The Last of Us showrunners explain how a note from HBO led to the premiere being so long

Tess (Anna Torv) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) in The Last of Us episode 1
(Image credit: HBO)

The Last of Us showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have revealed that the premiere episode was originally much shorter – until HBO stepped in.

"Episode one used to be episode one and two. It used to just end on the ‘20 years later’ and seeing Joel throw the kid in the fire," Druckmann said on HBO’s The Last of Us podcast. (opens in new tab)

Mazin explained it was their bosses at HBO who suggested a change from the original ending so they could entice audiences back for the next episode.

"In this case, our proxies [at HBO] were saying it’s not necessarily going to want to make me come back," Mazin said. "The whole story of The Last of Us is about Joel and Ellie. If we get a little glimpse of her at the end of episode one and we don’t bring them together… and it just ends with a kid dying, then credits – people may not want to come back."

Druckmann added: "In hindsight the feedback makes complete sense. We had a version where we ended on Ellie looking out the window… there’s a mystery here, but we haven’t established why we should care about the kid. We have to get to that moment [where Joel meets Ellie], that’s the start of this journey. The episode is so much better for it."

The Last of Us airs Sundays on HBO in the US and Mondays on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in the UK. For more from the HBO series, check out our guide to the major Last of Us episode 1 changes from the games and a terrifying look at the Cordyceps fungus. Discover when the next episode is dropping with our Last of Us release schedule.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.