The Last of Us Episode 3: What did they change from the game?

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /

Another week, another new episode of The Last of Us to dissect! We’re a third of the way into the first season of HBO’s post-apocalyptic zombie drama, and things are starting to get really interesting.

“Long, Long Time” was easily the most experimental episode of the series yet, making big divergences from the video game on which it’s based and spending the majority of its 76-minute run time telling an epic love story that spans decades.

But how were the events covered in The Last of Us Episode 3 different in the acclaimed video game by Naughty Dog? There’s a lot to talk about with this one, so let’s get right into it.

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /

The Last of Us Episode 3: Video game vs. HBO show

The third episode of HBO’s The Last of Us marks the first time that the television show has deviated in major ways from the 2013 video game. The changes weren’t apparent at first, though.

“Long, Long Time” spends its first act with Joel and Ellie wandering through the wilderness 10 miles west of Boston. This lines right up with what happens in the game after Tess’ death, when the pair walk away from the ruins of Boston and the scene cuts to them going off-road into the wilds. The HBO show takes more time with some character beats in this section, like Joel nursing his knuckles and Ellie urging him not to blame her for Tess’ death. The ethereal guitar music by Gustavo Santaolalla in this section is very reminiscent of the game.

Then there’s the scavenging session inside Cumberland Farms; while there weren’t any Cumbies in the video game, that sort of scrounging for supplies is something that Joel and Ellie do at every opportunity. There are lots of fun easter eggs in the basement where Ellie finds the infected; shelves and lockers are plentiful throughout the video game and often hold supplies, The infected itself is a Stalker, an infected halfway to become a Clicker.

The biggest game reference in this section is Ellie’s excited reaction to the Mortal Kombat arcade game. Her little rant about how one of her friends loved the game is taken directly from the source material, albeit with some slight changes. In the show, Ellie gets excited about a Mortal Kombat knockoff called “The Turning,” while the show has the real thing. In the show she talks about the Mortal Kombat character Mileena, whereas in the game it’s the made-up character Angel Knives.

The “friend” she’s referencing is named Riley. In the game, Ellie is with Riley in the mall when she’s bitten, which is the basis for The Last of Us: Left Behind expansion. The show has mentioned Riley already, so it feels like it’s building to a reveal.

Much of the rest of Joel and Ellie’s stuff — the pair stumbling on a crashed plane, Joel explaining the outbreak, and finding the mass grave — is new for the show. There are comparable bits; when scouring Bill’s town in the game, Joel can find a note which details how people were shuttled off in trucks to the QZ, and at times discusses how society collapsed with Ellie as they ransack homes for supplies, but much of the details in these scenes are fresh.

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /

Bill and Frank’s post-apocalyptic adventure

Now we get into the Bill and Frank section of the episode. Spanning the entire middle 45 minutes of “Long, Long Time,” the story of how these two men found each other amidst the rubble and built a life together is an absolute tear-jerker. It’s also completely different from the way the pair is presented in the game.

In many ways, Bill and Frank’s love story watches like an alternate universe to the video game. We’ve already dissected how the show changed Bill and Frank at length, but we’ll repaint the broad strokes. In the game, Joel and Ellie find Bill, who is very much alive, and then have to go scrounging for a car battery together. Bill is a much crasser, slightly crazier character in the game. He doesn’t have his town on total lockdown, but instead has several safehouses scattered throughout. Infected still roam parts of the neighborhood.

As for Frank, well…he never even appears in the game while he’s alive. After finding the battery, Bill, Joel, and Ellie discover that Frank has hanged himself after being bitten by infected while trying to flee Lincoln for the Boston QZ. He leaves a pretty brutal suicide note, telling Bill that he’d grown fed up with staying cooped up together and wanted out. This is a big surprise to Bill, and suggests he had no idea that his partner had these sorts of feelings. It casts Bill and Frank’s relationship in a very different light from how it was portrayed in the television series.

