The Last of Us Episode 3 Review: The Life of Bill

This week’s episode of The Last of Us is an emotional powerhouse of what this show is. We take some time to focus on one of the game’s side characters, Bill, and fully look at his new fleshed out backstory. Words can’t express how beautiful and poignant it was watching this episode.

The Last of Us Episode 3 Review: The Life of Bill

The buzz from critics who got screeners for The Last of Us said that episode 3 is the best episode. Somehow with all that hype, they didn’t prepare us for this masterclass of an episode. It also represents a huge test for the creators as a lot of the story isn’t from the game. But with that risk, it pays off dividends in one of the best episodes in recent memory.

The Last of Us episode 3 is now on HBOMax. If you missed last week’s episode then read our review to catch up.

This review will contain full spoilers for the entire episode.

The Last of Us | Official Trailer | HBO Max

Story: A Profound Love Story

As mentioned before, a lot of this episode is all original ideas. It felt like only 5% of the story had specific little moments from the game. Instead, we look at Bill’s life after Outbreak Day. Without getting too much into the game, that version of Bill left things on a bitter note with our main characters. He discovered that his companion, Frank (only hinted at being his partner) killed himself, left him with a vicious suicide note, and told Joel and Ellie to get the hell out. Instead, we explore the relationship of Bill and Frank much more in depth.

I’m glad that their romance wasn’t just hinted at and instead, fully developed with the highs and lows. It’s honestly one of the best love stories I’ve seen in quite some time. The viewer follows them for a number of years until their deaths. Having the knowledge of the game felt like something would hit the fan, but thankfully wasn’t the case. It added a lot of suspense on my first watch through then the second time, I got to appreciate their love. They’re just two people who needed each other during the apocalypse. A very Yin and Yang dynamic that brings out the best and worst of them.

Bill is always mistrusting of others.

Bill is always mistrusting of others.

Characters & Performances: On the Nature of Daylight

It’s fascinating seeing the changes to Bill’s character. He’s still the same survivalist that sets up traps, keeps to himself, and doesn’t trust outsiders. Yet, he’s given much more depth through Frank. In this new world, he can start exploring new feelings and embrace his sexuality. The love for Frank is almost a conflict for him as the black and white worldview starts to become gray. 

This newfound love for someone isn’t all roses and flowers for Bill because new emotions start to get fixed in. The fear of losing Frank weighs heavy on him and vulnerability starts to settle in. But instead of pushing Frank away, he still continues to love him until the end. Their last dinner together had me in tears. The tenderness and affection for each other is stunning to see. It’s surprising to see how viewers think this episode is sad. Granted we want them to live but having Frank and Bill peacefully die in each other’s arms is poetic. And where this series is going, it’s going to get a lot more sadder.

Frank looking nice and fresh.

Frank looking nice and fresh.

Give Nick Offerman & Murray Bartlett Emmys

Yeah I’m not being subtle with that heading, but who cares because that’s what I’ll be preaching for a long time. Nick Offerman & Murray Bartlett carried the episode on their backs and brought a real human element to the apocalypse. They carried the episode on their backs. If they don’t get any award recognition then it’ll be a huge error.

Bonding over their love of Linda Ronstadt.

Bonding over their love of Linda Ronstadt.

Cinematography & Sound: An Opened Window

There’s a lot of things that will stick with me from watching the episode, but I can’t help to think about the final shot. In his will to Joel, Bill mentions that they left their bedroom window opened so the house wouldn’t smell like death. The ending shot is seeing Joel and Ellie drive off as we pan out to see the curtains from the windows blowing in the breeze. 

The simplistic beauty of it all gets me. Having the sunset on the horizon with the trees filled with as it looked like the beauty of the October season. Or maybe that shot represents how these two got to live a full happy life together. A lot of things broke me, but that left me an emotional wreck.

Linda Ronstadt

Well Linda Ronstadt must be feeling good with all the streaming numbers after how much it was featured. Her music was throughout the episode and it hits in two spots. One is during the closing credits and the other is during Frank and Bill’s dinner. Frank discovers the piano in another room  and ensues Linda’s music. Nick Offerman’s rendition of “Long Long Time” is just filled with raw emotion. In that moment, that’s where they fall in love and begin a beautiful journey.

The Last of Us | Inside the Episode - 3 | HBO

Editing & Pacing: Time Lapses & Montages

It felt like we were watching a mini movie within this episode. We focus at least an hour on Bill from 2003 to 2023. It had a risk of feeling slow because we hardly see Joel or Ellie, but thankfully wasn’t the case. Because we were so invested in Bill and Frank, the pace felt seamless. Even with multiple time-lapses, it felt like a natural progression.

The show also had some fun with their use of montages. When the town is evacuated and Bill is savaging everything to assemble his version of town is a lot of fun. Gamers always wondered how Bill managed to control an entire town in the game and this sequence is a fun way of showing how crafty he is.

Episode 3 took the biggest risk yet by straying far away from the game, but it came with big rewards. I'll be thinking about this episode for a while and how Bill & Frank have one of the best love stories I've ever seen. It's a raw emotional-filled hour showing how passion can endure even with the apocalypse. Kudos to Nick Offerman, Murray Bartlett, and the whole The Last of Us team for delivering one of the best episodes of television in recent memory.
  • Everything regarding Bill & Frank
  • Nick Offerman & Murray Bartlett
  • Linda Ronstadt
  • The final shot

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