Why HBO’s ‘The Last of Us’ modified Bill and Frank’s story

This story comprises spoilers for Episode 3 of HBO’s “The Last of Us” and corresponding moments from the 2013 videogame.

The third episode of “The Last of Us” takes viewers again to the start of the world’s fungal apocalypse.

Sunday’s installment, essentially the most intimate of the collection thus far, introduces audiences to Bill (Nick Offerman), a gun-toting, paranoid, self-described survivalist who seems to have been one of many few folks ready to dwell on the planet following the mysterious mutant cordyceps outbreak. Bill’s distrust of the federal government meant that as an alternative of being rounded up with the opposite residents of his city, he stayed behind to construct a fortified base round his residence, able to dwell out the remainder of his days blissfully alone.

Besides he doesn’t find yourself alone. Just a few years after the outbreak, a weary traveler named Frank (Murray Bartlett) is caught in certainly one of Bill’s traps. In opposition to his higher judgment, Bill lets Frank into his compound for what is meant to be a momentary respite. The episode goes on to element how the 2 males fall in love and spend the remainder of their lives collectively.

For “The Last of Us” co-creator and govt producer Craig Mazin, Bill and Frank had been a possibility to point out that even in a collection based mostly on a online game, demise doesn’t imply failure.

“They reach an end on their own terms,” Mazin stated throughout a current video name. “And like Bill says, ‘I’m old, I’m satisfied, and you were my purpose.’ That feels like a victory to me.”

However extra vital, their relationship exhibits the viewers, in addition to a reluctant Joel (Pedro Pascal), that even on this terrifying, harmful world, love and happiness are usually not solely attainable but additionally value it. Bill and Frank’s story is integral to the collection and fully authentic from the Bill and Frank story instructed in “The Last of Us” online game.

Frank (Murray Bartlett, left) and Bill (Nick Offerman) share their closing meal collectively in “The Last of Us.”


“For people who played the game and loved the game, this is pretty much all entirely new,” stated Mazin. “The story of Bill and Frank and the letter that Bill leaves behind [in the show] is such a huge part of why Joel decides he’s going to keep going [on this journey] with Ellie … Their relationship ultimately becomes kind of the skeleton key to unlock all of this show, as far as I’m concerned.”

Bill and Frank’s story is way extra tragic within the sport. Very like within the present, Joel and Ellie search out Bill as a result of they want a car for his or her cross-country journey. They encounter Bill alive, and the participant should work along with him to make it throughout city to get needed gear. Alongside the best way, Bill mentions a former “partner” named Frank earlier than the group discovers a physique and learns that Frank has hanged himself after being bitten by the contaminated. Some optionally available digging round can result in the participant discovering a letter Frank has left for Bill, telling him, “I hated your guts.”

Neil Druckmann, the collection co-creator and govt producer who additionally wrote the unique sport, credit the preliminary concept of Bill to “The Last of Us” sport director Bruce Straley. The concept behind Bill, Druckmann stated, was to introduce “someone that lives on their own” who’s “kind of kooky, because what are you surviving for at that point?”

In line with Druckmann, Bill’s backstory involving a earlier associate was one thing thatwas developed up over the course of the sport’s manufacturing. Though he had written Bill and Frank’s relationship to be romantic — as a result of that will be a larger loss — Druckmann left it as much as Bill’s actor, W. Earl Brown, to interpret whether or not the character was homosexual. And he did. (As Druckmann himself says within the sport’s commentary, Bill’s sexuality and the character of Bill and Frank’s “partnership” are by no means explicitly talked about within the sport. However it may be inferred by {a magazine} Ellie finds and exhibits Joel.)

In line with Straley, the rationale for Bill’s existence within the sport is that he’s “a person who had genuine feelings for another human being in that world, and is having a reaction to that [relationship ending]. That reaction is being projected onto Joel and Ellie’s relationship.”

Whereas Bill vocalizes one warning — that getting near somebody is the way you get killed on the planet of the sport — his goal is to function the other. Bill is a glimpse of the form of particular person Joel may turn out to be if he continues to keep away from getting near others: eccentric, bitter and alone.

Mazin noticed the TV adaptation as an opportunity for Bill and Frank to dwell a special story. Whereas the sport is proscribed, for essentially the most half, to telling its narrative by way of the angle of Joel with the intention to give gamers an immersive expertise, tv has extra freedom.

A man standing next to another man seated at a piano in "The Last of Us."

Bill (Nick Offerman, left) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) attending to know one another in “The Last of Us.”

(Liane Hentscher / HBO)

For Mazin, Bill and Frank had been a possibility to point out Joel and the viewers that “there is a way for people to achieve a kind of peace and happiness and love in this world.”

Moreover being a method for the collection to point out time elapsing from the start of the pandemic to the present’s current for the primary time, Bill and Frank supplied the chance to painting “two human beings who have been in a committed relationship for a really long time,” stated Mazin.

It was an vital alternative to point out a pair of lives well-lived. As a result of for the entire risks that exist on the planet of the present, Bill and Frank discovered one another and lived a life collectively. The care that Mazin and the present’s creatives took in telling their story and depicting their relationship is evident.

“I think in a show like this, where the world around our characters is constantly pressuring them … there is the tendency for endings to be tragic and violent and abrupt and too soon,” stated Mazin. “And I thought it was important to show how a relationship could endure, and then conclude in a natural way. Because death is a perfectly natural thing to do.”

“The whole thing is about hope and humanity being able to construct hope and believe hope,” stated Peter Hoar, the episode’s director. “The reason we believe in anything is because we think it’s going to help us. Faith, or otherwise, it’s something that you construct around you to go, ‘Yeah, see, it’s worth it.’ For that to be a gay love story, an LGBTQ love story, was just the icing on the cake.”

Whereas there have been rumblings that Episode 3 may very well be divisive amongst current “Last of Us” followers, Hoar believes they deserve extra credit score.

“They know why they like ‘The Last of Us,’” stated Hoar. “Yes, the game play was good, but they liked ‘The Last of Us’ because of how it made them feel. I think that’s what we do in Episode 3. We make you feel it.”

Two men talking in the street "The Last of Us."

“The Last of Us’” Joel (Pedro Pascal, left) and Bill (Nick Offerman) are minimize from the identical mould.

(Liane Hentscher / HBO)

In the end, the tragedy of Episode 3 will not be how Bill and Frank have chosen to die collectively, however the message that Bill has left for Joel in a letter. As a result of Bill noticed a kindred spirit in Joel as somebody who protects these they love, he bequeaths every part he owns to Joel so he can preserve Tess protected.

“Bill doesn’t know that Joel has failed,” stated Mazin. “Not once, mind you, but twice. Joel has failed to keep his daughter alive. He’s failed to keep Tess alive. And now, his only chance to be the person that Bill says he is, is to keep this kid [Ellie] alive.”

Druckmann, for his half, is happy that the sport impressed the emotional story instructed in Episode 3.

“I feel like this sequence is really beautiful, and it’s really beautiful for the show in a way that we couldn’t do in the game,” stated Druckmann. “Even though that episode deviates quite a bit from the game, and the fate of the character is different from the game. It’s so beautiful and so moving that I think it’s worth it.”

Occasions sport critic Todd Martens contributed to this story.