THE LAST OF US Spoilers: Here's Why The TV Series Made Such Big Changes To Bill And Frank's Story

THE LAST OF US Spoilers: Here's Why The TV Series Made Such Big Changes To Bill And Frank's Story

The Last of Us showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann have shed some light on why the HBO series made so many big changes to the game in its latest episode, specifically in regards to Bill and Frank...

By JoshWilding - Jan 31, 2023 03:01 AM EST
Filed Under: Last of Us
Source: Variety (via

Sunday night's episode of The Last of Us is likely to be an early contender for the best hour of television in 2023, but "Long Long Time," while incredible, made a huge change to the video game the HBO series is based on. 

Exploring the near-20-year relationship between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), we followed the former from the start of the outbreak to his first meeting with the man who would go on to become his lover. After surviving arguments and even an attack by raiders, Frank eventually falls ill. 

Bill helps his partner end his life, but chooses to do the same, with both men passing away in each other's arms off-screen. This is a big contrast to the games where Joel and Ellie meet a very much alive Bill - who is not remotely likeable - and players eventually learn that Frank killed himself in order to get away from his fellow survivor shortly after being infected. 

Talking to Variety (via, showrunner Craig Mazin explained the change. 

"It seemed like such a rich and yet unseen story. It afforded us a chance to look at how time passed, but also to ask a question about what happens if you’re safe."

"I was just fascinated by the idea of Bill, as somebody who had created a place of safety, and then here comes Frank crashing in," he continued. "From there, it just went differently in my head than what was there in the game."

Neil Druckmann, who also created the game, confirms he was immediately on board with the idea. "Craig had some crazy ideas about what we should do with these two characters. As soon as he pitched them, I fell in love. It was just beautiful. It felt it was a worthwhile change because of what we were getting in return."

Mazin would go on to reveal that Con O'Neill was originally cast as Bill, but his commitments to Our Flag Means Death resulted in the actor having to pass on the role. With that, Nick Offerman stepped in, something we can surely agree was far from a bad thing. 

As for why Frank died from an unnamed disease rather than the Cordyceps infection ravaging the world, Mazin added: "You can’t always present death as this failure. Sometimes, it’s just the natural conclusion. That is part of growing old. It was important to me to show the span of a relationship accounting for that."

"And it not being presented as a tragic loss, but rather the culmination of something beautiful."

While this is one of the biggest alterations from the game to HBO's TV series, it's one that arguably improved on the source material, even if it meant taking the spotlight off Joel and Ellie for an episode.

What did you guys think about this big change in The Last of Us?

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TheRationalNerd - 1/31/2023, 3:12 AM
I can understand some viewers frustration with the episode. It definitely wasn't what I was expecting but I think they handled their story very damn well. Would've loved to have seen the school battle with the infected though.
NotchJohnson - 1/31/2023, 3:40 AM
@TheRationalNerd - My assumption is that the bloaters cost a fortune and they are saving it.
Chaos200 - 1/31/2023, 4:29 AM
@TheRationalNerd - It was a good episode on it's own but I feel if it was a straight couple, it would not have gone down as well as it's going down, I think people would have thought it was a complete waste of time. I think people still see being gay as some kind of novelty to explore and that's why it's doing well.
DocSpock - 1/31/2023, 5:03 AM
@Chaos200 -

I believe that is true. Straight people will probably never think of what the small percent of people who are gay are mainstream.

People can disagree on the subject, but no one should ever discriminate against gay people because they don't agree with their lifestyle.

Everyone should treat all others with respect whether you agree with their choices or not.

We all have to live on this planet right?

Chaos200 - 1/31/2023, 5:13 AM
@DocSpock - Of course, I agree, it's not even a choice really is it?
bkmeijer1 - 1/31/2023, 5:35 AM
@TheRationalNerd - I only like the school battle because of the bloater, and judging from the trailers we're definitely still getting a bloater battle.

TanukiTrooper - 1/31/2023, 7:22 AM
@Chaos200 - I highly doubt that. If Frank was an elderly woman who would have wanted to end her pain it would have been equally as heartbreaking and interesting. It's essentially The Last of Us version of the opening of Up. The show needs to define itself with it's own identity from the game. One way to do this is to develop the tragic characters that Ellie and Joel meet on their journey. Heck, next episode looks to be a full on gunfight. So I think taking a step back tonally was a good idea. A lot of people watching didn't play the game, and because Joel is so internalized with his emotions, wouldn't understand what Tess meant to him. So holding up a mirror to their relationship with Frank and Bill and bringing that realisation together with Bill's final letter was important for the emotional understanding of Joel.

