Perhaps the best-ever video game adaptation to grace television, HBO’s “The Last of Us,” adapted from Sony Computer Entertainment’s game of the same name, has sent the audience into a frenzy, given how amazing the three episodes so far have been. In every episode, director Craig Mazin leaves a handful of Easter eggs and clues to help tie the two media together. Although some of these Easter eggs can be spotted if you’re a veteran of the TLOU game series, many of the clues can be spotted through repeated views. Find out how many of these clues and Easter eggs you could identify in this episode.
The third episode opens with Joel stacking stones together into a cairn after dipping his hand in the water of a stream. His knuckles are heavily bruised from punching the soldier dead in Episode 1, and the stones could indicate a memorial for Tess, who sacrificed herself in Episode 2. Joel and Ellie resume their journey, and on the way, he enters a store called Cumberland Farms, where he has stashed some supplies. Ellie spots an arcade cabinet that has the “Mortal Kombat” game, and she talks about a friend who knows all about the game. This friend might be Riley, whom Marlene mentions in the first episode because she and Ellie had quickly become best friends.
Ellie heads to the underground bunker in the store, where she finds a Stalker under a pile of rubble. The reason she moves her knife around near the creature’s eyes before slicing its forehead open is that she wants to understand if it still possesses a soul or not. It’s also a call-back to the previous episode, where she asked Joel how it felt to kill an infected. Outside, while asking Joel how the outbreak started, Ellie theorizes that it might have come from monkeys. Interestingly, she’s referring to Danny Boyle’s movie about the zombie apocalypse called “28 Days Later,” where the outbreak came from infected monkeys. The movie was released in June 2003, so pop culture gave rise to urban myths including some theories about monkeys where Ellie grew up. To respond to Ellie, Joel states that the outbreak must have spread through flour and sugar, and while listing all the ingredients, he pauses briefly after mentioning pancake mix because he remembers how Sarah, his daughter, would’ve made him pancakes had he not refused that day.
In the major flashback of the episode, we meet Bill (Nick Offerman) hiding in his basement, and his computer can be seen running on Windows 2000, although Windows XP had already been released by then. However, Bill, the paranoid gruff, was suspicious of anything new, so it’s possible that he didn’t upgrade to the next OS. We see a “Guns’ N Ammo” magazine in his basement as well, which was actually released in February 2003. After spray-painting a large X in front of each house, the military drives away with passengers, and this X is a direct reference to the houses that Joel and Ellie encounter in the game to mark houses that’ve been emptied. The notice to evacuate town was placed in front of the Civil War Memorial, which demonstrates how relics of human history have lost precedence in an apocalyptic world, much like the abandoned civil war museum in Episode 2.
Four years after the outbreak, Bill lives in a gated complex with massive security and listens to a song called “White Room” by the band Cream. The song is about an empty apartment, which echoes the loneliness Bill feels in this fortress. Bill has added quite a few things to his basement, like the flag that reads “Don’t tread on me” and the poster “Join or die.” Both of these hark back to the American Revolution, and Bill, whose house had been constructed in the 18th century, certainly subscribes to this old-school mentality. When Bill approaches the trapped Frank, he tests the trespasser with a FEDRA-invented testing kit to see if he’s infected or not. The show doesn’t answer how Bill got his hands on the kit, but it’s possible that he might have killed a FEDRA agent to get it.
When we jump three years ahead to 2010 to find Frank and Bill fighting about supplies, this reminds us of the letter Frank left Bill in the game where he blamed the grumpy man for being stingy about supplies. Although the show doesn’t make the two part ways, unlike the game, they show us one of the bad days that Frank mentioned at the end of their lives. When they have lunch with Joel and Tess, the lawn is mown, and the houses have been painted, so it seems that Bill gave into Frank’s needs, which shows character development on Bill’s part. While Joel and Tess are leaving, Frank mentions the system of contacting each other through radio using songs as a call-back to the first episode where Joel listened in to the radio with a song directory. When Frank wakes up to the sound of gunfire one night, he finds Bill fighting the intruders alone. When he turns back to ask Frank to get inside, he’s shot in the back, but he bleeds from the stomach, or the exit wound, meaning there’s no bullet to remove.
After the final time-skip in the episode, both Bill and Frank are old, with the latter being restricted to a wheelchair because of the loss of his motor functions. Several portraits can be found around the house that Frank would create before his terminal cancer rendered him paralyzed. On the day Frank decides to end his life, we begin with a shot of the hole where Bill first found Frank, now unkempt, much like the strawberry farm where they shared strawberries. The two men exchange rings beside the piano, where they first kissed, and Bill brings out the same food he had made for Frank on the very first day. The wine bottle that Bill brings out after dinner is already uncorked, meaning he has already laced it with sleeping pills because he, too, plans to die with Frank.
When Joel and Ellie enter Bill and Frank’s house weeks after their death, the dust had already collected on the furniture, much like how the house was before Frank moved in. Frank was the reason Bill put in an effort, and with them gone, their home is just four walls and a ceiling. When Ellie reads the letter Bill left Joel, the camera focuses on Joel’s face while she reads about finding and protecting someone, hinting that Joel has re-discovered his purpose in life. Having failed to protect one child, he’s determined to protect Ellie this time. We also learn that the ’80s music that played on the radio in Episode 1 would happen if Bill didn’t reset the timer every week, which would indicate trouble. So he’d guessed that Joel and Tess would arrive anyway. Eagle-eyed fans might have also spotted a half-fixed pistol on the working table, which is similar to the workbenches where Joel fixes or upgrades his equipment in the game. After helping Ellie with her seatbelt, Joel drives away in Bill’s truck, further bringing the two together. The final shot of the truck fading into the distance, as seen from Bill and Frank’s bedroom, is an homage to the loading menu of the first game.