Video Games: ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 3 Review

Screenshot of Murray Bartlett as Frank and Nick Offerman as Bill in episode three of ‘The Last of Us’ on HBO Max. Copyright goes to Naughty Dog, Playstation Productions, and Sony Pictures Productions.

Hey! Hallie here!

It’s been way too many days since this episode came out and I’ve been dying to talk about it. This episode has been widely praised since its release. Some critics have even gone as far as to call it one of the best episodes of television ever made. And really, who am I to disagree? Episode three was the first episode we’ve gotten that completely took fans of the video game by surprise, and it only improved on the story. Despite not involving the main characters much, no episode has captured the reality of the apocalypse situation or the theme of love as well as this one. I only have praise for this episode, so this review’s going to be a bit different. Instead of going over what I liked and disliked, I’m going to spend a little bit of time on the Joel and Ellie storyline, and the rest of the post on the changes made between the game and the series. Let’s get into it! SPOILERS AHEAD!

Joel and Ellie:

While their part of the story was short, I don’t think it was any less important than what we saw in the previous episodes. First off, Ellie getting excited about finding a box of tampons meant more to me than I anticipated. We don’t usually normalize women’s hygiene in shows that take place in modern day, let alone in shows taking place during the apocalypse where resources are scarce. I also really enjoyed Ellie’s lack of knowledge surrounding things we consider normal, like planes. She grew up in the apocalypse where those things were no longer part of everyday life, so the fact that humans used to fly in the sky is a completely new and fascinating idea to her. But moving on from her wholesome moments in this episode, it seems the show is setting her up to appear just as dangerous as Joel. The scene where she’s inspecting that Infected was unsettling, but her lack of compassion for it was possibly the most unsettling part of it. As for Joel, I really liked the impact Bill and Frank’s story had on Joel and Ellie’s relationship. Joel, just as he is in the game, is unwilling to cope with his grief. He warns Ellie multiple times not to talk about Tess anymore, and you can easily tell that one of the reasons why he does this is because he’d rather push Tess from his mind than process his grief over her death. Bill’s letter to Joel, in which he tells him to protect Tess, pours salt in that wound. But it also makes him realize that his role as a protector of the people around him is about more than just being a grizzled, suspicious man. It’s about finding people you care for who are worth protecting. By the end of the episode that idea starts to warm him to Ellie, and it’s definitely laying the groundwork for the strong father/daughter relationship that will come along later.

Bill and Frank:

The Game: Bill and Frank are both side characters that appear in one way or another in the video game. Bill is the much more prominent character. When Joel goes to Bill for help, preferably to find a car, Bill is very much alive. Bill’s town isn’t as safe of a haven in the game, though. Instead, Bill’s town is large and maze-like. While most of his traps take care of the Infected that wander into the area, the Infected still often slip through the cracks. Meaning Bill has to venture out to take care of some problems himself, and the further away from his house, the more Infected can be found wandering around. It takes a lot of work for Bill, Joel, and Ellie to navigate his town, find the car Joel needs, and escape in it with the Infected only moments behind them. While Joel and Ellie travel this dangerous area with Bill, Bill’s sexuality is only hinted at. One hint ends up being the inappropriate magazines in his house containing men who aren’t wearing much, or any, clothing. You as the player don’t see the magazines, but in a memorable gag we aren’t likely to see in the show, Ellie teases Joel with her opinions on them. Your next hint is Bill’s relationship with Frank. When you meet Bill in the game he’s bitter, suspicious of Ellie, and determined to convince Joel that caring about someone else is a hazard more than a help. Later you manage to pry out of him that he had “a partner” named Frank, who recently abandoned him due to a large fight between them. He never confirms his relationship with Frank, but the way he gets teary eyed and defensive when he speaks about him says a lot. Towards the end of the level you find Frank’s body. He was bitten and hung himself before he could turn, but not before he left a scalding letter for Bill to find. Bill doesn’t really recover from the reveal, but he forcefully brushes it off, leaving Joel to decide he doesn’t want to be like Bill rather than being inspired by him.

The Show: If you’ve watched this episode, like I’m assuming you have, you know Bill and Frank’s story is nothing like the game. First, we get more insight to Bill’s character and his story begins way before he meets Joel. Bill is shown to be, as many of those who played the game suspected, an anti-social survivalist whose crazy ideas became less crazy on the day of the apocalypse. Unlike all the other characters we’ve seen so far in the show, he thrived during doomsday, taking his neighbors supplies and raiding Home Depot for enough trap parts to set him up in his small town for a lifetime. He also doesn’t really have to worry about Infected at all. His town being more contained and his traps being more full-proof gives him the opportunity to kick back and enjoy a home cooked meal and some wine. One day a man who isn’t Infected falls into one of his traps, and when Bill goes to potentially kill him, the man manages to convince him to let him go and give him some food. Here we start seeing the softness of Bill. Bill isn’t the rude, bitter man from the game. While he’s suspicious of others, he has a decency that causes him to be almost unbearably soft around Frank, even when he’s first suspicious of him. And Frank, being the extremely kind man he is, almost instantly (and correctly) interprets this softness as a need for company and decides that he would very much like to be the one to keep him company. Which leads to an adorable first kiss, and an entire episode about their life together as a gay couple. I don’t think I have to tell you how important it is that such a huge episode of such a huge franchise was dedicated to a queer couple. I could have cried over the representation alone. But their story in itself is just gorgeous.

The show brilliantly shows us their relationship alongside the way the apocalypse effects that relationship. We see the two fight over their opinions on letting other people into their town. Frank believes in the importance of human interaction, that’s one of the reasons why he stayed with Bill, and it’s so interesting to see Bill’s untrusting nature be challenged with that point of view. I especially loved when Frank invited Joel and Tess over. It was nice to see how Joel and Bill’s overprotectiveness turned into mutual respect and almost friendship. We then see Bill and Frank thriving off of the new connections they’ve made in perhaps the most adorable scene in the entire episode, where Frank reveals he traded a gun for strawberry seeds and the two giggle happily as they eat strawberries. Then we watch their home get attacked by looters, as Joel warned would eventually happen. Bill is injured and, due to his nature, is fully prepared to be the first one of them to die. He even planned out everything for Frank should he be killed. That alone nearly made me cry. But the thing that actually made me cry was their somewhat happy ending. Frank, as he gets old, falls ill and decides he wants to go via assisted suicide. Bill cries about it at first, which is about where the waterworks started for me. He then takes Frank through the last day he wants, including a wedding ceremony for the two of them and a final dinner that’s actually the first meal Bill ever served Frank. After all that Bill reveals that he plans to die alongside Frank because the show wants me to drown in buckets of my own tears. While their deaths are still tragic, they’re undeniably happy. Especially for people living in an apocalyptic universe. Bill and Frank peacefully fall asleep in each other’s arms. You really can’t expect anything better. And in the end, Bill’s relationship with Frank leads him to tell Joel to hold on to the people he cares about. That’s much more impactful to a grieving Joel than Bill’s bitterness.

I will never get over this episode. It expertly took me through a rollercoaster of emotions, and despite the fact that I ended the episode crying, I will go back to it many more times in the future. The imagery of the open window, leading to a closed off room where Bill and Frank lie together, isn’t something I’ll forget anytime soon. It’s haunting, but it’s breathtakingly beautiful. The fact that this episode barely had anything to do with the plot so far and still might end up being my favorite episode of the entire series blows my mind. Maybe “filler episodes” shouldn’t be as heavily critiqued as they are. If this is what a major series can do with an episode that could be considered filler, I’d like to know what other series could do with the stigma taken off episodes that don’t strictly follow the main plot.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!


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