HBO’s The Last of Us Season One, Episode Three is a continuation of Neil Druckmann’s (lead writer for The Last of Us franchise) efforts to spotlight gay characters. Following in The Last of Us Part 2’s footsteps, episode three of the critically acclaimed TV adaptation adds more insight into Bill’s relationship with his lover Frank.
The TV show gives Frank, played by HBO stalwart Murray Bartlett, a much larger role than he had in the game, and displays how he influenced a warmer Bill (Nick Offerman) than we got in The Last of Us game. The deeper dive into their love life spawned quite a bit of backlash from fans, and even elicited a response from Offerman himself:
The following article includes spoilers for The Last of Us games and TV series
The show casts Frank in an entirely new light, as the original game showed his dead body with a nearby note that includes the romantic line, “I want you to know I hated your guts.”
Upon reading the note, Bill tries to play it off, calling Frank a “fuckin’ idiot,” but the game’s Bill is much more jaded and less trusting, which we see at the beginning of the TV episode before Frank unlocks a side of Bill hidden his entire life.
In the game, their relationship is more subtly implied. Bill speaks of his partner in a much more negative manner, which leads one to believe he held more resentment than love for Frank.
So Much More Than Strawberries
In the show, Druckmann and showrunner Craig Mazin created a much warmer image of Frank, which further confirms how unafraid Druckmann is to rewrite certain elements and story points from the game. More important, it also shows a commitment to fill in existing gaps that further enhance the personality of the desolate Massachusetts countryside so many are excited to return to on the small screen.
Towards the end of the episode, we are given a short but heartwarming scene in which Frank reveals a strawberry garden he had planted for Bill, leading Bill to say, “I was never afraid before you showed up.”
This serves to further subvert the stereotype of the gruff, Nazi-hating, conspiracy-diffusing hunter that Bill appears to represent at the beginning of the episode.
The game’s Bill is not entirely an unsympathetic figure either, even in all his cynicism, as he offers the line, “Once upon a time, I had somebody that I cared about. It was a partner. Somebody I had to look after. And in this world, that sort of shit’s good for one thing: gettin’ you killed.”
It’s hard to argue with this version of Bill’s thesis on trust and duty. In the game, Bill is encountered alone, long after his Frank has died, further validating Bill’s distrust.
One Step Further
This is where Druckmann’s bravery to rewrite certain elements of the original game’s story is highlighted once again. By centering an entire episode of the show around a budding romance, and eventual tragic double suicide, which Bill tries to understate (“this isn’t the tragic death at the end of the play”), in an episode spanning almost 90 minutes, this episode is more of a character study and further celebration of what makes the series so great and unique. It also shows how it’s much more than Joel simply gunning down Infected to protect Ellie.
We see Frank and Bill embrace, kiss, and allude to having sex, as Frank unlocks an entirely new side of Bill. This is yet another example of Druckmann being unafraid to use love not only as a story point but a driving force behind a character’s entire motivation.
Sources: The Last of Us for PS3, PS4, PS5, Naughty Dog, 2013. “Long, Long Time.” The Last of Us, written by Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin, directed by Peter Hoar, HBO, 2023.
The Last of Us airs every Sunday on HBO at 9:00 P.M. ET.