'The Last of Us' Episode 3 Director Reveals the Secret Meaning Behind the Last Shot (2023)

The Last of Us Episode 3 was shocking.

Not only was it huge deviation from the previous episode’s commitment to adapting the video game source material, but it’s also the first time someone other than the showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann directed an episode. The honor fell to It’s a Sin and Umbrella Academy director Peter Hoar, who brought the standalone story of Bill and Frank’s love story to life with stars Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett.

Even in September 2021, when Episode 3 was filmed, British director Hoar knew the importance of the task ahead of him. “I was blessed to be able to do it, I couldn't believe it had come to me,” Hoar told Inverse Friday afternoon, minutes after The Last of Us was renewed for Season 2. “I just didn't want to let anybody down. And of course, there was a huge relationship between the two men.”

A gay man himself, the love story was especially poignant. “I had just come from It’s a Sin, where five boys were experiencing the AIDS crisis in the U.K. I hadn’t realized how much [of] a voice I had, how many people are listening. The community was so wonderful about the whole show. Now, it’s happening again, not just with the LGBTQ community, but The Last of Us community, which I also belong to.”

Hoar spoke with Inverse about directing the heartbreaking love story of Bill and Frank, The Last of Us Season 2, and the secret meaning behind the episode’s final shot.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

WARNING! Spoilers for The Last of Us Episode 3 below!

What was the biggest challenge in directing such a unique episode?

I've been asked if was worried about it being so different from the game. I just read Craig's scripts. They’re so good, so clever and so warm, that I actually forgot that it was so different. It was only really when Bill is shot, and you think, Oh, God. It’s Bill that's gonna go. It's not Frank, it's Bill. And then very next scene is Frank on the porch, in a wheelchair.

You're thinking so hard about what happened and how it happened and what happens next, and then suddenly, they're quite old. I think I forgot that we were in a completely different scenario to the game, and I just went with it. I never worried that it was that different. Neil was the first person that said, not to me, but to the world, “I'm not sure that the fans will like Episode 3 because it's very, very different.” I was like, “Oh no! Don’t say that Neil!”

Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett are both amazing actors, but they’re most famous for their comedic roles. So how did you approach directing them through such an emotional and dramatic storyline?

They were both so keen to do right by it. Murray totally committed but as a gay man playing a gay man, this was not a new idea for him. It was emotionally driven and emotionally taxing for him, but he was playing a character that he understood and he knew.

“It wasn't just about being a man, it was because he was Frank.”

For Nick, it was very much a different person. But at the same time, we didn't get Nick Offerman to not have some of him in it as well. Because that is Bill — Bill is complicated. I would definitely argue that Bill doesn't come across as a gay man. It's a little less binary than that. He is a man who never really discovered himself. He lived in a world of mistrust. He lived with his mother for a certain long number of years, she then died, and he had the house. He pulled himself away from society.

He was never going to naturally discover who he was to fall in love with or who he found attractive until Frank came along. And even then, it wasn't just about being a man, it was because he was Frank. It was because Frank is Frank. I felt like it was about making sure to keep reminding them all of that.

It's not as complicated perhaps as it sounds. It's about heart and love and truth. They are kind and gentle to each other. Middle-aged men falling in love, you don't get that all the time, so I think that was nice. They're just such professionals. They didn't need much help and guidance other than just feeling good every day about what we were doing.

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

The last shot of the episode lingers on the window. Was that a reference to the last shot of The Last of Us Part II?

I wouldn't know that, but my director of photography, Eben Bolter, would know because he has played it. Two things were going on with that shot. When you play the original game there was a menu screen, and it was a window with a breeze. That’s where you select “play game” or whatever. There was this discussion with Craig where that might be something that we try and emulate, we would put it at the beginning of every episode. I think it was a gimmick really about if you're on HBO Max, you could see it and click on it, and then you watch that.

Once he described it to me, I thought it was gonna be at the beginning of the episode. And I thought it doesn't work at the beginning of my episode, because they're out and about now, they aren't near a window. But at the end of the episode, we are there.

Obviously, we see Joel and Ellie disappear off into the sunset. But I wanted a last moment with Bill and Frank, and I didn't know how else to do it. But if we pull back through their window, see the flowers that have died, which is also heartbreaking, and one of Frank's pictures on the wall. I just thought that was our last moment. We're actually coming back into the world of Frank and Bill for that one last shot because I didn’t want to go.

What was it like working with Bella and Pedro for the beginning and end of the episode?

Both of them are stunning human beings, but they were finding their way. Episode 2 was shot after Episode 3. They had just really begun to discover their relationship. They hadn't had that experience trying to escape Boston, they hadn't seen Tess give her life, they hadn't done any of that. It was interesting because I think they were still understanding each other, understanding how that relationship was going to work.

