The Last of Us episode 2 finally confirms where Cordyceps originated – and the creators have weighed in

Bella Ramsey as Ellie in The Last of Us
(Image credit: HBO)

Warning: Major spoilers ahead for The Last of Us episode 2! Turn back now if you haven't seen the latest episode yet! 

The Cordyceps infection wreaked havoc in The Last Us's premiere, all but destroying civilization and turning its unfortunate victims into zombie-like creatures whose only goal is to spread the sickness far and wide. But, where exactly the outbreak started was left a mystery – and episode 2 has finally filled in the blanks. 

In a flashback at the beginning of the second episode, we learn more about the very early days of the pandemic. A mycologist in Indonesia is taken to a high security facility to investigate a deceased victim of Cordyceps and is told that the mysterious illness began at a flour factory. 

That ties in with a popular fan theory that flour is the cause of the spread, after viewers noticed that Joel and his daughter Sarah conspicuously avoid eating anything that contains the foodstuff: Joel forgets a birthday cake, they don't have pancakes for breakfast, and they both turn down their neighbors' cookies. 

When asked by Variety (opens in new tab) about the theory, co-showrunners Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin confirmed its accuracy. "I think it's pretty explicit," Mazin said, with Druckmann agreeing: "Yeah, we pretty much said yes." 

Added Mazin: "When she talks about where these people worked and what was going on in that factory – yeah, it's pretty clear that's what's going on. We liked the idea of that science, and we try as best we can to make sure that our research all connects. [The mycologist] asks where it happened, and the guy says a flour factory on the west side of the city. We are absolutely talking about – there is the world's largest flour mill in Jakarta – so that's a fine theory and I think people should keep running with it."

Druckmann also explained that they were careful not to reveal too much, however. "Everything we saw in the game was from three characters' perspective – [Joel's daughter] Sarah, Joel and Ellie, that's it. Here, we have the ability leave those characters and show some other stuff, but it was always important to never say, 'Okay, here is patient zero, the exact origin,'" he said.

"A lot of it is based on hints. Craig would come to me with his millions of questions, like 'How did this thing spread?' We had one hint in the game, in the newspaper you pick up as Sarah, where it implies that there were contaminated products," Druckmann continued. "We talked about: How would this spread? Where would it start? We're revealing more and more from the first episode, where we gave hints of things that would have turned out very different for the Millers had they made those pancakes. Now, we get to see a bit more of how this thing started."

The Last of Us episode 2 confirmed that no one is safe from Cordyceps: Tess was infected and sacrificed herself in a heart breaking moment, which means Joel and Ellie now must complete their journey alone. 

You can keep up to date with the show with our The Last of Us release schedule. While you wait for the next episode, see our guide to all the upcoming new TV shows to fill out your watchlist. 

Molly Edwards
Entertainment Writer

I'm an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things film and TV for the site's Total Film and SFX sections. I previously worked on the Disney magazines team at Immediate Media, and also wrote on the CBeebies, MEGA!, and Star Wars Galaxy titles after graduating with a BA in English.