Scared yet? ‘The Last of Us’ showrunner makes that haunting prologue even worse

the last of us hbo
via HBO

The Last of Us may have originally come out in 2013, but its world-breaking events are even more relevant today courtesy of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The first episode of the highly anticipated HBO adaptation aired last night and introduced TV fans to a completely different viral infection than they’re used to seeing in the real world. In principle, what we witness in The Last of Us isn’t dissimilar to how numerous zombie films work, but the key difference here is that the Cordyceps fungus is actually real, and what you see in the series could quite literally, and scientifically, happen in our society as well.

As seen in the pilot episode’s prologue, an epidemiologist warns the world of an impending fungal threat. If and when certain fungi that infect animals and control them evolve in a way that lets them survive in a warmer climate — and we’ve already got that covered — then the global community is doomed. And here’s the real kicker, folks: There are no vaccines for fungal infections, nor are there likely to be.

Showrunner Craig Mazin discussed this terrifying opener in a chat with The Hollywood Reporter, saying that what they did was basically tell the audiences this threat has always been here.

“It’s real — it’s real to the extent that everything he says that fungus do, they do. And they currently do it and have been doing it forever. There are some remarkable documentaries that you can watch that are quite terrifying. Now his warning — what if they evolve and get into us? — from a purely scientific point of view, would they do exactly to us what they do to ants? I don’t think so. I doubt it. On the other hand, he’s right — LSD and psilocybin do come from fungus. What I told John was, ‘What we’re doing in this scene is telling people this has always been here.'”

This harkens back to a similar situation for Craig Mazin, who previously worked on HBO’s Chernobyl.

“What was so chilling to me was that [the Chernobyl nuclear plant] blew up that night, but it could have blown up a week before or it could have blown up a month before,” he continued. “Which means that right now, there’s something that’s just waiting to blow up — you just don’t know about it. It was so upsetting to say to people, ‘We knew about this, it’s been there, now we’re gonna show you the night it finally happens.’ Not suddenly, but finally.”

Well, I guess we’re now going to have to worry about the thing around the next corner as well, even not knowing what it could be. Pandemics, natural disasters, and other cataclysmic events of this nature always take the world by surprise, so the next viral infection could have you fighting Clickers with whatever’s handy rather than wearing masks and social distancing. We know what we’d pick.