Not only did I get to do this fantastic episode, but I also did the shot where they looked out at the plane wreck, which became the first teaser image of the entire series. I'm like, Oh, my God, that's me. And then not only that, I got a shot behind them walking down this road. And he had his gun over his shoulder and the little tiny Ellie next to him wandering along. I was like, this is the game. I'm doing it. This is fantastic.

Do you think Episode 3 will do for Linda Ronstadt what Stranger Things did for Kate Bush?

What a beautiful piece of music. When Ellie says, “I don't know who Linda Ronstadt is,” she's not going to be alone. I think a lot of people are going to be online trying to go “Oh, quick, what's going on here?” She's got a fantastic body of work. So it's all to play for. I should have got shares in Linda Ronstadt.

Did you see all the critics talking about Episode 3 when the reviews were released?

I did get a feeling, yeah. I was very proud of the episode. Craig Mazin, who's already won an Emmy, was saying, “Oh, my God, Paul, this episode is the best.” He wrote it, he deserves all of the credit, but he kept saying, “This is going to be so good. This is just going to be so good. People are gonna love this.”

I hate saying this because it feels very egocentric, but he was like, “I think you'd better get a tuxedo because I think you're gonna be going [to the Emmys].” But that was September 2021, and then we come around to now when the show is being loved and adored and respected. The Guardian over here never give good reviews to video game shows, and they gave it five stars. I am absolutely thrilled. I totally believed in it, and I loved making it.

The Last of Us was just renewed for a Season 2. Would you return if you were asked?

Oh, God, I couldn't not really, could I? I am thrilled [about the news.] I felt like it was a no-brainer. I’m not a TV exec, but I thought that it had to be the case. There’s so much material out there. I haven't played the second game because I found out what happened. And I thought I can't go there just now.

But I do know that it splits and you go follow two characters, and there's another fantastic character that comes into the second game. I don't know whether they'll do two storylines, which might be a bit difficult, or maybe they'll do storyline A as one season and storyline B as another season.

I would love to do it again if my schedule allows. I don't know when they're going to start, maybe it's tomorrow. But it's a big show, I shot this episode in September ‘21. And here we are in nearly February ‘23 talking about it. It's a massive undertaking. They've got to go write it first.

The Last of Us Episode 3 is now streaming on HBO Max.


What is the ending shot of Last of Us Ep 3? ›

The final shot of Episode 3 sees Joel and Ellie driving away as the camera pulls back through Bill and Frank's open window, with their curtains gently swaying with the breeze. This is an intentional callback to the menu screen in The Last of Us.

Where was the last of us episode 3 filmed? ›

The Last Of Us Was Filmed In Alberta, Canada

Every episode sees Joel and Ellie continuing on their journey and walking through a world that is desolate and destroyed, which adds a lot of emotion to every moment.

Who gets shot on last of us? ›

Marlene had been prepared to do what Joel wouldn't, despite having told her best friend, right before she shot her, that she would take care of her daughter.

Who is Episode 3 of Last of Us dedicated to? ›

Annie Wersching voiced Tess in The Last of Us video game. HBO Max has updated the third episode of The Last of Us, originally released for streaming on Sunday, Jan. 29, with an opening that remembers the late Annie Wersching.

What is the saddest death in The Last of Us? ›

The most devastating death of the show comes as a shock in the series premiere when Joel's daughter teenage Sarah (Nico Parker) is shot and killed when the spread of the infection forces people to kill anyone who may be a threat, wrongfully shooting at Sarah and Joel.

Is Abby evil The Last of Us? ›

Both Joel and Abby are considered protagonist villains, though the latter serves as the antagonist for Ellie's half of the story in The Last of Us: Part II.

How old is Ellie in The Last of Us 2? ›

In The Last of Us Part II (2020), players control a 19-year-old Ellie as she seeks revenge on Abby for Joel's death.

Where is the real last of us located? ›

The series, based on the popular dystopian video game, imagines remnant versions of major cities like Boston, Kansas City, and Jackson, Wyoming. To bring the game's story to the screen, production designer John Paino utilized a whopping 180 locations, primarily in Alberta, Canada.

Was Frank Bill's boyfriend in The Last of Us? ›

Frank was a character who appeared postmortem in The Last of Us. It is heavily implied he was Bill's partner and lover. After becoming infected, Frank committed suicide by hanging.

Why is Ellie immune? ›

Ellie's Immunity Comes From Cordyceps Already In Her System

Whenever Cordyceps has entered Ellie's system - such as the bites shown in The Last of Us episodes 2 and 7 - the Cordyceps already in her system make the new fungi entering her body think she is already infected, rendering her immune from its effects.

Does Ellie get pregnant in The Last of Us? ›

She revealed her pregnancy to Ellie near the end of their first day in Seattle while they were sheltered inside a theater, thus explaining Dina's recent bouts of sickness. Sometime after Ellie and Dina left Seattle, JJ was born.

Who kills Dina The Last of Us? ›

Just before Abby kills Dina, Ellie begs her to stop, telling her that Dina is pregnant. Abby says “good” and attempts to kill Dina, but is stopped by Lev. