There has been a lot of hype around episode three of HBO’s The Last of Us, mostly mentioning how it is the episode that differs so much from the game. As if to prove that right from the start, the third episode opens without a cold opening. We are thrown right into the aftermath of Tess’s (Anna Torv) death and just how it has impacted Joel (Pedro Pascal) and to a point, Ellie (Bella Ramsey). The pair are traveling five hours outside Boston, to rendezvous with Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett).
Hours after Tess’s death, Ramsey’s Ellie has this interesting balance of bringing the beloved game character to life but also adding their own spin. As she explores, she finds an infected person trapped in the debris. The infected person is somewhere between the stages of a stalker and a clicker, with the cordyceps growing out of its eye. Ellie seems to have this fascination with it and given she has been bitten twice, it’s only natural. This one little change in the game almost allows the viewers to see the stages in between, up close and personal. Viewers will also get to see more of Ellie’s humor, while also showing the stark comparison of growing up in the new world order of luxuries such as flying in planes.
This episode does sort of answer a lot of questions about the outbreak, such as a major theory as to how it started. As Joel explains how people got infected, he explains just how the world went crazy within a week of the outbreak. As Joel opens up a little to Ellie, viewers will understand just how bleak and cruel this new world order was, but not for the infected. The show starts to place FEDRA more as the antagonist, a government organization whose actions were sickening. It’s something that is never explored in great depth of the game, but the show perfectly fills in the gaps as it leads us to the highly anticipated Bill’s Town.
Right away, viewers will see that Bill is a survivalist, a doomsday preparer who doesn’t believe in people, and given the previous scene, who could blame him? Nick Offerman is a perfect choice for Frank. He perfectly embodies his more guarded side while fortifying his town. Bill is a man comfortable in his loneliness within this new world order, but then comes Frank, who destroys this in the best possible way.
One of the biggest changes to the game is that viewers will see a more vulnerable Bill, explored through his relationship with Frank. We get that relationship, spanning over the long, long time of their relationship and dynamic. Bill and Frank couldn’t be any more different from each other, and while they argue and fight, they do bring out the best of each other.
Episode 3 of The Last of Us would be classed as a filler episode, but with the great storytelling, it’s a filler episode that has a purpose away from the main storyline of Joel and Ellie. It allows the viewers to see the new world, decaying all around them while explaining why FEDRA is such a threat to everyday people, something the game only touched upon. The game mostly focused on what happened in the big cities, with the bombs and the infected overrunning them. This episode shines a light on what happened beyond that and is excellent world-building, fully relying on storytelling rather than props.
As a huge fan of the game, I was a little conflicted about the changes in this episode and how much it deviates from the game. Yes, the episode delivers on the emotional aspect of the storytelling with little action. After sitting with the changes and rewatching the episode, all the changes made sense and added another layer to the game. There is one scene, which involves Joel’s first meeting with Bill that felt random and out of place, but that is the only criticism I have about the episode.
This episode does allow Frank to play more of a part in The Last of Us than his game counterpart. We see the world through his and Bill’s eyes, but also make him an integral part of Joel’s story. In the series, Frank is not only optimistic and Bill’s opposite; in many ways, he is also quite clever. While Bill can build and fortify, Frank is the one who proves his worth by opening Bill’s world and also coming up with the code for the radio. Something that seems to be a pivotal and invaluable thing in this HBO series.
While I enjoyed it, there is a worry that some game fans will not take to these changes as kindly at the onset, but once you have gotten over the shock of the differences, I believe people will praise the changes that Neil Druckmann made. The changes allow fans of the game to be surprised still; even though they know the ending of every character, it was refreshing to be surprised by a franchise that has been around for ten years.
Fans of the game will notice little Easter eggs and trips wires to spaceships. Overall, episode three was strong. This episode shows that you do not need to have a fight sequence of threats looming about to get an emotional impact. This episode is all about choices and how the ones you make can ripple through, and sometimes not all for the best.
Final Score- [9.5/10]
Reviewed by - Leigh Doyle
Publisher at Midgard Times
Premiere Date: January 29, 2023, on HBO
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