Let’s start by clearing the air. There’s no version of “The Last of Us” where Tess (played by Anna Torv in the HBO Max series and Annie Wersching in the video game) lives. Her respective journeys follow different routes but the endings are the same … mostly. In the video game, Tess is a smuggler of undisclosed connection to Joel (played by Pedro Pascal in the HBO Max series and Troy Baker in the video game). Are they friends? Begrudging allies? Lovers? No one knows, and Joel’s not telling. They’re close enough to work a job together, like smuggling Ellie (played by Bella Ramsey in the HBO Max series and Ashley Johnson in the video game) out of the Quarantine Zone (QZ) for the Fireflies.
We’re kind of assuming that you have some basic working knowledge of the story here, but just in case, Joel’s a brooding smuggler who lost his daughter when the apocalypse began, Ellie is an orphan who’s immune to the virus but not to daddy issues, the Quarantine Zone is a hell hole run by the fascist dregs of the U.S. military, and the Fireflies are an anti-military militia. No one is innately good, everyone is just trying to survive. These statements are true in all versions. Caught up? Cool.
Back to the video game, then. Almost immediately after exiting the QZ, Tess gets bitten, which is a death sentence for everyone who isn’t named Ellie. Where her determination to transport Ellie was once fueled by a reward, it becomes a desire to find a cure. Maybe not for herself, but a cure for everyone else. Before she can be taken by the virus, she sacrifices her life to distract a violent incursion of soldiers who believe the trio to be members of the Fireflies.