So far, The Last of Us has been close to perfection as a series on its own and as an adaptation. There have been some minor changes and tweaks used to translate the game to a series. This episode has the biggest changes in the game and is the first to drop the cold open that fans have loved and barely any time spent with the protagonists, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). Instead, the episode takes us back to 2003, after Outbreak Day, and we spend much of the episode with Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett).
There are few scenes with Joel and Ellie but when they are together, you see the chemistry of the two leads build and they have great banter between each other and play off each other’s personalities almost identical to the game. Ellie comes off a bit lighter and has more of her game attitude while keeping the take that Ramsey has crafted to make the role their own. Joel is still harsh, reeling from the death of Tess but not showing it, but the start of their relationship is blooming, and feels much more like the game. Slowly building and if you know the game, the payoff will be worth it.
Bill’s Town was a favourite in the game and for good reason. Bill was an eccentric, hardened character, but in the series, he is very different. He is a survivalist who is prepared for anything but closed off to the world, seemingly enjoying the peace that forced evacuation has gifted him. While this Bill is different from the game, he is also perfect for the role and the translation to screen. From the introduction, you understood how perfect it is.
This episode may seem slower than the other two. It is not action-packed, there is no clicker chase, but you get a beautifully told story about love, survival, and human connection. Offerman is perfect for Bill in every way; but Murray Bartlett is equally as exceptional as Frank and will capture many hearts of those who watch. The two have instant chemistry despite opposing personalities. The fit together and the journey of their lives together is touching, showing that survival means more when you have something or someone to keep you going and to fight for. Frank is an exceptional addition that keeps humanity alive that was missing from the game. His story is expanded and changed, but the impact of it hits hard.
Although pacing is slower, it works and is needed for this. It is a reprieve from the onslaught of action but gives more insight into the world and how it changed. One thing that is expanded on is the cruelty of FEDRA which is a welcome expansion from the game. They are shown to be cruel and deadly even in the early days of the Outbreak.
Overall, this episode may come off as a filler episode, but one that is needed to show the world and to add more emotional impact to the viewer and to Joel. By the end of the episode, Joel feels the impact of the last few episodes, all that he has lost, and the importance of what he must do for Ellie and himself in finding Tommy. The changes to the game are huge and could be jarring to players, but it makes sense for the series and does not diminish anything else but emphasises the emotion. Performances from Offerman and Bartlett are exceptional, showing a complex range of emotions at different stages of their relationship from the beginning of the relationship to the end of the episode. The emotion will punch harder, but the changes will be an adjustment for players, but not in a bad way. There is a deeper intimacy to the characters and the world feels more brutal, which is aided by the changes. The episode would be a perfect one, and it is close, but there is something missing from the lack of Bill and Ellie scenes that players loved and a scene added in of Joel and Tess meeting Bill and Frank that felt randomly placed in and broke up the pacing.
The MVC for this episode goes to both Bill and Frank. They work together perfectly and have very different personalities that guide them through their relationship and episode. It is touching to walk through their journey and see their lives, how they found and abide by each other. It could easily be one of the most emotional episodes with poignant performances and pacing that guides through a journey perfectly.