Speaking to The Hollywood Reporter, The Last of Us creator Neil Druckmann spoke about why Episode 3 of the HBO series differed so much from the game.
The latest episode in the HBO adaptation, titled “Long, Long Time,” tells the story of Bill and Frank. Unlike the game, however, which just sees players meeting Bill, this episode is fully dedicated to the pair’s tragic love story. According to Druckmann — who serves as showrunner on the series alongside Craig Mazin — deciding when to deviate so heavily from the game often depends on how good they think the deviation will be.
“How much we deviate [from the game] has to be proportional to how good it is,” said Druckmann. “Frank was mentioned [in the game] but offhandedly. Here we get to kind of explore this relationship and obviously make some changes. And [the idea] was so good, I didn’t mind that it was different.”
Druckmann went on to explain that in the video game, players interact more with Bill by fighting alongside him. Instead of focusing on that, Mazin suggested focusing on Bill and the life he might have had with his partner, who isn’t seen at all in the game.
“In the game, the way you build the relationship with Bill is fighting alongside him. There’s a set piece where Joel is hoisted up in this snare trap and Ellie has to cut him down. It’s exciting and one of the most memorable parts from the game. I think a lesser adaptation would be like, ‘This action sequence has to go in the show,’” explained Druckmann. “Whereas [Mazin was] like, ‘No, don’t focus on that, there’s this interesting thing happening over with this survivor and this partner that he had. What’s that story? Let’s explore that. Let’s flesh that out.’ So it was easy not to be precious about that when you got these really wonderful ideas that I felt broadened the world and broadened these characters.”
Druckmann also noted that the romantic feelings that Bill had for Frank “went over a lot of people’s heads” in the original game.