‘The Last Of Us’ Creators Explain The Heartbreaking Change To Bill & Frank’s Story
— Updated on 16 March 2023

‘The Last Of Us’ Creators Explain The Heartbreaking Change To Bill & Frank’s Story

— Updated on 16 March 2023
Garry Lu
Garry Lu

While HBO’s The Last of Us has largely remained faithful to the video game of which it’s based upon, Episode 3 deviated from the source material in quite a significant way. And for the better, in our opinion. Warning: Spoilers Ahead.

In the game, there’s zero indication regarding whether survivalists Bill and Frank are “partners” in the romantic sense or from a purely functional standpoint. After decades by each other’s side, Frank grows tiresome of Bill and leaves their self-contained safe haven in Lincoln. Eventually, Frank takes his own life after being infected and leaves Bill a caustic farewell note that reads:

Well, Bill, I doubt you’d ever find this note cause you were too scared to ever make it to this part of town. But if for some reason you did, I want you to know I hated your guts.

I grew tired of this shitty town and your set-in-your-ways attitude. I wanted more from life than this and you could never get that. And that stupid battery you kept moaning about — I got it. But I guess you were right. Trying to leave this town will kill me. Still better than spending another day with you.

Good Luck, 


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The Last Of Us Episode 3 Heartbreaking Story Change Explained

In the series, however, there’s far more humanity to this storyline. We’re treated to an unexpectedly poetic chronicle of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank’s (Murray Bartlett) loving relationship – from those early moments of the former freeing the latter from his perimeter trap and sharing a meal together, to peacefully dying in each other’s tender embrace before Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) can even reach Lincoln in time to encounter Bill; having found a soul mate at the end of the world. This added context and a brief reprieve from the core narrative made for television magic.

So what motivated this literal game-changer of a decision?

“When we got to this part in the season, Craig [Mazin] brought up a really interesting point which is… there’s a lot of examples of things not turning out well for people, and often those are reflections and cautionary tales for Joel of, ‘Here’s what you stand to lose.’ It was, ‘What if we show them what you could stand to win?'” Neil Druckmann, who also served as creative director and writer for the original video game, explained to IGN.

“But in a way, also still a warning sign for Joel… especially on the heels of losing Tess at the end of [Episode 2]. In the TV show, we could leave our main character’s perspective, which in the game we’re very much adhered to purely Joel or purely Ellie. Here, we could see what happened with Bill in the outbreak. And then what was it like to meet Frank and fall in love with Frank and grow old with Frank, and then the full cycle of love and living together with someone and experiencing loss, but loss is tinged with happiness of having lived a full life filled with love.”

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The Last Of Us Episode 3 Heartbreaking Story Change Explained

Craig Mazin added: “I think it is a happy ending. I think we tend to view death as failure, particularly when you’re talking about playing a video game. It is literally failure. And for our show so far, there’s been some brutal moments where Joel has failed or at least perceives that he’s failed: he failed his daughter, he’s failed Tess, and he’s certainly feeling that weight at both the beginning and end of this episode.”

“I’m particularly happy about the way Bill.. has managed to inspire Joel to take Ellie west. He’s given Joel this posthumous instruction that men like you and me are here for one reason, to protect the people we love, and God help any motherfuckers who stand in our way. And it’s hard for Joel to say, ‘Well, it didn’t work with Tess, but now what am I supposed to do? Stop being who I am? This is legitimately why I’m here.'”

“And so it’s the happy ending and Bill’s understanding of who he was as a human being that inspires Joel to do the right thing here. The question is that is it always going to inspire Joel to do the right thing? We’ll have to wait and see.”

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“It’s more like, where are we at with the story and what’s the best chapter we could tell right now that will speak to the themes of love and help raise the stakes for what Joel and Ellie stand to gain or lose if they succeed or fail on their journey? That was the beginning point,” said Neil Druckmann.

“Then we had some early conversation of wanting to see Frank because we had this opportunity to go back, but then Craig came to me with a pretty complete pitch of what this story could look like, and I fell in love with it.”

“I think it speaks to the kind of process that Craig and I have, which was always being open to new ideas and then assess and then do math homework. Do the math of, what does this give us? How does it affect the rest of the story? Are we better in this version of the story, in this other medium, or are we worse? If we’re better, we should embrace it fully. And this was such a beautiful story. It was very easy for me to say, ‘Let’s do it. Sounds amazing.’”

Goddamn it feels good to be experiencing the Golden Age of Television.

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Garry Lu
After stretching his legs with companies such as The Motley Fool and the odd marketing agency, Garry joined Boss Hunting in 2019 as a fully-fledged Content Specialist. In 2021, he was promoted to News Editor. Garry proudly retains a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, black bruises from Muay Thai, as well as a black belt in all things pop culture. Drop him a line at [email protected]


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