Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Last of Us on HBO. If you watched ‘Long Long Time’, the third episode of HBO’s post-apocalyptic series and are only just emotionally recovering, fans of the critically acclaimed Sony exclusive got the answer to a question that has been teased and theorized about for years: are Bill and Frank gay in The Last of Us game?
Giving audiences respite from the action-packed first two episodes, we’re transported back to 2003, a few days after the fungal outbreak that would decimate much of the world’s human population. We’re introduced to Bill (Nick Offerman) a “survivalist” who establishes his own paradise in the evacuated township of Lincoln. He sets up boobytraps and an electrified fence for protection while becoming totally self-sufficient for food and, perhaps most importantly, fine wine which he looted from the local liquor store. What he doesn’t anticipate is meeting Frank (Murray Bartlett) and how they would find love, hope and purpose in a bleak world. That, ultimately, is what The Last of Us, games and series, is about. Here’s how the show diverged and expanded on their story and if Bill and Frank are gay in The Last of Us game.
Are Bill and Frank gay in The Last of Us game? We never fully get an answer to that but there are subtle clues that they did have a romantic relationship throughout and after the player’s interaction with Bill. That’s where the narrative in the show and video games diverges.
When you meet Bill in the games, Joel and Ellie are in need of guidance and supplies and as a player, you have to navigate your way through Bill’s traps. Joel and Ellie end up alerting a pack of Infected and Bill comes to the rescue. After the chaos dies down and Joel explains his mission to protect Ellie as they venture across the country, Bill mentions Frank but doesn’t go much into detail about the nature of their relationship. “Once upon a time, I had somebody that I cared about, it was a partner, somebody I had to look after. And in this world that sort of shit is good for one thing, gettin’ ya killed,” he says.
Not long after, the three of them find a decomposing body hanging from a rope. Bill is visibly upset but tries to remain composed. He confirms the body is Frank and notices the body has been bitten by Infected. “He was my partner, he’s the only idiot that would wear a shirt like that,” Bill says. Joel theorizes that Frank hung himself after becoming infected, though a nearby suicide note suggests the pair had a falling out—“I want you to know I hated your guts,” Frank wrote.
After you’ve got what supplies you need, you take Bill’s car to aid Joel and Ellie’s cross-country journey. In a cut-scene, Ellie reveals she helped herself to a pile of magazines. “I’m sure your ‘friend’ will be missing this tonight,” she says and the player will notice it’s an adult magazine with a man on the cover. “Light on the reading but it’s got some interesting photos,” she jests. Joel tells her the magazine isn’t for kids. She then asks why some of the pages are “stuck together” and Joel can’t figure out how to answer her. “I’m just f—king with you,” she tells Joel and throws the magazine out the window. We never see Bill again though he is mentioned a few more times in both The Last of Us Part I and the sequel.
“The word ‘partner’ is used and it’s in a limited emotional sense,” the episode’s director Peter Hoar told Entertainment Weekly of how the game hints at Bill and Frank’s relationship. “You’re like, ‘Business partner maybe?’ And this is why I love the way they told that story [in the game] because it feels like it happens just off camera and then you have to run away again, ’cause games can’t stop.”
In The Last of Us game, these are the only hints we’re given as to Bill’s sexual orientation but, as mentioned, the HBO series expands on his story significantly. In episode three, we learn Bill’s origin story of sorts. When the fungal outbreak—which would quickly decimate most of humanity—began, his town of Lincoln is evacuated. Residents are taken to quarantine zones (QZs) but if there was no room for them, they would be executed. “Dead people can’t be infected,” Joel (Pedro Pascal) tells Ellie (Bella Ramsey) upon discovering a mass grave not far from the town. Bill, however, is delighted he can finally be alone. He spends time raiding Home Depot, building an electric fence and setting boobytraps to protect against The Infected and raiders, while becoming totally self-sufficient in terms of food and, perhaps more importantly, fine wine that he procures from the local liquor store.
For four years, he lives in total solitude—which suits Bill just fine. But everything changes when Frank accidentally stumbles into one of Bill’s traps trying to make it to the Boston QZ. Cautious of his new guest, Bill offers Frank a hot meal with a fine wine pairing, a hot shower and fresh clothes. They initially bond over their enjoyment of the finer things. When Frank notices a vintage piano, he digs out a Linda Ronstadt book of sheet music and plays, clumsily, ‘Long Long Time’. Bill steps in and offers his own emotional rendition. The pair are moved and when Frank asks who the girl is that Bill is singing about, Bill says, “it’s not a girl”. They kiss and when they retire to the bedroom, their exchanges are sweet and awkward. Frank adds he’d like to stay a few more days and 16 years later, they’re still together.
As Frank’s health deteriorates due to an undisclosed illness, Frank and Bill die together in a double suicide because Bill doesn’t want to face the world alone. “This isn’t the tragic suicide at the end of the play,” Bill says. “I’m old, I’m satisfied, and you were my purpose.” Frank is initially angry, but concedes that “from an objective point of view, it’s incredibly romantic.” They have their last drink and go upstairs to the bedroom where they’ll spend eternity together.
When Joel and Ellie arrive at Bill and Franks, the dying, dried flowers on the porch signal to Joel that something is wrong. Ellie discovers a note left by Bill addressed “to whomever but probably Joel”. Bill asks that he and Frank’s bodies be left undisturbed in the bedroom but that they left a window open so the house wouldn’t smell.
“I never liked you but, still, it’s like we’re friends. Almost. And I respect you,” Bill writes. “I used to hate the world and I was happy when everyone died, but I was wrong because there was one person worth saving and that’s what I did. I saved him and I protected him. That’s why men like me and you are here. We have a job to do.” This note ties in nicely but contradicts what Bill tells Joel in the game, which is that caring about someone will eventually get you killed. It’s a beautiful divergence from the games and something true fans of the game should be pleased about.
“The character Bill is fascinating,” the show’s co-creator Craig Mazin told EW. “I love the idea of a guy who was actively preparing for the world to end, and when it did he was like, ‘Good!’ Bill in the game is a dark prediction of where Joel could end up if he doesn’t open his heart back up again: alone in a fortress of his own making, paranoid and grouchy. I felt like, we can go and actually do a different thing, which is to say there’s an omen of hope. You can actually, in this world, still find somebody that you can share your life with. Nobody lives forever, but the goal that we should all have is to have a good life. And when the end comes, we are satisfied.”
Watch The Last of Us on HBO Max. New episodes air at 9 p.m. on Sundays.
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