The sequence shows Ellie’s mother, Anna (played by Ashley Johnson, the voice of Ellie in The Last of Us video games) running away from an infected zombie into a house in order to give birth. But the zombie follows her and attacks. Anna wards it off with a knife and delivers her baby — Ellie — but the zombie manages to bite Anna on the leg in the process. The implication seems to be that something about this very unusual birth and simultaneous zombie attack made Ellie immune to whatever in Cordyceps fungus turns everyone else it comes in contact with into a raging mushroom monster.
The “Inside the Episode” video from HBO all about The Last of Us finale takes us behind the scenes of that sequence, and reveals some of the decisions that went into it. Series co-creator Craig Mazin says that the audience “needs to understand why [Ellie] is immune, but [they] also need to understand how much she was loved” by her mother. That is all shown in that heartbreaking opening sequence from the episode. You can check out that making-of video below:
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The full season of The Last of Us is now available on HBO Max.