Warning! This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us episode 3. If you've yet to catch up with the show, turn back now!
The Last of Us episode 3 is the first episode in the HBO adaptation's run so far that deviates significantly from the source material. Despite its big changes, though, stars Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett aren't fazed by the thought of potential backlash.
For starters, the actors, who star as Bill and Frank in the latest installment, confess to being bolstered by the fact that Neil Druckmann, who wrote the original Naughty Dog game, is behind the series. "You have the God of the game and then they're like, 'Is that enough? Get me the Chornobyl guy,'" Offerman joked to GamesRadar+ and other media, noting co-showrunner Craig Mazin's involvement. "So if that, you know, doesn't do the trick, I apologize.
"I think it's generally known that [gamers] are a particularly passionate group. But you know, we're lucky enough to work on lots of things. Sometimes they're based on true stories; sometimes they're based on games... You're always going to piss somebody off," he continued.
While episode 3 opens on Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), as they continue their journey west, 'Long Long Time' then jumps back to the beginnings of the apocalypse in 2003, and sees Bill (Offerman) turn his evacuated town into a self-sustainable one-man safe zone. One day, though, his isolated existence is interrupted by a man named Frank (Bartlett) – and the pair wind up spending the next 20 years in a happy, romantic relationship.
In the game, players never actually meet Frank, and we learn later on that he had actually left Bill a little while earlier due to the latter's controlling ways and all-consuming conspiracy theories. During his travels to Boston, he was bitten by clickers and holed up in a nearby abandoned house, before hanging himself so as not to succumb to the Cordyceps brain infection.
"There's a great Bertolt Brecht quote that I'll clumsily paraphrase, but it's like, 'If you're not pissing off 30% of your audience, then it's not art.' So I mean, anybody who makes anything like this, they're going to take the original material and tweak it. In this case, the actual creator is one of the adapters so, you know, you don't get much better credit than that," Offerman went on.
"But you have to understand, they're going to do it with love. You know, the finale of Game of Thrones, that was incredibly divisive. We have to understand that these people did their damnedest to give us a beautiful ending and finale. Some people found it satisfying, some people didn't. But I mean, it's all human effort. And so I hope that the gamers will understand that this is made with love and reverence. I could make a sandwich that nine of you would love, but one of you would not think that mustard should go with pickles, you know?"
"Having spoken to Craig and Neil about this, I knew that they love this game and that they came at creating this show with such reverence and respect for the players," Bartlett added. "It was clear that they really wanted to do justice to the game and were just, like, deeply committed to telling a great story in this way. So I felt like I could totally trust them. If anyone was going to do it, these were the people who could really make something very special that was accessible to a new audience, as well as honoring the game in a way that was satisfying.
"Then when we got our script, I was like, 'Well, this is just extraordinary'. [It was] just so nuanced and so beautiful in this world of the game. That was my piece of being part of this, and I felt like it's a beautiful piece. However it relates to the game, it felt really special. So, you know, not being a gamer and not having been someone who was immersed in playing the game, I really responded to that, coupled with knowing that these guys know the game back to front and wanted to do a great job of adapting it."
The Last of Us continues on Sunday, February 5 on HBO and HBO Max in the US, and Sky Atlantic and NOW TV the following day in the UK. Make sure you never miss an episode by checking out our The Last of Us release schedule and our breakdown of how many episodes are in The Last of Us.
For more on the latest installment, check out our guide to the major Last of Us episode 3 changes from the games, Murray Bartlett's breakdown of Frank's untold backstory, and the showrunners' chat on episode 3's final shot.