Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us
HBO’s The Last of Us garnered rave reviews for its impressive homage to developer Naughty Dog’s era-defining PlayStation title, but the series’ third episode marked the first major deviation from Joel and Ellie’s in-game story.
Long Long Time stars Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), lone survivors who come together in the aftermath of a global Cordyceps outbreak. Both characters appear briefly in the original The Last of Us, but HBO’s small-screen adaptation devotes an entire hour to delving into their decades-spanning relationship.
In an interview with TechRadar ahead of the series’ release, showrunners Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin explained the reasoning behind their decision to go off piste with The Last of Us Episode 3 — which the pair previously admitted will inevitably leave some fans “annoyed.”
Mazin tells us: “It came out of my interest in portraying Bill a little differently, because the Bill section of the game was built so much around the gameplay. What impressed me about Bill was that he was safe, that he created this interesting little safe haven in the world. Then he was My next question is, “Well, what happens to you if you’re safe in this world? What’s next? Are you left out there alone? What do you need? Why do you go on? And I knew about Frank’s story in the game, which, to me, is more like the worst possible outcome for Joel.”
But I thought there was a chance [with episode 3] To go in a different direction and explore the passage of time between the outbreak and where we are now, and also create a relationship that works,” Mazen continues. “A relationship that, in its duality, helped define some themes that we will see again and again. [in the show] Two different kinds of love. Someone who loves the outside, nurtures, protects and creates. And someone who loves protection through violence and preservation.
So I remember telling Nick [Offerman] and Murray [Bartlett] That this relationship is the basis of everything. Everything is reflected in this [relationship]. And although there is a bit of criticism going on, they win in their own way. They got the happy ending.”
When adapting The Last of Us to the screen, Druckmann – who penned the game’s original story – felt it was important to leave certain moments of heavy gameplay on the cutting room floor.
I think change [in episode 3] It became very indicative of what we prioritized on this show,” he says. Ellie has to get him out of the hole. Then Bill appears and Bill saves you and that’s how you bond with him through this long action sequence. You depend on each other and then, through in-game dialogue and a bunch of different things, we reveal a hint at this backstory and this relationship.
But some of Craig’s brilliance is saying: This isn’t quite as important. This wouldn’t have been something that mattered in the past, when you’re adapting video games and looking at the superficial aspects and thinking, “Oh, gamers want to see this moment of play.” That’s not what they want. They want the core to turn this experience around. So when Craig said, “Let’s focus on Bill and Frank instead of the static group, and do things we couldn’t do in the game, like jump in time, and show how people have survived over the course of 20 years.” gap’ – this is a great counterexample to everything else we see [on Joel and Ellie’s journey]. This story is very beautiful and very touching.
And Druckmann concludes, “And at the end, when Joel and Ellie go back to that story — yeah, it’s different than in the game, but it helps elevate the level.” [the experience] In a way that I think is really powerful for this medium. We couldn’t tell this story in the game. Likewise, I think the show would have been less if we had tried to tell the story [of Bill and Frank] in the game here.”
The Last of Us is now streaming on HBO Max in the US and Sky Atlantic and NOW in the UK.