The Last Of Us Episode 3 Confirms A Popular Fan Theory With A Twist

The game never quite explains how cordyceps quickly took over the world, but in the show's universe, a weeks-long fan debate has now been laid to rest.


We're just three weeks into The Last of Us on HBO, but it's already become clear that the writers aren't afraid to go off-script from the video game's version of events. This latest episode focuses mostly on the relationship between Bill and Frank, characters we never actually see interacting together in the game despite an implied long and somewhat tumultuous history.

Those pieces of the episode are its best bits, but before we experience the elongated flashback of their time together in Lincoln, Massachusetts, a scene between Ellie and Joel confirms a popular fan theory regarding how the outbreak of the cordyceps fungi began.

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Ellie asks Joel about how it started, essentially wondering who Patient Zero was, and how it spread so fast. According to Joel, who provides a history lesson for both Ellie and the audience, the cordyceps fungus mutated, and he adds that the best guess is it "got into the food supply."

He continues, "Probably a basic ingredient like flour or sugar. There were certain brands of food that were sold everywhere, all across the country, across the world. Bread, cereal...pancake mix. You eat enough of it, it'll get you infected."

As tainted food hit shelves on Thursday and people ate it, by Friday, Joel says, people got sick and things quickly got worse. "Then they started biting," he added dramatically.

In explaining the outbreak's origins to Ellie, fans are able to connect some interesting dots of their own.
In explaining the outbreak's origins to Ellie, fans are able to connect some interesting dots of their own.

Though Joel says no one knows for sure, it seems like this is the writers' way of delivering this information as canon, which happens to support the "flour theory" fans have posited all over subreddits, Twitter, and Discord for the last two weeks. Last week's episode further solidifies this theory in the opening scene in Jakarta, during which time the mycologist learns that there was an incident at a flour and grain facility in her area.

But the most interesting part of all this is not just that the fans got it right. It's that, if you recall the season premiere, it seems Joel and Sarah, and to a lesser extent Tommy, narrowly dodged infection four times on that fateful day: once when Joel and Sarah decided not to make pancakes that morning, soon after when the pair declined their neighbors' invite to eat some biscuits with them on their way to work and school, later when Sarah took home a batch of oatmeal raisin cookies from her neighbors' house but never ended up eating them, and last of all when Joel forgot to pick up his own birthday cake after a long work day.

Of course, Sarah does not survive that night anyway, but the subtle suggestion, which only makes sense two episodes later, is that Joel wouldn't even be alive 20 years later to guide Ellie across the US if he'd stuck to his original breakfast plans way back in 2003. In this way, his Atkins diet may have actually saved his life.

Mark Delaney on Google+

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