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HBO's The Last of Us Cold Opening Was Originally Completely Different

Craig Mazin originally had another idea for the cold opening of the first episode of The Last of Us but was deemed too boring.


HBO's The Last of Us is a bonafide hit right out of the gate and is praised for its acting, music, and action, and was HBO's second most-watched debut since 2010--the first being 2022's House of the Dragon. There are side-by-side comparisons of how the show was filmed and the footage from the game and it's mostly spot-on.

Something that showrunner Craig Mazin wanted to include though was a cold opening that would act as foreshadowing of the events of the world to come and how fungi like cordyceps actually work in the real world. In the show, we see a talk show segment explaining the possibility of a worldwide pandemic and how a scientist, played by John Hannah (The Mummy), isn't worried about bacteria, but actual fungi. The audience and the host laugh it off, but he goes into how cordyceps don't kill but control their inhabitants. It's an unlikely scenario since they only work in a host at a certain temp, but then there's a moment of curious shock when the doctor proposes what if the world were to become slightly warmer.

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Now Playing: The Last of Us Episode 1 Breakdown | The Chat With Us

Talking with Troy Baker for the show's official podcast, Baker asked Mazin and game creator Neil Druckmann who came up with that idea. Druckmann said that was all Mazin, but Mazin had another idea entirely at first.

"I pitched it twice. The first time he was ehhhh, or we could do the video. There's this great video, you can see it on YouTube, it's from Planet Earth. You can watch this beautiful demonstration of how cordyceps work, how it takes over an ant," Mazin said. "It's quite horrifying and tells you everything you need to know. So what we then decided to do was to make our own little video like that."

Druckmann said that their own nature doc was interesting, but not very compelling. Druckmann chimed in with how he was being kind and agreed that it was "kinda boring."

"I found this thing I had written that was like an old transcript of an old Dick Cavett from 1969 and showed that to Neil, and he said well that's a little weird. So we go and make the whole show and we're about three or four weeks from wrapping and I'm like I'm not thrilled with this opening. So I send it to him again and this time he was like 'oh!'."

"Seeing the final version and seeing it edited, I loved it," said Druckmann about the opening. "As a fan, it catches you off guard and signals to you that everything you think you know about this, you don't know. It achieved what we were trying to achieve with that other opening in a much more effective, dramatized way that starts giving you clues or theories of 'maybe this is how it started'. We're not saying definitively, but this is a pretty good theory."

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