The Last of Us: Episode 3’s Final Scene Is More Important Than You Think

The final moments of The Last of Us's superb third episode call back to the games in a meaningful way.

Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) around a piano in The Last of Us episode 3
Photo: Liane Hentscher | HBO

This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us episode 3.

We were warned that the third episode of HBO’s The Last of Us would be a real tear-jerker, but in a series that’s already waved goodbye to Sarah (Nico Parker) and Tess (Anna Torv), showrunner Craig Mazin isn’t letting up on the need to keep a box of tissues handy every week. Jan. 29’s “Long Long Time” filled in some gaps between 2003’s Outbreak Day and our current timeline of 2023 without a Clicker in sight.

Episode 3 introduced us to Bill and Frank, with Parks and Recreation’s Nick Offerman and The White Lotus’ Murray Bartlett playing the star-crossed lovers. Their story played out completely different from the Bill and Frank of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, and in the end, added another fateful farewell. While this Bill and Frank weren’t like their video game counterparts, eagle-eyed viewers might’ve spotted a tragic Easter egg to the 2013 title that makes their end even more poignant. 

With Frank (Bartlett) afflicted by a terminal illness, he decided to spend one last day with Bill (Offerman) before ending his life with a bag of pills and a glass of wine. Giving some serious Romeo and Juliet vibes, Bill had already given himself a lethal dose after deciding life isn’t worth living without his partner by his side. An undisclosed time later, Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) arrived at Bill’s house and found a letter telling them not to go into the bedroom. 

Ad – content continues below

After Ellie and Joel take the supplies they need, they jump in a car left behind by Bill and drive off into the distance while accompanied by Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time.” If you weren’t already weeping, the final shot of Bill and Frank’s open window is a nod to Naughty Dog. Moving away from the visceral horror you might expect, we don’t see Bill and Frank’s bodies. Instead, there’s an open window, some wilted flowers, and a painting of Bill that’s been painted by Frank. In the games, there’s a recurring motif of windows having an emotive meaning. 2013’s first game featured a window as its loading screen, while the last we see of Ellie in 2020’s The Last of Us Part II has her guitar propped against a window as she walks away. 

It’s hard to believe showrunner Craig Mazin can make us cry with just a window, but you might remember the first scene of Sarah in episode 1 included her curtains fluttering in the breeze and the word “peace” spelled in magnets. Episode 3 director Peter Hoar confirmed the window Easter egg, telling Inverse how Mazin originally wanted window shots at the start of every episode. This would’ve been a “gimmick” you could click if watching on HBO Max. “I thought it doesn’t work at the beginning of my episode, because they’re out and about now, they aren’t near a window,” said Hoar. “But at the end of the episode, we are there.”

Instead, the window imagery works twofold as more than just a wink to the source material. Hoar concluded, “I wanted a last moment with Bill and Frank, and I didn’t know how else to do it. But if we pull back through their window, see the flowers that have died, which is also heartbreaking, and one of Frank’s pictures on the wall. I just thought that was our last moment. We’re actually coming back into the world of Frank and Bill for that one last shot because I didn’t want to go.”

It’s a bittersweet ending to the characters, where Bill’s parting letter says he’d been a miserable old man until Frank came into his life as something worth fighting for. His parting words tell Joel to keep Tess safe as his reason to fight, not knowing she’s passed. Instead, Ellie becomes this new reason for Joel to carry on – as a potential cure for the Cordyceps infection. Ironically, Mazin told us that the episode gave us “an opportunity to take a breath,” which is mirrored in the safety of the loading screen being bathed in sunlight and nature finding a way inside without the player worrying an Infected is about to pounce on them. 

Fleshing out two minor characters into an 85-minute love story was a bold choice that, ultimately, worked in the show’s favor. Mazin has said that Bill and Frank’s tragic demise will define Ellie and Joel’s relationship moving forward. There are already seeds of their blossoming relationship, and you might spot that Joel is now wearing his “hero shirt” from the game – having borrowed it from Frank. Even though Bill and Frank have shuffled off this mortal coil, The Last of Us episode 3 is up there with The Walking Dead’s infamous “look at the flowers” episode in showing the human side of the undead apocalypse. 

New episodes of The Last of Us premiere Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

Ad – content continues below