Episode 3 of HBO’s The Last Of Us premiered January 29, took a sharp turn from the story of Joel and Ellie, and was a significant change from the video game’s source material. I’m going to talk about it at length, and there are spoilers aplenty ahead, so don’t read on if that sort of thing bothers you.
Let me preface this in that I’ve played TLoU and TLoU2, and I knew that no matter what, a TV show could not be true to the gamer experience. As an example, on of the compromises is that in the game the fungus is airborne, but the show runners didn’t want to have the characters wearing gas masks all the time. It makes it a little more difficult to explain the rapid spread of the fungus, but ok, I’ll give them that.
In the game, after Joel and Ellie flee Boston, they go to visit Bill, who is a prepper, in the fortress he has created in his home town of Lincoln Massachusetts. There they battle hordes of zombies to get a car battery so Joel and Ellie can continue their journey to the West.
In the HBO show, Joel and Ellie are travelling to Bill, but the show then goes into Bill’s “origin” story. As a prepper Bill is more than ready for the Federally mandated evacuation. When government troops evacuate Lincoln, Bill is hidden in his bunker. Once he sees that they have left, he starts salvaging everything he can from the town, and fortifying his domain.
One day Bill discovers a man named Frank caught in one of his non-lethal traps. He frees Frank and in spite of his mistrust of all strangers, over the course of the day they become lovers, and over the years lifelong companions. After 20 years together, Frank becomes debilitated by some degenerative illness and makes the decision to end his life. He asks Bill to assist him, which Bill grudgingly agrees to do. They spend a meticulously planned last day together, and then Frank drinks a small mountain of morphine in a wineglass to end things. Bill reveals that he too has decided to take enough morphine “to kill a horse” and they go to their bedroom to lay down with each other one last time.
Joel and Ellie discover the lifeless house and a note explaining things. They take Bill’s truck and all the supplies they can, and move on west.
I’ve got some serious problems with how this story went. The beginning of Bill’s salvage operations in the town is brilliant. Lacking a proper trailer, Bill hooks his small boat up to his truck and drives to home depot, where a few bolt cutters gets him inside, and he starts grabbing everything he needs. He gets all the gas and oil and propane from everywhere he can. And he fortifies his little fiefdom with closed circuit cameras and electric sensors and booby traps.
Problems abound with this, and I think it’s a real tragedy. In no particular order
- Where is the solar farm and battery bank? In Massachusetts he could be removing high quality solar panels from people’s roofs. Fossil fuels should be reserved for the ultimate emergencies. He should be driving around in an electric golf cart.
- When Frank grows those strawberries there is no chicken wire!! If you want to grow small patch strawberries in Massachusetts your #1 enemy is chipmunks, who come in, take one bite, and leave.
- Speaking of Frank, where is the range time? Frank is out travelling zombieland without a gun, so I think it’s pretty sage to assume he’s not familiar with firearms. But there’s no time for that nonsense in a world with armed raiders and pockets of supplies. And Bill knows that. We should have had a firearms instruction montage, and I feel cheated that I didn’t get it.
- It’s just not believable to me that Bill would give Joel the door code. He would be worried that Joel would give it to someone else under duress. He might give Joel a place where he could launch a flare or ring a bell or something — but I just don’t see Bill trusting anyone enough to give them the code.
- In 20 years Bill never got a UHaul trailer? He kept pulling stuff around in his boat?
- You’d have to be farming. We saw a little bit of Bill chopping wood, but where was the other stuff? Off-grid survival is WORK, and we just saw too little of it for me.
That last one is the worst. If you want to survive the apocalypse you have to do the tedious stuff that makes survival happen. We saw Bill gathering supplies in the beginning, but you’d have to do that all the time, and you’d have to have all sorts of rituals of patrolling the fences etc.
The show could have been much more instructional, but sadly this is true for almost all zombie shows. I guess if people got smart and figured out how to kill off the zombies the show would be over. I still can’t figure out why in The Walking Dead no one made a good zombie trap? If zombies are attracted to noise, I think you dig some big pits and lure them in. Disposing of them with fire is probably easiest since wood is a plentiful resource.
Also, in the game the final boss fight in Lincoln is AWESOME, and I’m sad we didn’t get that — but I understand some choices have to be made.
Now I have heard that some people are unhappy that Bill and Frank were gay. That’s just stupid. Who cares how people find happiness when the world is filled with misery? They didn’t hurt anyone else. Well except for those raiders who wanted to kill them. Bill hurt them plenty. Bill and Frank are among my favorite fictional romantic couples now.
What a great show. And what a great message of tolerance. Let people live the lives they want. Everybody should seek love as they see fit.