Numbers for HBO’s The Last of Us continue to rise as the hit zombie adaptation is renewed for a second season. With its third episode airing Sunday night, fans of the game and show alike finally meet the mysterious Bill and Frank that Tess had mentioned in the previous episode. So who exactly are Bill and Frank?
Warning: spoilers ahead
The episode starts off with a mourning Joel by the river, rinsing his bloodied hands in the water while building a little rock tower for Tess. He and Ellie then ready up to head to Bill and Frank’s place where Tess said they could help Joel and Ellie get to where they’re going. We eventually see a flashback from September of 2003 where a small town is getting evacuated. A man watches from his security cameras in his basement, waiting for the military to escort the civilians from town. Once they’re gone, he scouts the area to make sure he’s the only one left. Then his work begins.
That’s Bill. Bill’s a survivalist and a darn good one at that. He manages to fence off a portion of the town as well as set up booby traps to ward off both zombies and humans alike all the while maintaining some sense of normalcy due to having everything he needs to survive quite literally next door. Bill is very content with where he is in the new world. He has everything he could possibly want and need, including peace and quiet….until he meets Frank that is.
Frank fell in a hole. He didn’t try to. It was one of Bill’s traps that he set up outside the perimeter of his home. When Bill finds him, he hasn’t eaten for two days. After managing to convince Bill to let him stay for dinner, he seems flabbergasted by the idea that Bill has been living a borderline normal life since the outbreak began. He’s treated to a meal of meat, veggies and even wine. It’s only when Frank sits down at the piano and begins to play and sing poorly do we finally see that there’s something happening between them. Sure enough, they fall in love and we see their story bloom.
They have their ups. They definitely have their downs. Bill and Frank are like any other couple in the old world when it came to navigating life through relationships. While they did argue over petty things, we see their love for each other more than anything else. We see that Bill had been living by himself for so long without human contact that he was slowly losing touch with his humanity and becoming more withdrawn. Frank comes along and shows him what it means to be human again. To care for someone. To show affection. To show love. Frank can be seen as the sun, bringing warmth and light into a dark world while Bill is the moon, quiet and seemingly cold. I love the contrast between the two and Murray Bartlett (Frank) and Nick Offerman (Bill) did a phenomenal job bringing the post apocalyptic lovers to life on screen.
We all know by now that the majority of the scenes we see in the show are plucked directly from the game itself. While there are slight differences to accommodate the script and runtime, one of the things I loved most about this particular episode was that Frank had a fleshed out storyline that felt more involved than it was in the game. If you’re familiar with the game, you’ll know that we don’t actually meet Frank. At least not alive anyway. When Ellie and Joel meet Bill (another minor change; game Ellie meets Bill whereas show Ellie doesn’t), Joel comes across a corpse hanging from the ceiling. Joel asks who that was and Bill simply states “Frank. He was my partner” and proceeded to cut him down from the ceiling. Frank had a Cordyceps brain infection and didn’t want to turn so he had taken his own life so that he’d died a human. The show, however, took a very different approach. We see Bill and Frank’s lives together. We see their first meeting. First kiss. First time. The firsts of many to come. Frank was given a much more prominent presence on the show and the changes made for both characters worked beautifully, especially at the end of the episode where they both decided to take their own lives together. I’m not trying to glorify suicide or romanticize it. Knowing that you only have one chance at love and seeing it unwillingly being taken from you probably hurts. To quote Frank when his time was drawing near: “love me how I want to be loved” and seeing Bill carry out Frank’s last wishes ripped my heart out. Where Frank in the game had left Bill due to Bill’s attitude and paranoia, tv Frank and Bill stayed together for 16 years and even took their last breaths together. To top all that off, I appreciated the fact that Joel didn’t walk in on their bodies in the bedroom when he and Ellie arrived in their isolated town. I also appreciated that viewers didn’t see them either. That was their special moment together and it would’ve felt completely wrong for anyone else to see them in their vulnerable yet peaceful state. So kudos to the writers for making that decision.
Another thing I want to point out are the cool little tidbits that viewers may or may not catch onto while watching this episode. One of them involves tampons–yes, you read that correctly. Ellie comes across a box of tampons in which she celebrates by going “f*ck yeah”. The idea of sanitary products in any apocalyptic or dystopian setting is unheard of and I’m glad this little bit was written in. Television and film seem to forget that periods just don’t cease to exist during the apocalypse and women (and anyone who are able to menstruate) still need these products so it was nice to see this included. Another scene I almost didn’t catch onto until another viewer pointed it out was when Frank and Bill were admiring their strawberry patch. Frank had reached down to take a berry from the garden when just off to the side, you can see white tendrils reaching for his hand before he quickly pulls away. This can only be what I assume to be Cordyceps growing, which is what Frank died of in the game (brain infection). So was this an attempt to lead viewers astray in regards to how he does? Who knows. But the scene happens so quick that most people didn’t catch on to it but once you do, it’s a real surprise. Their ending together here had a far better narrative than what the game gave them anyway.
Needless to say, this week’s episode had the majority of viewers in emotional shambles (side eye to everyone who said this episode was boring and had a negative view of it) and the season can only go up from here. Judging by next week’s preview, it looks like serious stuff is about to go down and I can’t wait to see what happens.