Last 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 phenomenal, made a huge change to the video game the HBO series is based on.
Following the near-20-year relationship between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), we watched the former's life play out 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. 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 GameFragger.com) 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 confirm 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 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 changes 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 think about this big change in The Last of Us?