It’s pretty hard to upstage the fungal colossus that is a Bloater, but in episode 5 of The Last of Us, one pint-sized Clicker manages to get the job done. I’m speaking, of course, about that little girl Clicker (Skye Belle Cowton) who attacks Ellie (Bella Ramsey) while she hides in a car.
The scene comes in the middle of a raging battle between Kansas City’s revolutionary movement, led by Kathleen (Melanie Lynskey), and the Infected. While chaos rages around them, Ellie, Henry (Lamar Johnson), and Sam (Keivonn Woodard) try to make their escape. For Ellie, that involves climbing into an abandoned car through a tiny window and hoping nothing follows her.
Unfortunately for her, something does. Fortunately for the audience, though, this something creates one of the most frightening (and thrilling) moments of the episode.
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All hail the little Clicker girl.
As Ellie waits out the carnage in the old car, Cowton’s Clicker climbs in through the window behind her. This isn’t a full-grown adult Clicker like we’ve seen in prior episodes: This Clicker takes the form of a small girl — perhaps one of the children from the underground Kansas City communities Henry mentions. Even though it’s always terrifying when we see a creature crawling up behind our protagonist, here that horror is amplified by the fact that this monster is an infected — effectively zombie-fied — child.
Undead children are a staple of the zombie genre, from George A. Romero’s sub-genre-defining Night of the Living Dead(Opens in a new tab) to the hit drama series The Walking Dead(Opens in a new tab). There’s a special kind of dread that comes with seeing a young innocent transformed into a mindless, bloodthirsty beast, and The Last of Us’s child Clicker is no different. This young girl, like every human host of cordyceps, once had a family, friends, and an entire life. But she never got to grow up. The sight of her is particularly haunting for Ellie. If she weren’t immune to the fungus, she might not look too different from this Clicker.
The Last of Us allows this horror to sink in before unleashing the Clicker girl’s secret weapon: her terrifying movement. With M3GAN-like dexterity, Cowton does what is essentially a backbend walkover before launching herself at Ellie, flipping and clambering over seats as she goes. When Ellie frantically escapes and shuts the door behind her, the Clicker slashes at the window to get out.
Not only are these unnatural moves terrifying to see done by a child — they’re extra frightening because there’s even a childlike quality to them. Credit to Cowton, you can imagine this girl practicing gymnastics or throwing a tantrum with these movements before getting infected, only now they’re jerkier and far less human. We might have been expecting a Bloater this episode thanks to the trailer, but we definitely weren’t expecting this.
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The little Clicker proves an unlikely ally to Ellie.
Not long after the young Clicker tries to take Ellie’s life, she ends up saving it.
Ellie, Henry, and Sam try to run away — but Kathleen stops them. Right before this hardened leader can shoot them down, the little girl Clicker creeps up behind her — just as she did to Ellie — and tackles Kathleen, slashing at her in exactly the same way she slashed at the car window.
There’s a sick poetic justice in Kathleen meeting her end at the hands of a child. It just so happens that the brutal kill comes mere minutes after Kathleen matter-of-factly says, “Kids die, Henry. They die all the time.”
She’s not wrong: We saw FEDRA kill an infected child in the very first episode of The Last of Us. Joel’s daughter, Sarah, died as they tried to flee the initial outbreak. and Kathleen was prepared to murder Ellie and Sam with ease.
Luckily for this newly minted team of survivors, the little Clicker girl got to Kathleen first. Between taking out the leader of Kansas City and providing us with some chilling horror imagery, there’s no doubt she’s earned her spot as Clicker MVP of the episode.
New episodes of The Last of Us stream Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.(opens in a new tab)