While many in the audience of HBO’s adaptation have likely already played “The Last of Us,” it’s worth taking a moment to quickly recap Bill’s presence in the original game — and to consider how changing his storyline also changes what Joel takes away from this chapter.
In the video game, Joel and Ellie actually do make it to Bill’s while he’s still alive — in fact, at the end of the first game, there’s little reason to believe he’s going to die on anyone’s terms but his own. That’s the beautiful thing about Bill: He takes the isolationist ideology brewing inside of Joel to its most logical conclusion. Yes, he survives quite comfortably, but he’s also very much alone.
Though Bill boasts of his self-sufficiency with pride, the discovery of Frank’s corpse cracks his facade. In the series, Bill’s note is seemingly supposed to impress upon Joel a lesson he already learned from Tess: The best thing anyone can do in this world is save who they can. In the video game, however, as Joel watches this hardened survivalist struggle to hold back tears and dismiss his own grief, he learns that no matter how much he isolates himself, the pain of loss is inevitable. It’s a rarer, more complicated lesson that has greater potential to weaken Joel’s worldview.
Though glowing reviews rightly hail this as the best video game adaptation of all time, changes like this seem to devalue the quiet tragedy that made the original so haunting. It’s a shame the series discarded this story beat, even in favor of an admittedly beautiful story.