The Last Of Us will dedicate ‘beautiful’ episode to Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman’s tragic gay couple

A side-by-side image shows the promo poster of HBO's The Last of Us on the left; with main characters Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) wearing dark green jackets and standing in a corridor where you can see graffiti on the wall. On the right-hand image you can see actor Murray Bartlett as gay character Frank who has a beard and is wearing a dark shirt

Tissues at the ready: HBO’s upcoming series The Last Of Us will explore the moving backstory of central gay couple Bill and Frank.

Based on the the beloved video game franchise, the live-action adaptation tells the story of smuggler Joel (Pedro Pascal), who is tasked with escorting teenager Ellie (Bella Ramsey) across a post-apocalyptic America which has been overcome by zombie-like infected humans.

Along the way, they meet Bill (Nick Offerman), a lone, hardened survivor living in a heavily fortified town, with whom they form an uneasy alliance. But unlike the game, in which we learn scant details about his late partner Frank (Murray Bartlett), the new series is now fully putting spotlight on the doomed lovers.

Not only is Frank a fully realised character, but it’s now emerged that the couple’s relationship will be the focus of the feature-length third episode which has already been hailed as the standout of the series.

Nick Offerman as Bill (L) and Murray Bartlett as Frank (R). (HBO)
Tragic couple: Nick Offerman as Bill (L) and Murray Bartlett as Frank. (HBO)

What is The Last of Us episode three about?

In the video game, players learn that Frank died after being infected and hanging himself in order to save his lover Bill from getting the virus.

As the series adapts this tragic backstory, we can expect episode three to be just as heartbreaking as it delves into Bill and Frank’s love story and the true cost of survival.

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Tracing Bill and Frank over the course of two decades, the episode explores how an exchange of letters blossoms into a romance.

What has Murray Bartlett said about The Last Of Us episode three?

After filming, The White Lotus star Bartlett told Collider that the script he worked for the episode was “one of the best hours of television I’ve ever read”.

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“It’s beautiful. It’s beautifully written,” he explained.

“There are these zombie creatures in it, but it’s tender and it’s human. I think it’s gonna be really special. I haven’t seen any of it yet, but I’m really proud of the work we did and I think it could be really, really wonderful. It will be really wonderful.”

In the wake of the premiere, Offerman added: “From soups to nuts they do such an incredible job, the fact that he sent the script to me and I got to do it with Murray Bartlett was pretty astonishing.”

The episode has also been teased by The Last Of Us voice actor Troy Baker, who told the Play Watch Listen podcast: “I’ve seen up to episode five and, I can tell you right now, you get to episode three, you’re done. You are standing on your desk, ‘O, Captain! My Captain!’

“What it sets up in the first two episodes, it introduces you to the world if you have no idea what it is. It takes all of your expectations and just gets rid of them.”

Game creator Neil Druckmann also revealed to The New Yorker that while the episode is “awesome”, fans might be upset by the story.

“To me, the story we tell is authentic to the world,” he explained. “It’s authentic to the themes that we’re talking about.”

Screenwriter Craig Mazin, meanwhile, noted that Bill and Frank embodied “outward love and inward love – the people who want to make everybody better, and the people who want to protect particular people at any cost.”

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What are reviews saying about The Last of Us?

As the first reviews from the critics roll in, it’s clear that Bill and Frank’s magnum opus has left quite an impression.

“What follows is a beautiful, exquisitely performed exploration of The Last of Us‘ central theme: that the ashes of the world are enough, as long as there is someone to live for amongst them,” wrote the BBC.

Toisto noted: “It’s a stunning work of art. One of the finest hours of TV in years, and so far beyond everything else in The Last of Us that the rest of the series has to work twice as hard just to keep up.”

Digital Spy added: “By the time episode three comes around, it’s already a contender for best show of the year, this soon into 2023. That’s how good it is.”

The Last of Us premieres on 15 January on HBO in the US, and on 16 January on Sky Atlantic and NOW TV in the UK.

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