The Last of Us stars reveal what they hope viewers take away from Bill and Frank episode

Nick Offerman as Bill and Murray Bartlett as Frank in HBO's The Last of Us
(Image credit: HBO)

Warning! This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us episode 3. If you've not yet caught up with the show, turn away now!

Aside from a few tweaks to Tess's death in episode 2, The Last of Us has been a pretty faithful adaptation of the Naughty Dog game on which it's based. Episode 3, however, deviates from the source material significantly, offering us a glimpse at Bill's life before he meets Joel and Ellie. 

While it opens on our main protagonists, played onscreen by Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey, as they continue their journey west, 'Long Long Time' soon jumps back to the beginnings of the Cordyceps pandemic in 2003, and sees Bill (Nick Offerman) turn his abandoned town of Lincoln into a self-sustainable one-man safe zone. One day, though, his isolated existence is interrupted by a man named Frank (Murray Bartlett) – and he winds up spending the next 20 years in a romantic relationship with the once-mysterious survivor.

While it might seem strange to plonk a semi-standalone episode so early on in a season, Bartlett argues that it's positioned to set up the tone and the message of the entire series. "One of the key phrases in the show is, 'When you're lost in the darkness, look for the light' and this episode is getting to the heart of that," he explained to GamesRadar+ and other media recently. "It proves there can be hope in anything and there's possibility of connection, even in the darkest of situations. 

"Connection and hope are possible in any circumstance. That's a very privileged thing to say, but I think it is true to a certain extent, depending on your situation," the White Lotus actor continued. "Obviously, if you're in a war zone or some dire situation, it's an enormously challenging thing to do and yet we see here, in this post-apocalyptic world that is dark and scary and lonely that humanity can kind of triumph in terms of like, finding light within each other, finding hope within each other, and find finding strength in connection with each other. That's what I got from it, and I hope that’s what people take away from it."

In the show, the conclusion of Bill and Frank's time together is tragic, with Frank choosing to end his life before his terminal illness truly takes hold and Bill opting to do the same, but it's much more tender than how things ended between them in the game. In that, Frank leaves Bill due to his controlling ways and all-consuming conspiracy theories, before being bitten by clickers and hanging himself – none of which you actually see, you learn it through a note Joel finds. By tweaking the outcome, showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann end on a more hopeful note, says Offerman.

"I grew up in a farm family, I've been a laborer and now I'm married to the woman who played Karen Walker on Will and Grace, and she affords me fabulous riches and all of the incredible lotions that I love to rub into my body," he teased. "But yeah, what I've learned from living a spectrum of existences across all different parts of life in this country, is that none of it matters if you don't have someone to love. It's nice if it's a romantic relationship, but maybe it's your child, or your parent, or your neighbor. Or your sex toy...

"No, but that's what I love about it is, you know, in the middle of this crazy, futuristic sci-fi scenario, it's the seed of love that is most important to these people. I haven't seen the rest of the episodes yet, but I'm gonna guess they’re the happiest people in the land for a lot of the time that the show covers. And it's not because they have the most guns, it's because they have strawberries."

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 from the series, check out our guide to the major Last of Us episode 3 changes from the games and a terrifying look at the Cordyceps fungus

Amy West

I am an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering all things TV and film across our Total Film and SFX sections. Elsewhere, my words have been published by the likes of Digital Spy, SciFiNow, PinkNews, FANDOM, Radio Times, and Total Film magazine.