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The Last of Us episode 3 has a two-hour director’s cut – and it’s even more heartbreaking

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The historic gay love story at the heart of the third episode of HBO’s The Last of Us originally had a two-hour director’s cut – and it’s even more tear-jerking than the final edit.

Fans of The Last of Us and its critically acclaimed third episode might soon be taking to the streets to shout ‘release the director’s cut’, because it’s emerged that there’s an even more heartbreaking version of Bill and Frank’s love story tucked away in the vault.

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In an interview with Deadline, Craig Mazin, who co-created The Last of Us alongside the game’s creator Neil Druckmann and also wrote episode three, revealed that the original version was actually two hours long – an entire 45 minutes longer than the 72-minute cut that ended up on our TV screens.

“When [director Peter Hoar] sent it to me, I think it was almost two hours or something like that,” Mazin explained. “So, I was like, oh, that’s probably not good. And I sat down, but I’m like, ‘OK, I’ll watch the two-hour version of this episode.’

“And I cried so hard that at one point, I actually said out loud: ‘Ow.’ I mean, it hurt. I cried so hard; it hurt. And I thought: ‘Well, if these guys can do this to me and I wrote this f**king thing, then I think it might work pretty well on other people.’ Now, we did work really hard to, but we knew we couldn’t put a two-hour version of this thing out there.”

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Image of Bill and Frank in The Last of Us
For LGBTQ+ gamers, Bill and Frank’s relationship in The Last of Us is extra special. (HBO)

The episode follows Nick Offerman as Bill, a hardened survivalist, who takes in a straggler named Frank (Murray Bartlett) following the outbreak of the civilisation-ending Cordyceps fungus.

Spanning several chapters in the couple’s relationship, the episode has been praised by fans and critics alike for heart-wrenching but groundbreaking love story. Over the course of twenty years, we see the pair live a beautifully fulfilling life, before a degenerative neuromuscular disorder claims Frank’s autonomy.

The two then proceed to get married before dying by suicide in a haunting montage set to the tear-jerking strings of composer Max Richter’s “On the Nature of Daylight”.

When asked about whether a longer version of the episode could be released, Mazin told Deadline that he never wants to “overstay his welcome,” and that even as it stands, the episode still has a longer runtime.

“That’s, I think, a real achievement,” he continued. “But it was really when I saw Peter and Tim’s cut that I just thought like: ‘Wow, this one got me right here.'”

The Last of Us
Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) in The Last of Us. (HBO)

Mazin also told Deadline that while the final shot of the episode mimics the “visual theme” of the game (a window appears as the game’s menu), it also epitomises Bill and Frank finally being “peaceful”.

“I mean, it’s something that, as a player, I just always loved the start screen in The Last of Us, looking at this window and how peaceful it was, even though the world is not peaceful, and what happens to these characters isn’t peaceful.

“And it seemed like a good place for us to go; there’s an opportunity to show both the idea of this permanent love that’s always going to be there in that building, in their home, but also just the theme of that window being the epitome of peace in the world of The Last of Us.”

Speaking to Inverse, episode director Peter Hoar has previously spoken about “tricking” straight audiences into becoming invested in a gay love story.

“Sometimes you have to sort of trick the rest of the world into watching these things before they’re like, ‘Oh, my God, it was two guys. I just realised,’” he explained.

“I think then they might understand that it’s all real. It’s just the same love.”

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