The Last of Us finally arrived on our television screens on Sunday with a feature-length premiere, and depicted the opening hours of the 2013 Naughty Dog game the smash hit TV series is based on.
A discussion on the show’s companion podcast between showrunners Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin, as well as original Joel actor Troy Baker revealed that we weren’t always going to be getting a movie-length first episode of the show.
According to Druckmann (who incidentally also directed the source game), the first episode was originally going to end as Joel disposed of the body of the child killed by FEDRA, marking the character’s tragic full circle in the 20 years since losing his own child, to his nonchalant handling of another deceased preteen.
Of course, ending the premiere episode of a show (ultimately geared towards a wider audience than just fans of the game) on quick and successive back-to-back child murders may have put off prospective viewers from returning, and the network pushed back on Druckmann and Mazin’s decision.
Druckmann also mentions an ending which wrapped up on the introduction of Ellie (Bella Ramsey) looking out of a window, but then mused that the network’s feedback inevitably made sense, recalling when he used to quiz his team at Naughty Dog during the original game’s development about the story’s pivotal moment:
“I would be like, ‘What’s the inciting incident?’ and they’d be like, ‘Oh – when Sarah dies obviously?’ Nope – it’s when Joel runs into Ellie. That’s the thing that changes his life.
So instead of a ten episode run each clocking in just under an hour, we got nine episodes with a feature-length premiere, and honestly, this was a great call on HBO’s part. A double child homicide is perhaps a tad too dark.
Baker, Druckmann, and Mazin had plenty to discuss during the podcast, including the use of the Depeche Mode song ‘Never Let Me Down Again,’ which they teased would be making a return later on in the series.