Though Episode 3 of HBO’s The Last of Us breaks from the story of the original game, its closing moments includes a nod to the game’s title screen.
The following contains spoilers for The Last of Us, Season 1, Episode 3, “Long, Long Time,” now streaming on HBO and HBO Max.
Episode 3 of HBO’s The Last of Us snuck in a nod to the original game’s menu screen in its closing seconds, delivering a subtle homage to the series’ most divergent episode yet.
“We had to fight for that shot to be honest,” cinematographer Eben Bolter told GamesRadar. “The main thing was we really wanted Joel and Ellie driving off into the next episode, into the sunset. But we just wanted to have that final reminder of this was Bill and Frank’s story, and it just felt like a lovely way to do both things at the same time.” The closing shot of Episode 3 sees Joel and Ellie driving Bill’s pickup truck into the distance as the camera pulls back through Bill and Frank’s open bedroom window, resembling the window shot that serves as the original games’ menu screen.
Episode 3, entitled “Long, Long Time,” primarily focuses on the backstory of survivalist Bill (Nick Offerman), survivor Frank (Murray Bartlett) and the 16-year romantic relationship that develops between them following the outbreak. Near the end of the episode, with Frank’s health deteriorating and Bill not wanting to continue without his partner, the couple decides to ingest a lethal dose of painkillers, resigning themselves to eternal sleep in each other’s arms. Joel and Ellie later arrive at Bill’s house to find a note Bill had left for Joel, alluding to the couple’s fateful decision and telling Joel to take whatever supplies he needs.
The episode’s closing shot not only resembles the menu screen from The Last of Us video game, but it also mirrors the last shot of The Last of Us Part II, which sees Ellie fading into the distance as the audience looks on through an open window against which rests Joel’s acoustic guitar. See the comparison of the three shots below.
According to The Last Us co-creator Craig Mazin, he and fellow co-creator Neil Druckmann initially planned to open each episode with a shot of an open window as a reference to the original game’s menu screen. “We had a whole theory,” Mazin told Troy Baker, host of The Last of Us Podcast and original Joel voice actor, about the closing shot of Episode 3. “Each episode would have a different window reflecting a different circumstance in that episode, then you’d press play and the episode would begin.”
“It just never came together,” Mazin added. “But the plus side of the misfire was that we did have this ending [of Episode 3], which we loved. And it is a chance to give fans who have experienced what I’ve experienced as a player that feeling of the open window and the sense of both promise and loss that it implies. And what I love about that last moment is that it brings us a sense of happiness that you just know that Bill and Frank are at peace and that finally Bill found the person that he could love for a long, long time.”
The Last of Us Episode 3 is now available on HBO Max, while Episode 4 drops on Feb. 6.
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