I think the only thing I missed, that I really wanted to see, was Bill interacting with Ellie. But then we couldn't have the end of their story as it beautifully concluded. Having Joel and Ellie there during such an intimate scene would have cheapened it. So I am happy with the trade off.
TheUnworthyThor - 1/31/2023, 3:17 AM
Such a wonderful, beautiful episode. Top notch television.
HOTSHOT - 1/31/2023, 4:05 AM
I can get why this episode might be divisive since it really doesn't do much to progress the story. I'm a little sour that we didn't get to see the banter between Bill and Ellie and that we won't get the set piece at the school.

However, it was an incredibly moving story that made me tear up. A perfect ode to romance, and some of the finest television I've seen in a while. So far, this show is really something special.
bobevanz - 1/31/2023, 4:18 AM
I'm glad this show isn't just a montage of 1:1 action set pieces. I do miss the upside scene and pushing the truck, but this gives Bill and Frank the limelight they deserve
bkmeijer1 - 1/31/2023, 5:32 AM
@bobevanz - think the upside down bit in the game wouldn't work as well in a show as it would in the game though.

They still could've done the truck bit though, albeit without Bill.
FireandBlood - 1/31/2023, 4:47 AM
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to see the school stuff play out on screen, but it was a great episode.
DocSpock - 1/31/2023, 4:48 AM

I don't care. I never played the game.(yet)

This episode was incredible.

I admit that gay stuff sometimes creeps me out, but this was so well done that I did not care.

So great, so tragic, so epic. 5 stars all the way.

AmazingFILMporg - 1/31/2023, 5:15 AM
The episode made me almost cry🥲.

Great and super sweet episode🤝

Mercwitham0uth - 1/31/2023, 5:20 AM
Boring ass filler episode.
bkmeijer1 - 1/31/2023, 5:28 AM
I liked the changes they made from the game. Joel still got his battery and his bit of character development (in a letter no less!), and I got something wildly different from the game. I see this as an absolute win.
mpk1988 - 1/31/2023, 5:31 AM
Boring episode... Another one where it's eternal love and shit . This time just with a rainbow flavour.. cringe and unrealistic...

TheWinkler - 1/31/2023, 5:46 AM
Nick Offerman stole the [frick]ing show with this one. I always viewed him as more of a comedic actor, but holy hell was I wrong. He's gonna win some awards for this one.

Previous episode was them sneaking around dilapidated Boston avoiding/killing infected. If they followed the game to a tee, this episode would've just been them sneaking around Bill's dilapidated town doing much of the same as last week.

I think Craig and Neil made the right call in saying they were cutting back on the action from the game and focusing heavier on story. That's how you properly adapt a video game that has great storytelling at it's core.
WarMonkey - 1/31/2023, 5:52 AM
I wanted to watch a zombie/survival show but this is a romantic soap-opera with a zombie setting. I wanted to know more about the main characters and the story but this show doesn't seem interested in those after just 2 episodes. A filler episode in 3rd episode that does not move the story or main characters forward is a waste of time and kinda insulting to the viewers who tuned in for a zombie show. We tuned in for one thing and got another. This show is already copying the Walking Dead's later season filler episodes except it has half the episodes in a season and hasn't been running for 10 seasons.

Tagline for the show is "After a global pandemic destroys civilization, a hardened survivor takes charge of a 14-year-old girl who may be humanity's last hope." which makes this episode a waste of time for those of us interested in what they told us this show is.
TheRose - 1/31/2023, 6:30 AM
@WarMonkey - this is a series. There is room to explore different perspectives and aspects of living in this world.

The Zombies are the plot device. The story is about people.

This episode was an excellent episode about "The Last of Us." Anyone tuning in to watch a show about living in a post-apocalyptic scenario and knowing what it's like to be "The Last of Us" got that story. When the world is ending, those of us like Bill (those who have prepared and would think ourselves self-sufficient) will still need to find greater purpose beyond ourselves. Joel knew what Frank meant to Bill and this story will serve as a mirror to Joel's relationship with Ellie. He is hardened and defensive, but like Frank, Ellie will get Joel to open up and deal with the trauma of losing his daughter.
WarMonkey - 1/31/2023, 7:41 AM
@TheRose - I understand all that actually but that's what the Elle character was for. They bond and he relearns to open his heart again as the story unfolds and he realizes there is more to life then just surviving. For a show that is 3 hours plus now to spend almost an entire hour on nothing but a side-story about random survivors who leave their stash for Joel so he learns something he already knows and will remember later with Elle seems like a waste of time and has stalled the already slow-burn story.

