Perhaps the biggest departure in HBO’s “The Last of Us” series from Sony Computer Entertainment’s game of the same name is how Craig Mazin’s show treats the relationship of Bill and Frank. In the game, we meet Bill after barely surviving through the myriad traps he lays out in the town of Lincoln, and even then, he’s no sight for tired eyes. A rude loner who believes desolation is the best way to survival helps Joel and Ellie in the third chapter of the game. We never meet the character of Frank in the game, and all that we see is his hanging body and a letter he left for Bill, filled with utter hatred for the man. The show brings us Bill (Nick Offerman), whose perspective on the world changes thanks to Frank (Murray Bartlett), who stumbles into one of Bill’s traps. The show gives us an alternate story where the two men don’t hate each other’s guts but find solace in one another. With the third episode out now, read on to find out how Bill and Frank walk a markedly different path in the show than in the game.
The first time we meet Bill, he’s a Doomsday believer who’d rather stay in an underground bunker than trust the army—although he was right in this context. Bill whiles away his time building traps and hoarding supplies from the now-deserted departmental stores and helps himself to fancy dinners paired with wine, well-guarded within the gated complex. He was prepared to live out the rest of his days alone until one of his traps was set off, and he crept up to a hole he had dug to find Frank—a man who had set out from Baltimore QZ in a group of 10 people, but by then, was the only surviving member. Bill is immensely suspicious of this sudden arrival, but Frank is unarmed, and his heavily honest attitude softens Bill a bit, and he offers cooked rabbit and a glass of wine to the starving Frank. He had also left out fresh clothes for the unannounced guest while he showered in Bill’s bathroom. What began with showing Frank the correct way to play “Long, long time” on the piano by Linda Ronstadt ended up describing their relationship. The two share intimate moments together, and the next time we see them, three years later, they’re arguing about painting the house. Bill, a gruff who liked being cooped up with weapons, never thought that he’d have to someday argue about getting gasoline for their lawnmower to trim the lawn or fixing up the boutique until Frank arrived. In some ways, you’d not even realize this is an episode from “The Last of Us” if not for the deserted community and the fenced gates, given how the two argue like an old married couple and have brunch with Joel and Tess in 2010.
Bill took in Frank and protected him from the horrors of a post-apocalyptic world, while Frank showed Bill the world beyond the ruins of Lincoln and that the finer things about life, like art and music, can exist even when zombies roam the earth. Additionally, Frank became the reason why Bill believed in Joel and Tess because the safety of the man he learned to love superseded his need to seal himself away from everything else. In a world as calamitous as this, you’d keep thinking that some trouble will befall the lone inhabitants of Lincoln, but three more years later, the two are seen going on a run, although Bill is clutching his sides and lagging behind. Had it not been for the stray person who stumbled into Bill’s trap years ago, Bill would have lost his mind by the time Joel and Ellie showed up at his place. Although that’d make him closer to the Bill we know from the game, we’d have missed out on what was possibly the best episode in this series yet. We definitely miss out on the back-and-forth argument between Ellie and Bill from the game, but instead, we get a Bill who giggles like a child when Frank introduces him to a strawberry garden. Although the entire premise of this series is based on survival and tension about impending danger, Bill and Frank sharing fresh strawberries serves as a much-needed breather.
This idyllic world of the two men is invaded one night, as prophesied by Joel, by raiders who seek to ravage and raid, much like the marauders in “The Walking Dead.” It’s finally time for Bill’s devious traps to shine, and the instruments reduce the raiders to toast while he shoots at them until he’s injured. Frank takes charge and begins first aid on Bill while he keeps requesting his partner to alert Joel. It must’ve been amply clear to Bill at that moment that he hadn’t made the wrong choice all those years ago when he sheltered Frank. Ten more years breeze through, and the two men are in their winter years, with Frank’s paralysis confining him to a wheelchair. Two decades of togetherness and uncountable happy memories later, Frank realizes how his condition weighs Bill down daily, and he wishes to end things with crushed sleeping pills in his wine. It takes a while for Bill to agree, and instead of wallowing about the passing of his lover and best friend, he spends the day with Frank doing things he likes. On Frank’s last day on this cursed earth, he marries the man he grew old with, and Bill knows all too well that with Frank gone, he’ll have no reason to linger on as a relic of the past. The two finish a bottle of wine laced with sleeping pills and climb onto their bed, intending to die in each other’s arms.
In the letter Bill left Joel; he poignantly describes his relationship with Frank and how a non-believer like Bill realized that this world wasn’t all bad and that he had fulfilled the purpose he had in life. It wasn’t self-preservation by staying in a bunker till the end of his days but saving a man and spending the rest of his life protecting him. With Frank losing his reason to live, Bill’s purpose in life was over. He left everything he had for Joel—a glaring testimony to how love changed him. The paranoid gruff who felt safe with traps and guns spent his old age watering plants as his husband painted on easels and left a lasting lesson in death for Joel—there’s somebody in the world you can protect. Frank, who despised Bill’s guts and fled from him in the game, died in their bedroom in Bill’s arms. The only visible window in the room offered a view of Joel and Ellie driving away, with Frank’s artwork hanging on the wall, a portrait of the man he loved the most in this world, the grumpy and paranoid guy we knew as Bill.