At long last, The Last of Us has debuted to critical acclaim with critics and audiences alike loving it. The series wasted no time at all introducing the infection at the root of the series, with John Hannah’s Dr. Neuman explaining the potential threat of fungi should the planetary temperature raise significantly. The opening was intriguing and set the pace with a little early explanation so the rest of the episode could take off running—only that wasn’t the first idea they came up with.
In fact, the opening sequence was nearly a trip back to the days of biology class with a clip of a cordyceps infecting a group of ants, just like what Dr. Neuman explained in his harrowing warning.
“I pitched [the cold open] twice,” Craig Mazin said in the first episode of HBO’s supplemental The Last of Us podcast. “The first time I pitched it, [to co-showrunner Neil Druckmann] was like ‘ehh’ – or we can do the video. It’s Planet Earth, you can watch this beautiful demonstration of how cordyceps works(opens in new tab), how it takes over an ant. It tells you everything you need to know. What we decided to do was make our own video like that.”
Mazin got back to the drawing board and quickly thought of another idea.
“It was a little boring to watch. It was a little bit like we’re in social studies class,” the writer continued. “I had written this thing early as if I had found a transcript of an old Dick Cavett from 1969. I remember showing it to Neil and he was like, ‘This is a little weird.’”
Finally, the writer found something both he and Druckmann liked. “We’re about 3-4 weeks away from wrapping… and I am not thrilled with this opening,” Mazin concluded. “I sent it to Neil again and this time he was like ‘ooh!’”
For more Last of Us content, check out ComicBook and Entertainment Tonight’s new podcast: The Last of Pods. The podcast will include breakdowns of each episode, interviews with special guests from the show, and more. The Last of Us airs on HBO and HBO Max at 9 p.m. Eastern every Sunday with The Last of Pods debuting immediately following each show.