There was word online even before THE LAST OF US began airing that episode three would be divisive amongst the gamer fans. That’s always a scary thing to hear, but the series managed to deviate from the original narrative without damaging the overall story. Honestly, this deviation actually elevated the emotional aspect of the series by incorporating a character that was only mentioned in the game. At 76 minutes, episode three managed to create an unexpected love story that will not be forgotten.
We’re now in Lincoln, Massachusetts, and meet Bill (Nick Offerman), a survivor of the pandemic. We follow his journey over the course of the last twenty years. Resourceful and typically hesitant to open his door, Bill eventually meets another survivor, Frank (Murray Bartlett). They quickly become lovers, their personalities fitting the concept of opposites attract. While Bill hates the world and almost everyone in it, Frank teaches him to see that there’s still beauty in the world filled with death.
It’s Frank’s willingness to chat on the radio with a woman that leads them to befriend Joel and Tess during this period, trading goods and a rare occasion to socialize. Their most common traits are the motivation to survive and do whatever it takes to succeed. Both couples (if you even want to call Joel and Tess that) have a strong partnership, one that’s built on more than just love. They only have each other and that’s what makes their loss even harder to fathom.
It’s near our present day and Frank has fallen ill, not due to infection, but to something that didn’t have a cure even before the pandemic. He can barely manage on his own and comes to terms that he wants to die soon, but happy. Since he is able to choose his destiny, he convinces Bill to give him one last good day. They find a boutique, wear something nice and formal, and get married. Bill prepares a delicious dinner and pours a glass mixed with crushed pills that will allow Frank to die peacefully. Upon drinking it, Frank realizes Bill has done the same to his own drink. Bill tells him that he is now an old man, but is satisfied with what life had to offer. They head upstairs to bed and die in their sleep, offscreen.
Now we’re back to Joel and Ellie who come to Bill’s for resources. Ellie finds a letter from Bill written to Joel explaining his suicide and to take whatever he wants from him to survive. The note references to use these items to help keep Tess alive which triggers Joel who still hasn’t been able to acknowledge her death. Joel starts up a car and learns that this is the first time Ellie has ever been in one. Even in the game, I sometimes needed a reminder that Ellie was a pandemic baby, never able to experience what “normal” life was like before. The episode ends with them heading to Wyoming to find Tommy, Joel’s brother while listening to some Linda Ronstadt.
The Bill and Frank love story isn’t exactly new to this universe, but Frank is never seen alive in the game. Stop reading here if you don’t want game spoilers. In the source game, Joel and Ellie find Bill alive after avoiding all his traps and together fight off hordes of infected while Bill vaguely references his “partner,” Frank. It’s insinuated that they were lovers when Frank all of a sudden disappeared on him which clearly did a number on Bill. Eventually, they stumble into an abandoned home where Frank’s body is hung from the ceiling. A note is left behind explaining that Frank killed himself once he got infected and wanted to not live like them. There are some harsh words written about Bill which break his heart and he stays behind as Joel and Ellie continue their journey.
The creators clearly felt there was a gap in Bill’s story that needed to be told and I’m glad they took this route. Bill comes off as a bitter, angry man in the game, but the TV series brought him to life, and Offerman’s performance is some kind of miracle. He manages to express pain and love without saying a word and I legit cried hard watching him come undone.
I’m curious to see how the internet reacts to this special episode. Bill’s sexuality was only hinted at in the game, but this is HBO, and HBO does not hint at anything. Their love is full on display as it should be and proves that THE LAST OF US is not just another zombie offering cashing in the genre.
The third episode of the HBO Original drama series THE LAST OF US debuted on January 29 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO and will be available to stream in 4K on HBO Max.
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