On my first and subsequent playthroughs of The Last of Us, two sections really struck and stayed with me. The first was the stretch entitled ‘Winter.’ And the second was Bill’s Town. The latter appealed to me because its environmental storytelling said so much about its central figure. And the hidden story of a man called Frank who grew tired of living within the confines of Bill’s paranoid lifestyle, that he resorts to suicide was haunting. So, with that in mind, I was very curious about episode 3 as an adaptation. You could even say it was the first time I felt a semblance of preciousness about the show and the choices it was making. But with that in mind, have you seen the third episode of The Last of Us? Let me know in the comments below.
So far, The Last of Us has had subtle, if not entirely subdued moments of deviation from the famed source material. They exist almost as faint flickers amongst the blowing candle of the HBO adaptation. However, the show’s third instalment changes that. It draws a line in the sand and differentiates itself from the video game with a powerfully raw and emotive episode.
After the tragic events of the last episode, Joel and Ellie continue their journey. Along the way, they go in search of Bill and Frank, who live in an abandoned town that’s filled with booby traps and supplies.
Rather than using Bill’s town as a landscape to illustrate the character’s fervent paranoid survivalist lifestyle, the episode instead dims its attention to focus on the relationship that Bill has with Frank. In the videogame, the character has a lingering presence due to a series of optional notes that the player can pick up and read.
The change results in a powerful series of scenes that depict a sweet and endearing romance that carries the weight of tragedy from a couple trying to make a life together, after the world has gone to hell. The change retains some of Bill’s paranoid spirit as he argues with Frank about doing up certain sections of the town for a potential group of friends.
I really appreciated how Nick Offerman takes the brash and loudmouthed Bill from the game and turns him into a sensitive person who is still not willing to put aside his paranoid delusions. At the same time, there’s something almost machine-like in Offerman’s performance. One good example is after he hears Frank say how amazing it is to have a shower after ages. There’s almost a mechanical way he responds to the words as he efficiently turns and leaves the room. It’s akin to someone who is so clockwork to surviving that the precision in his body movements is the only response when it comes to emotions. This results in the subtle instances of Bill’s emotions throughout the episode all the more striking in their power.
In her brief scenes, Bella Ramsey impressed me in this episode. In particular, the scene where she finds an infected creature whose been crushed is particularly heart-wrenching. Ramsey balances an almost scientific curiosity with sadistic cruelty. Pedro Pascal continues to be the show’s most impressive acting element and seeing him absorb the gravity of Bill’s parting words was beautifully poignant.
Like previous episodes, the changes in a roundabout way get to the heart of what made the Sony game work; whether it’s the lengths you would go to for your loved ones (in the tragic final moments that Bill and Frank have with one another) or the darkly comic spirit that pervades Bill’s letter (much like Frank’s in the game).
But above all, the changes are interesting to see how they affect the final outcome and potential events of Part II. There’s a tragic irony to Bill and Frank’s life together, knowing what happens to Ellie in the second video game. And it’s a mark of an excellent show that gets you to reconsider events of multiple source materials.