Fans praise The Last of Us series for massively deviating from game in latest episode
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Featured Image Credit: HBO/Sony Interactive Entertainment
Fans have praised HBO’s The Last of Us for massively deviating from the game in its latest, heartbreaking episode.
WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE LAST OF US EPISODE THREE
Episode three is an instalment all about Bill and Frank, expertly played by Nick Offerman and The White Lotus star Murray Bartlett, whose tender, heartbreaking story of love and loss has fast become one of the best things on TV we’ve ever seen.
Their narrative begins at the outbreak of the pandemic in 2003, when we meet a lone Bill, a survivalist living in his mother’s home, which is fortunately set up perfectly for a zombie apocalypse thanks to an underground bunker of guns and an elaborate CCTV system.
After a quick raid of Home Depo, Bill soon turns his deserted neighbourhood into a fortress of fences and booby traps, and lives in infection-free harmony for several years – until Frank falls into a pit on the perimeter of his enclosure, that is, and sweeps him off his feet with a romance he never knew he was able to experience.
But their happy little life of fresh strawberries, poignant piano sessions and bottles of deep-bodied red wine is turned upside down when Frank becomes wheelchair-bound with an unspecified degenerative neuromuscular disorder, which eventually prompts him to take his life.
Unable to face a future without him, Bill joins him for the fatal overdose – a sequence that will remain with viewers long after the closing credits roll.
What makes this episode particularly special is that, while the two characters feature in the original video game of the same name, their backstory does not.
In the game, we find out the pair had a huge argument and Frank stormed off, only to be bitten by an Infected.
Conscious not to endanger his partner, he then hanged himself, leaving us to meet a widowed Bill – and even then only briefly, before Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) continue their journey.
After the episode dropped in the US last night (Sunday 29 January), many fans have praised the programme for the emotional narrative that had not previously been included in the saga.
One tweeted: “Episode 3 of The Last of Us is exactly why I think faithfulness to the source material is overrated. Bill & Frank’s story was improved by not just slavishly copying the game. Same goes for comic book adaptations.”
Someone else said: "Watched the new Last of Us episode - was not expecting that deep of a dive and change to the Bill/ Frank arc. That was fantastic."
And a third said they were 'sad' not to see 'one of Bill's stupid traps' play out in the series, adding: "But the backstory of Bill and Frank was something we never knew we needed #TheLastOfUsHBO."
Speaking about the decision to dedicate almost an entire episode to two relatively minor characters in the game, Neil Druckmann, co-president of Naughty Dog admitted that he often feels ‘nervous’ about big changes to a character’s fate, but felt the payoff here was more than worth it.
Speaking on the official The Last of Us podcast, he explained: “In the game, that episode, that section, is about how – even though you can survive by yourself – what are you surviving for? What’s left?
"In the game, they have a very different fate, where they have a big falling out, and Bill sticks to his ways and Frank says, ‘I can’t live with you anymore’ and tries to escape, and ends up dying.
“That’s where the exploration of, like, ‘Oh, this guy has a partner, and wanted more than just surviving day-to-day, you just have to live your life’.
“So it was interesting to take those themes and approach them with a totally different story. Like, now let’s approach it as a sweet, romantic story, where these characters can struggle with that idea of, ‘What is this life for?’ And, ‘We’re here for a limited amount of time, how do we best live it?’”
He continued: “The thing I get nervous the most about changes is changing the fate of a character, and here we have a very different fate for Bill than we do in the game. And then I tried to do the math of weighing it, like, how much do we gain? Because to me, when you deviate that much, there’s a certain cost to it.
“And it was such a beautiful story, that explores the themes of love and the complexity that comes with love, and the happiness and pain. And even though this Bill dies in a way that Bill doesn’t die in the game, it’s a happier ending, because he lived a full life.”
Druckmann added: “There’s a demonstration of here’s what you stand to lose when you love someone – you could feel this immense loss – but here’s what you gain. And the contrast of those two things in this episode, I feel really elevate Joel and Ellie’s journey.”
Topics: Film & TV, Film and TV, Gaming, HBO