Watching a random hour and 20 minute movie has way more character development and story then this thing at 3 hours. This entire episode could have been shortened to one or 2 lines of dialogue or simply Joel reading a note of Bill and Franks's experiences with an inquisitive stare out the window at the rain with some inspiring music playing in background. Walking Dead actually did at least 1 episode like that and it was fantastic while also moving the story forward and getting more insight into the main characters.

It was a slice-of-life episode about dead characters. If Bill was going to be in later episodes I wouldn't have a problem with his back-story and getting to know more about him.
TheRose - 1/31/2023, 8:13 AM
@WarMonkey - If you want to have the plot revolve around killing zombies, there is a a video game for that. There are playthroughs on Youtube that are cinematic. But I think the show is aiming to be greater than the sum of it's zombie villain. This episode reminded me of San Junipero from Black Mirror, or the series The Leftovers. The high concept backdrop of the Zombie apocalypse is a vehicle to tell something about the human experience and push the characters to take actions that they may otherwise not have in "the time before".

You mention that this isolated episode "stalled the story" but I think the overall themes we observed in Bill/Frank will ultimately show themselves in Joel/Ellie. I believe it was important to watch them play out instead of be alluded to, like your example from The Walking Dead. The montage of Bill getting his home built showed a man of isolation and distrust--similar to Joel up front. The flashback to the "double date" cements how they are so similar. What sets them apart is Bill's willingness to drop the barrier. Bill did not trust Frank at first, but rather than give into his loneliness, he opened his door, and ultimately his heart, to give him a purpose beyond just surviving. Joel is now in the same place as Bill and this episode has heightened the dramatic tension and imperative for Joel to break free from his internalized trauma and open himself to others again. For the audience who are unfamiliar with the game, this Bill/Frank relationship is the only earnest and pure thing left in the world and now we, the audience, are hoping that Joel and Ellie can find something as meaningful as Bill/Frank's love. This episode proved that it is possible--even 20 years after the apocalypse.

It sounds like you were a fan of The Walking Dead, and while I don't begrudge folks for enjoying that series, I know that The Walking Dead was NOT for me. You are right that that series relied on main-character-driven stories, but my watch of that show found that created too many melodramatic moments, irrational group dynamics, and a much more "soap-opera" feel than the intimate slice-of-life feel of this episode. The characters don't need to be alive to have their stories matter and change the main characters--I hope you know that is real in true life as it is on this series.

Ultimately, it's different taste for different people, and I'm sorry this episode subverted your expectation based off the tagline of the show. Next week looks like we may get the lead-loosing fire-fight you were missing in this outing.
Twenty23Three - 1/31/2023, 5:57 AM
Never played the games but my wife loves them. I was not expecting such a great love story to show up in a show about mushroom zombies. The better half says it’s a great change to what happens in the game
CplHicks - 1/31/2023, 9:17 AM
Good episode. Unlike those Walking Dead bottle episodes which were exhausting to watch.
MrDandy - 1/31/2023, 9:33 AM
I didn’t mind the changes and thought it was a great episode that told their side story well.
DarkArrow19 - 1/31/2023, 9:34 AM
I mean they went a little too far into it I thought. We didn’t need to get the bedroom stuff. And even if it was a straight couple, we still wouldn’t need the bedroom stuff. That part could have been excluded. Still a good episode.
Blastaar - 1/31/2023, 9:40 AM
Like some people here, I was disappointed not to see the interactions between Ellie, Bill, and Joel, as well as the action sequences in the game with the school, bloater, the truck, and upside down shooting.....HOWEVER, this episode was STILL very well written and the acting was top notch.

Hopefully, they won't keep deviating too much throughout the show though.
NoobNoob - 1/31/2023, 9:54 AM
If they change the fate of bill... what's the point of even introduced him? its just a long long flashback that last the entire episode, thats it
donadoman - 1/31/2023, 1:46 PM
@NoobNoob - it's to show that even in a world of death and sadness, there can still be hope and love. The note to Joel also sets him on a path to open his heart again and will lead to his show arc of caring for Ellie.
NoobNoob - 2/2/2023, 9:59 AM
@donadoman - yeah but killing bill made it a waste of screentime, you could have the same result with other character or by not killing him
Floke - 1/31/2023, 4:51 PM
That was such a heart gutting combo:

First Bill worried that he's getting “older, faster” than buffed healthy Frank, moving on to Bill getting shot - and then cut to when we see one of them rolling the other one in a wheelchair only to see it is a very sick looking Frank in the chair.


Had the same rection to that "am happy" scene from Legends of the Fall. My strings just cant handle scenes like that.
Or that photo-series of a couple taking the same picture every year, and you see them getting older and older together, and suddenly one of them start looking not too well, then the last picture just hits you with a brick wall of onions.
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