The Last of Us Showrunners Explain the Reason for That Big Change in Episode 3

The Last of Us Showrunners Explain the Reason for That Big Change in Episode 3

Updated: 1 month, 26 days, 17 hours, 50 minutes, 26 seconds ago

Episode 3 of The Last of Us is currently being heralded as a masterpiece of television for its bold choice to cut away from our lead characters and focus in on the apocalyptic romance of Bill and Frank, but some fans of the original game are a bit miffed because the show makes a major change to this part of the story. See, in the game when you reach Bill he’s still alive living out his survivalist life after the death of his lover Frank, with the love story element immensely subdued. However, in the TV series when Joel and Ellie get to Bill’s, he and Frank are already dead, their backstory becoming an emotional powerhouse of a TV episode despite the character not even being alive to impact Joel and Ellie. It is a major change, even more so than switching the way the disease spreads. So why did they do it?

Well, basically because it made better television. Neil Druckmann, who created the original game and serves as showrunner with Craig Mazin, explained the rationale for the episode 3 story change in The Last of Us to THR. He said that, in the game, you needed Bill to guide you and build that relationship that way, but much of that building was done through gameplay that wouldn’t work on a TV show. Instead, they chose to focus on a tale of love that would play out on screen far better, especially since they aren’t just hinting at Frank and Bill’s romantic relationship like the game did.

Druckmann shared the following:

In the game, the way you build the relationship with Bill is fighting alongside him. There’s a set piece where Joel is hoisted up in this snare trap and Ellie has to cut him down. It’s exciting and one of the most memorable parts from the game. I think a lesser adaptation would be like, ‘This action sequence has to go in the show.’ Whereas [Mazin was] like, ‘No, don’t focus on that, there’s this interesting thing happening over with this survivor and this partner that he had. What’s that story? Let’s explore that. Let’s flesh that out.’ So it was easy not to be precious about that when you got these really wonderful ideas that I felt broadened the world and broadened these characters.

Mazin echoed this in his approach to crafting episode 3 of The Last of Us and remixing the story:

When writing television, we don’t have gameplay, and I’m looking for time to spend with characters doing something different than what I just saw. And we’ve just seen people who are scared, who are in a dangerous place, who are hiding or running or worried or being hurt or being killed [in the first two episodes]. I need something different now. Here’s a man who’s in safety. Now let’s talk about this Frank guy. And I said, ‘I think we have an opportunity to do a lot of things at once.’

Whatever your opinions of the changes to Bill and the Last of Us story are, there’s one thing that’s clear: Nick Offerman knocked it out of the park.