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The Big Clue You Might Have Missed In The Last Of Us' Premiere

HBO's adaptation of "The Last of Us" came out of the gate swinging with a stellar premiere episode (read SVG's review here). The first installment of the long-awaited series faithfully recreates the tone of the games, introducing new audiences to Ellie and Joel with a number of scenes that feel like they've been pulled straight from Naughty Dog's original work. However, the first episode also added many new wrinkles to the story that fans of the games know and love. Some of these changes have contributed to a theory about the way in which the series' deadly Cordyceps infection first began to spread.

The opening scene of the show sets the audience up to expect some kind of fungal infection, much like in the games. However, the spores seen in the video games are not the primary method by which the virus is transmitted. As series co-creator Neil Druckmann revealed in an interview with Collider, the TV series switched to the infected using tendrils to pass on the virus. But still, those tendrils had to come from something, right?

The opening scene of the series establishes that the world could indeed be toppled by a fungal contagion, but the rest of the episode doesn't delve too much into how the Cordyceps suddenly took hold — or does it? This new fan theory might explain the origins of the virus in a way the games never did.

Flour power?

Redditor u/anagnost puts forth the idea that the outbreak was originally spread by "contaminated flour," which in turn tainted the food supply in North America and possibly other territories. As noted by anagnost, "There are too many coincidences that have our main characters avoid eating objects with flour." The Redditor points to several moments in the first episode in which the protagonists are unable to eat something with flour in it. For instance, the Millers discover at the top of the episode that they are out of flour, so Sarah is unable to make pancakes for Joel's birthday breakfast. Joel also forgets to pick up the birthday cake that was ordered for him, which presumably would have been made with flour as well. 

Anagnost adds that they're not alone in this theory. Reddit user RealSteamedHam points out, "It just so happens the worlds largest flour mill is in Jakarta. It's where we first know the outbreak happens on the radio while Joel, Sarah, and Tommy are eating breakfast." This point might be enough to convince most viewers of the show, but that's not the end to the clues.

There are a few more instances in the episode of a near-miss with flour, but perhaps the most important piece of the puzzle comes from the scene in which both Joel and Sarah say no to an offer of fresh biscuits from their neighbor. This neighbor can be seen feeding a biscuit to his elderly mother with dementia, which leads to the most telling piece of evidence supporting this fan theory.

Look for the 'breadcrumbs'

In the first episode of HBO Max's "The Last of Us Podcast," hosted by Troy Baker (the original voice actor behind Joel), Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann had an opportunity to discuss their approach in bringing "The Last of Us" to television. One of the things they were excited to do with this first episode is flesh out the story of Joel and Ellie's doomed neighbors, who become infected or are killed when the aforementioned older woman turns feral. In the interview, Mazin points out that this illustrates the ways in which the Cordyceps can essentially reanimate atrophied tissue and cause even a catatonic human being to lash out. 

But the real interesting bit here can be heard after Mazin talks about the scene of the old woman being fed a biscuit. At that, Mazin stops himself and remarks, By the way, a lot of little details are gonna come back around. We don't wanna give spoilers, but I will say this: Careful viewers of this episode will be rewarded repeatedly, because little bits of breadcrumbs have been planted that are gonna pay off later in interesting ways." 

For some listeners, including the folks in u/anagnost's Reddit thread, the use of the term "breadcrumbs" feels all too purposeful. It's unclear how these so-called "breadcrumbs" will eventually pay off in the world of the show. It's almost difficult to believe that the show would go so far as to give viewers a definitive reason for the outbreak. After all, "The Walking Dead" also teased various reasons behind its outbreak over the years, but never quite settled on one true cause. Dedicated fans of "The Last of Us" will simply have to stay tuned.