The Last of Us Episode 1 originally had a “boring Planet Earth” opening

Cameron Frew
John Hannah in the opening of The Last of Us Episode 1

The Last of Us Episode 1 had a chilling opening prologue with John Hannah – but it was once a far more “boring” riff on Planet Earth, the showrunner has revealed.

It’s a testament to John Hannah’s talent and the show’s writing that a two-minute science lecture is among the first episode’s biggest highlights.

We don’t start in 2003 around the outbreak, nor are thrown into the thick of it in 2023 – we begin in the ’60s, with Hannah’s Dr. Newman telling an unnerved audience about his greatest fear: a fungal pandemic made possible by global warning.

“So, if that happens?” the interviewer asks. “We lose,” he replies, punctuated by the silence of inevitability – but it wasn’t always like this.

The Last of Us Episode 1 opener was originally “boring”

During Episode 1 of HBO’s The Last of Us podcast, hosted by Troy Baker, showrunner Craig Mazin and the game’s creator Neil Druckmann spoke about the original plans for the opening.

“I pitched [the cold open] twice. The first time I pitched it, [Neil Druckmann] was like, ‘Ehh’ – or we can do the video,” Mazin explained.

“It’s Planet Earth, you can watch this beautiful demonstration of how Cordyceps works, 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.”

Cordyceps is the fungal disease responsible for the pandemic in The Last of Us. You can read more about its origins and how it works here (fair warning, it’s pretty gnarly). Alas, Mazin’s idea didn’t really translate all that well to the screen.

“It was a little boring to watch. It was a little bit like we’re in social studies class,” he said.

“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.’

“We’re about 3-4 weeks away from wrapping… and I am not thrilled with this opening. I sent it to Neil again and this time he was like, ‘Ooh!'”

The Last of Us Episode 2 will be available to watch on January 22 in the US and January 23 in the UK.

For more TLOU content, check out some of our below guides:Joel & Tess explained | Sarah spoilers | Fungus threat is terrifying | The dog’s fate | Who is Marlene? | Why is Ellie so important? | Soundtrack choice | FEDRA & the Fireflies explained

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