HBO’s frontrunner show, “The Last of Us,” has already awed the audience with the three episodes that it has released, and people can’t wait for the ones to follow. The video game by the same name that serves as the source material has been a constant guide to help director Craig Mazin provide one of the best video game adaptations of all time. Although keeping things fairly similar to the source, some things have been tweaked around for storytelling’s sake, but we aren’t complaining. The third episode marks some of the biggest differences between the show and the game, especially because of the introduction of a character named Frank and exploring the relationship he had with one of the NPCs in the game, named Bill. With several more differences included, here’s a quick run-down on all the differences that the show had from the game, along with the few similarities they maintained.
Old-school players of the game by Naughty Dog remember an elaborate sequence where Joel and Ellie wade through an underground subway to reach Lincoln. They finally make their way to Bill’s hideout after dodging several traps, courtesy of the paranoid man, but Joel gets trapped in a snare and stuck in a life-or-death situation until Ellie and he are rescued by Bill. This entire section has been scrapped from the show, and the first time we see the odd pair of Joel and Ellie, he sets cairn stones at the edge of a river, probably in memory of Tess. While walking with her, Joel propounds the theory that the cordyceps virus mutated from certain flour types that were used in global brands. As every part of the world started eating products made from this flour, the disease spread on a Friday, September 26, 2003, and the world was a wasteland by the next Monday. This theory was never present in the game because it gave a different background to the virus.
While making their way to Lincoln, Joel and Ellie arrive at an abandoned store where he used to stash supplies. Joel finds his supply box, while Ellie comes upon a Stalker, with tendrils growing through one of its eyes, stuck under rubble. Halfway through losing whatever humanity it had, the Stalker stares at Ellie blankly, probably because it’s almost blind in the other eye too. She shows mercy to the creature by stabbing it in the head and sparing it the fate of becoming a soulless monster. This section was created especially for the show, but there’s a part where Ellie finds an arcade cabinet where people could play the classic “Mortal Kombat” before the earth was ruined. This isn’t entirely different because the game provided a similar arcade cabinet during one of the lighter moments, where Ellie found a game called “The Turning.” Later, they come across a crashed plane and talk about the ruins—similar to the conversation Ellie has with Joel in the game upon seeing an airplane poster on a bus.
In the show, Joel and Ellie come across the skeletons of an adult and a child, and a flashback shows how a mother, and her baby were among the passengers that the army removed from Lincoln, only to shoot them dead later. At the same time, Bill could be seen keeping watch on the army’s movements with six CCTV cameras from under a house, inside a hidden basement. The game brought Joel, Ellie, and Bill to a house, where they found the hanging body of Frank and a letter that he had left behind filled with mortal hate for Bill. The show, however, changes this completely and gives a different perspective on their relationship. While Bill from the game fortified himself within the church of Lincoln town, the character in the show is much more at ease inside his electric-fenced complex and pairs his intricate meal with matching wines until a man named Frank falls into one of the holes Bill had dug to trap trespassers. The entire section from this point forward until Joel and Ellie arrive is exclusive to the show because a famous part of the game involves the heated exchange of words between Bill and Ellie and their mutual dislike for each other. However, Nick Offerman’s Bill makes for a much softer and warmer character, although that’s partly due to Murray Bartlett’s Frank.
Later on, when Frank and Bill are living together, Frank invites Joel and Tess to lunch, and it’s established that the two parties have continued to trade goods in the intervening years. This is also the reason why Joel is able to enter the compound by entering the code for the gate and why Bill leaves him a letter. Joel knows his way around and won’t get blown to bits by the deadly traps that Bill had set. However, in the game, Joel says he’s never been to Lincoln, so everything in the area is fairly new to him, making him vulnerable to everything in there.
After spending a lifetime together, the aged and wrinkly Bill and Frank drink wine laced with sleeping pills and embrace death together. Once again, the show departs from the game because the in-game Bill was a survivor through and through. Nothing could end him, and he had a tremendous zeal to stay alive, although the Bill in the show was made of the same material until Frank became his purpose in life. When Joel and Ellie arrive at Bill and Frank’s residence in the show, Ellie is the one who finds the letter, much like the game, but the author and the content are much different. While the letter in the game showed deep disgust oozing out from words as Frank described how he loathed Bill, the show ends on a much more positive note because the letter is from Bill, and he asks Joel to protect the one he loves. Although this does bring up Tess’s death, it also hints at how Ellie will be the one Joel realizes is worth saving and protecting in this wretched world. In the game, while leaving Lincoln, Joel and Bill have to fight off an added horde of zombies while Ellie drives the truck. The show, however, ends on a much more peaceful note, with the two safely driving away.
This wraps up the major departures in the show from the game, but Craig Mazin’s series stayed true to the source material in the major areas, although the placement has been a little jumbled to help storytelling. The three rules that Joel lays out for Ellie at the end of the episode are almost verbatim to the ones in the game, although there, it happens before they enter Lincoln. Joel and Ellie search the house and load up on the necessities, and this is much similar to the game, although there is no toilet paper in the game. The two are left in a truck, much like the one Joel and Ellie get from Bill, and they share a father-daughter moment where Joel helps her with the seatbelt. This is a departure from the show but still left in.