Was Bill Gay In The Last Of Us Game? Show Creators Address Major Change

"I was wrong because there was one person worth saving. That's what I did..." - Bill, The Last Of Us (HBO)

by Abhirup Sengupta
Image: HBO Max, Warner Bros. Discovery

Following its premiere, The Last Of Us Episode 3 has been majorly touted as one of the best episodes of the series. Though a major plot point in the episode was changed from TLOU Part I‘s “Bill’s Town” chapter of the story, most of the fandom welcomed this.

Unlike the game’s chapter, which primarily focused on Bill, the third episode of HBO’s TLOU titled “Long, Long Time” shared the spotlight to incorporate the character’s partner, Frank. Episode 3 further changed Frank’s tragic demise in the game into an emotional conclusion to his time with Bill.

Warning! The following portion of the article will include spoilers for The Last Of Us Part I as well as the HBO series’ Episode 3.

Bill And Frank’s Story From The Last Of Us Part I – Were They Gay?

Contrary to the few pesky comments from certain viewers, HBO’s The Last Of Us did not change the sexuality of Bill from the game. In TLOU Part I, Joel and Ellie met Bill in the fourth chapter of the game, titled “Bill’s Town.”

In the game, Bill helped Joel and Ellie in their attempt to procure a car and its battery. During their quest, they wandered into a house where they discovered the hanging body of Frank. Following this, Bill revealed that Frank was his former partner. The dialogue in the cutscene clearly clarified Bill’s sexuality when he said: “He (Frank) was my partner. And he’s the only idiot that would wear a shirt like that.”

Meanwhile, in the HBO series, Bill (Nick Offerman) mentioned that he had intercourse “with a girl a long time ago.” While this could mean that Bill in the series was possibly bi or pan, the clear distinction to his sexuality was left ambiguous. Compared to the series, the game had only established Bill’s relationship with Frank prior to the latter’s demise.

Why Did HBO’s TLOU Creator Decide To Change Bill And Frank’s Backstory?

Unlike in the HBO series, Bill and Frank had a fallout in the game, following which the latter attempted to leave town. Frank had stolen a few of Bill’s items, including supplies. Unfortunately, the character was infected on his way to the FEDRA’s Boston Quarantine Zone, where a smuggler would have let him in with forged documents.

Meanwhile, in HBO’s “Long, Long Time” episode, Frank developed a progressive neuromuscular disorder that could not be cured, especially in the post-Cordyceps infection world of TLOU. This resulted in the bittersweet end of Bill and Frank’s story, where the couple committed suicide together.

While speaking about the ending in the official The Last Of Us podcast, series co-creator Craig Mazin explained: “We didn’t necessarily want to specify it [the disorder] for the audience, it was either MS or early ALS, but it was a degenerative neuromuscular disorder…This happens so commonly and yet, so rarely. As people get older on screen, they tend to be fully healthy until the heart attack staggers them out of nowhere. That does happen, but for the majority of people, there is a decline.”

The Change In Bill’s Demise And How It Would Affect Joel

Meanwhile, The Last Of Us creator Neil Druckmann recently spoke with IGN to explain how he and Mazin came about this change. According to Druckmann, during the development of the series, Mazin raised the point of flipping the script for Joel, who has developed a cautionary perspective following the death of his daughter Sarah and, later on, his partner Tess. Thus, the creators wanted to focus on a “…what you could stand to win?” moment for Joel instead of the standard “here’s what you stand to lose.”

Similar to the note left by Frank for Bill in the game, in the series, the latter pens a note to Joel and leaves behind his keys for him. In the note, Bill told Joel: “I used to hate the world and I was happy when everyone died. But I was wrong because there was one person worth saving. That’s what I did. I saved him (Frank), and then I protected him. That’s why men like you and me are here. We have a job to do, and God helps any m*** who stands in our way. I leave you all of my weapons and equipment. Use them to keep Tess safe.”

While this note from Bill serves as a reminder that Joel lost Tess, it also mirrors how the latter has to safeguard Ellie. As Bill had referred to taking care of Frank as his purpose, protecting Ellie and ensuring her survival has now become Joel’s purpose. Thus, as pointed out by Mazin and Druckkman, this would serve to add to Joel’s arc in his acceptance of Ellie as someone “worth saving.”

In regards to the ending, Mazin told IGN: “I’m particularly happy about the way Bill.. has managed to inspire Joel to take Ellie west. He’s given Joel this posthumous instruction that men like you and me are here for one reason, to protect the people we love…”

The series co-creator further added: “And it’s hard for Joel to say, ‘Well, it didn’t work with Tess, but now what am I supposed to do? Stop being who I am? This is legitimately why I’m here.’ And so it’s the happy ending and Bill’s understanding of who he was as a human being that inspires Joel to do the right thing here.”

Thus, the changes made to Bill and Frank’s story in Episode 3 masterfully moved beyond what could have been criticized as a “filler episode” if done hastily. Instead, “Long, Long Time” further instills the purpose of saving Ellie after Tess’ point of “Save who you can save” in Episode 2.

- This article was updated on January 31st, 2023