HBO’s The Last of Us series continues to amaze. We were warned that the third episode would be something amazing, but no one could have imagined this execution and delivery. Built into the overall context of the series and its core themes, it works in the overall context and could even stand alone. It would still work, such is its execution.
This third episode focuses on Bill, a character you meet on your journey with Ellie and Joel in Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us game. He is bitter and hostile to outsiders. If you pay attention to Joel’s lines, you’ll discover little bits of his personality that go beyond his on-stage image.
About the time you leave his town, you discover a harsh truth about his life through a note. It’s a very video game way to delve into a secondary character without wasting time. However, this did not work for Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann, who decided to go much further in adapting the series.
You might be surprised to see that the show devotes an entire episode to Bill and Frank, their partner, with major changes in the couple’s lives that consciously don’t interfere with Ellie and Joel’s journey.
Spoilers for episode 3 of HBO’s The Last of Us.
This Episode 3 may surprise you as it’s so different from the source material, but it’s a great example of the methodology used by the creative team. The Last of Us as a game is already a highly cinematic experience with incredible narrative power and layered characters to explore. It seemed more than ready for adaptation, but the series shows how this format allows you to see the characters and events in a different way.
This episode is the best example of that, as you get to delve into one of the game’s most interesting characters, who takes on a whole new dimension. Through actors Murray Bartlett as Frank and Nick Offerman as Bill, you will witness a story spanning 20 years. Unlike what happens in the game, here the result is tragic, but romantic and cute, even if the route is filled with the same incredulity and dryness that characterizes Bill in the game.
Once again, the creative team doesn’t focus on the “monsters”, the infected, you only have one scene that lasts about a minute with an infected on screen. The people are the focus, more specifically how their actions in a moment of such desperation reveal their true nature. After an opening scene with Joel and Ellie, you can see what happened in the early days of the outbreak, from the perspective of Bill, who goes wild with joy when his quiet village is completely evacuated and he finds himself alone.
He decides to stock up at will, set up a series of traps around his house and, as a conspiracy nut who suspects everything and everyone, lives in an authentic paradise cut off from the world. The episode shows how Bill lived out his days enjoying the moments when the infected died in his traps and as a general he hates people and prefers to be alone.
Everything changes when Frank appears, who falls into Bill’s trap, and ends up surprising this bitter and suspicious man with his curiosity. Frank is the opposite of Bill. He is curious and optimistic, revealing hope in every danger and believing that it is possible to wish for a better life while humanity faces the end of the world. They are two opposites who end up attracting each other and a beautiful love story is born, gracefully explored over 20 years.
It’s a romance story that can be seen separately from the rest of the series, but it has a lot to add for both those who know the game and those who don’t. This is what surprised me the most. Deepening the world through other characters isn’t easy for a series, especially when they don’t even use the protagonists for most of the episode, but never stray from the core essence that defines HBO’s The Last of Us.
The use of music, scenery, lighting, camera placement (that last scene deserves a round of applause for its simplicity), allow a bitter gaming story to become a tragic, yet wonderful, romantic tale of how it is possible to love and trust the end of the world.
In the game, Bill is a kind of prop for a game module in an experiment with glorified narrative ambitions. Many may even see it as a cliché of a bitter old man at the end of the world. The post-Bill section starts off with a bang and is one of the most impressive moments of the original game, which ended up overshadowing the character, leaving only the memory of the suspicious old man who set up so many traps around him. In the series, it has a special outline, and the affection shown by the creative team could make it one of the most memorable moments of HBO’s The Last of Us.