“The Last of Us” takes place in a world forever changed by a cordyceps brain infection caused by the cordyceps fungus. The fungus turns people into powerful, mushroom-y zombies (though the show never uses the word “zombie,” instead using “infected”). The infected have ravaged through America, wreaking havoc on the country and the people living there, including Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey).
The show is based on the video game of the same name, and that game first introduced the taxonomy of zombies that the show uses: runner, stalker, clicker, and bloater. Ahead, we’re breaking them all down and how each zombie stage flows into the other.
“The Last of Us” Zombies: Runners
Runners are the first type of zombie, transformed from people who are newly infected. If a person is bitten in their upper body, they’ll turn into a runner zombie in mere minutes. If they’re bitten on one of their extremities like an arm or leg, it can take up to 24 hours. Based on the show, the transformation seems to happen even more quickly in smaller and shorter people, like children. Runners, as their name implies, are extremely fast, and they often travel in packs.
“The Last of Us” Zombies: Stalkers
Stalkers are the next phase of the zombie infection cycle. They have more visible fungus growth on their bodies, which are also decaying. Stalkers are still pretty fast, but they’re good at staying quiet and lurking, like their name implies. Some of them even become attached to walls, growing outward.
“The Last of Us” Zombies: Clickers
Clickers are probably the most famous of “The Last of Us”‘s zombies; one even made it into Pascal’s SNL promos. In clickers, the infection has grown so much that the zombie can no longer see. They use echolocation via their tongues to find their way around — and locate humans — through their iconic clicking noise. The only way to avoid sending a clicker after you is to be as quiet and slow as possible, but even then their echolocation can still detect you.
“The Last of Us” Zombies: Bloaters
A bloater — also called a shambler — is an infected whose body has been completely taken over by the fungus. They are enormous and extremely strong, as seen in episode five of “The Last of Us,” where one causes some major damage. They’re also extremely hard to kill because the fungus acts as a kind of body armour. The best way to face one is to run far, far away.
“The Last of Us” Zombies: Rat King
In the second video game in “The Last of Us” series, gamers face off against the Rat King. In the real world, rat kings are when a hive of rats become entangled into one writhing mass. (Gross, we know.) In “The Last of Us,” it’s when all the different types of zombies become entangled in a similar manner. We haven’t seen one in the show yet, and there’s no guarantee they’ll ever appear, but they’ll be extremely disturbing if they do.