What Is A Bloater On ‘The Last Of Us’?

HBO’s The Last of Us has introduced a variety of terrifying monsters over the course of its first few episodes but in this week’s installment, it teased the most blood-curling form of Infected yet.

Episode five’s “Endure and Survive” is gave audiences their first glimpse of a creature gamers recognize as a “Bloater.” The promo for the episode — which aired ahead of schedule this Friday thanks to that Sunday Super Bowl game — hinted at a freakish, grotesque zombie crawling its way from the depths of Kansas City’s underground as fire and bullets littered the background. Obviously, we knew to expect a showdown of sorts between Melanie Lynskey’s Kathleen — the woman running the dismantled QZ at the moment — and Joel and Ellie, but how did this new threat factor in? And exactly what is a Bloater in the first place?

Thanks to the first few episodes of the show — and the backstory courtesy of Neil Druckmann’s video games — we know there are different stages of Infected. We’ve come across three stages so far — runners, clickers, and stalkers, but bloaters are even more dangerous versions of these fungal zombies. It takes an Infected a year to reach the bloater phase mostly because they need that time to grow dense enough fungus that acts as a sort of armor, making their “skin” nearly impenetrable. Bloaters are also impossibly strong, aggressive, and colossal in size, physically towering over their prey. They kill by brute force, smashing their victims’ heads and sometimes ripping them from their bodies.

They are, basically, nightmare fuel and at least one of these creatures has been festering underneath Kansas City for a while now. In the show’s fourth episode, Kathleen and her henchman Perry come across a kind-of sinkhole in an abandoned building that seems to breathe and move when they get near. Kathleen warns Perry to keep quiet about the threat until they’ve rounded up all of the FEDRA collaborators. That decision comes back to bite her — literally — at the end of episode five.

After hunting down Henry, Sam, Joel, and Ellie on the outskirts of the city, Kathleen seems poised to exact her revenge until another sinkhole pops up and out pours hundreds of Infected — and one massive bloater. Mayhem reigns and the humans are quickly overrun, which gives our group a chance to escape, but not before fans get to see the damage this new giant fungal puppet wreaks. Thankfully Joel and Ellie make it out unscathed but this likely won’t be the last time we come across this spore-covered Sasquatch on the show.