough.

Once the person has turned, they are pretty much a zombie and over time, they undergo certain stages of deterioration until they are basically a walking skeleton.

Turning our attention to HBO’s The Last of Us, we get a glimpse from a poster on the wall of the QZ a timeline of how long it will take once the host becomes infected. If the virus starts at the foot, it can take 12-24 hours, on the arm or hand, 2-8 hours, and on the neck or face, 5-15 minutes. We also see that, unlike The Walking Dead, there are four different stages of the infection: runner, stalker, clicker, and bloater or shambler; with each stage more dangerous and more deadly than the last.

The Last of Us continues on Sunday, January 22 on HBO and HBO Max. For UK viewers episode 2 will be available on Sky and NOWTV the following day. 

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