This article contains The Last of Us spoilers.
The third episode of HBO’s The Last of Us was arguably the series’ best episode yet and, for fans of the games, certainly its most intriguing episode yet. After all, this was the episode that made some major changes to Bill and Frank’s story that may very well set the show on its own creative path. If you haven’t already read our interview with Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann about the episode’s parallel universe effect, I highly recommend doing so.
Much like with Tess, many of those who are watching The Last of Us but didn’t play the games are probably wondering what happened to Bill and Frank in those games. Even those who did play the games may be so rocked by the events of this episode that they’ll find themselves wondering if they’ve somehow misremembered Bill and Frank’s story from the source material.
Well, the setup for Joel and Ellie’s journey to see Bill is roughly the same in the games as in the show. The pair find themselves in need of resources and guidance, so they head toward Bill’s home. However, as you may already know, Bill is very much alive in the game by the time they reach him.
Before Joel and Ellie reach Bill, though, they’re forced to navigate a deadly series of traps that Bill has spread throughout the town of Lincoln. Those traps are a significant gameplay part of the “Bill experience” in the game. Inevitably, Joel and Ellie alert a massive pack of infected while trying to work their way through those traps. They’re rescued by Bill, but Bill is immediately suspicious of their presence and subdues them out of fear that they’ve both been bitten.
Joel and Ellie convince Bill to calm down (relatively speaking), but it’s clear that Bill has achieved new levels of paranoia fueled by his isolation. Bill tells Joel that he will help him find parts for the car Joel and Ellie need, but that this is the last favor he will ever do for Joel.
So what about Frank? Well, during Bill, Joel, and Ellie’s journey through town, Joel mentions that Tess convinced him to escort Ellie (though he shrewdly fails to reveal that Tess is dead). That conversation eventually inspires Bill to bring up Frank, though Bill doesn’t explicitly state the nature of his and Frank’s relationship. He only says that it is dangerous to care about someone in this world and soon even tells Joel that trying to care for Ellie will get him killed.
Not long after, the trio comes across a body hanging from a rope. Bill confirms that the body is Frank. He says that Frank hung himself after becoming infected, though a nearby suicide note reveals that Frank was furious at Bill at the time of his death and that the two had clearly not reconciled from their falling out. Bill is disturbed by this encounter, though he is clearly trying to maintain his disassociated demeanor.
Joel tries to offer his condolences to Bill before Joel and Ellie leave, but Bill only reiterates that he no longer owes Joel any favors. Joel and Ellie leave a still bitter and broken Bill to himself. We never see Bill again, though he is mentioned during conversations a few times in both The Last of Us and The Last of Us Part 2. Again, though, there’s no definitive word on whether he is still alive.
Also of note is the fact that the Bill story in the games emphasizes Joel and Ellie’s growing relationship a bit more than the version of Bill and Frank’s story in the show. Joel and Ellie unite a bit over Bill’s aggressive paranoia, and we start to understand that Joel is beginning to see Ellie as more than just a package that needs to be delivered. The show certainly doesn’t gloss over that relationship, though the third episode obviously focuses more on Bill and Frank.
Bill’s story in the game is obviously a tragedy in and of itself, though it’s a slightly different kind of tragedy than the one we see in the show. Most people who play the game will infer that Bill and Frank were partners and that Bill is incredibly heartbroken over both their break-up and Frank’s death (regardless of what he says). It seems that Bill and Frank’s relationship either fell apart due to Bill’s belief that it wasn’t in a survivor’s interest to love someone or that Bill developed that belief after the pair’s relationship fell apart. You also can’t rule out a combination of the two scenarios.
Regardless, the game makes it clear that Bill is now alone and doing whatever he can to combat the pain of his loneliness. There will inevitably be a debate over people’s preferred version of the Bill story, though it’s worth noting that the game and show portray Bill as someone who loves deeply and must navigate the terrible consequences of his fundamental inability to simply not care or truly move on. Surely, we can all relate.