However, one thing that wasn’t changed from the game is that Bill and Frank were a gay couple who spent years together. This is the case in the game, and the show built on it in its own way. We may have lost scenes like Ellie and Bill constantly butting heads or Joel dangling upside down from a trap while Ellie scrambles to cut him loose as infected swarm toward them, but the emotional journey that the show took us on was even more powerful.

Bill and Joel from The Last of Us Remastered, captured on a PlayStation 4.
Image: The Last of Us Remastered, captured on a PlayStation 4. /

Whatever changes were made to Bill and Frank’s story, there are still plenty of fun easter eggs to be found in this section, including:

  • Bill lives in Lincoln, Massachusetts in both the video game and TV series.
  • During the opening moments of Bill’s first flashback, we see a soldier spray paint a red X on a house door. During the following section of the game in Pittsburgh, there is a shiv stash door marked by a spray-painted red X.
  • Bill is wearing a gas mask when he first runs outside after the soldiers leave, which is a fun nod to the fact that characters had to wear gas masks to avoid being infected by spores in the game, something that the show did away with for now.
  • Bill wields a shotgun several times during the episode; this is also his weapon of choice in the game. He even gives Joel one of his spares.
  • The generator behind Bill’s house looks extremely similar to the way generators appear in the game.
  • After discovering Frank in one of his traps, Bill lowers a ladder down to him so he can get out. This is a common mechanic in The Last of Us video game, where one character will have to lower a ladder for another.
  • Bill’s suicide note to Joel starts out with the admission that he never really liked him. While this is delivered in an almost fond way in the show, that sort of slightly tense relationship is very true to how they interact in the game as well.

Much of the episode explored parts of the backstory we didn’t get in the game, such as how Bill and Frank met or how Joel and Tess came into contact with them. They’re all alternate takes (in the game Joel and Tess never met Frank), but are still tied to in-game lore.

The big kicker is that Bill dies in the TV show, while in the game he goes on living after Frank’s death, grieving and isolated once more in Lincoln. I’d say he got a much happier ending in HBO’s series, even if he died.

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /

Joel and Ellie gear up for the road

Following Bill and Frank’s deaths, we skip back to Joel and Ellie to see how they react to discovering the now vacant compound. Once again, we get some cool references to the game, starting with the truck that Joel finds in Bill’s garage. It looks very similar to the truck they find in the game, and discovering it in the house where Frank (and Bill, in the show) has killed himself lines up as well. Plus, the truck is missing a battery, which Joel has to craft himself; that’s another nice nod to the game, since Joel has to craft all sorts of things and the entire Bill section of the game revolves around procuring a car battery.

While Bill leaves the suicide note in the show instead of Frank, that note does do one significant thing that Bill also did in the game: it unintentionally prods at the open wound of Tess being dead. There are quite a few moments in the game where Bill talks about Tess, but Joel never tells him that she’s dead. This leads to some charged emotional scenes as Joel constantly bites his tongue. While we didn’t get that in the show, the spirit of it is there in the letter.

It also leads into Joel’s “three rules” speech to Ellie, and that is something that’s pretty much line-for-line from the game. Ellie asking for a gun throughout the episode is another nod. We also have to mention the costuming here: after showering, Ellie and Joel suit up in some of their most iconic outfits from the video game.

As a last gift for game fans (and a way to tear out our hearts one final time), the episode’s final shot is a slow zoom out on Bill and Frank’s window, which was left open to air out the house after they died. This frame is extremely reminiscent of the main menu of The Last of Us video game.

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /

The Last of Us Episode 3 may have taken some huge detours from the 2013 video game, but ultimately it still ends up in the same place. Joel and Ellie set out on a road trip with a vehicle they got from Bill and Frank.

The Last of Us airs new episodes on HBO and HBO Max every Sunday at 9:00 p.m. ET / 8:00 p.m. CT.

Next. Watch the trailer for The Last of Us Episode 4: “Please Hold My Hand”. dark

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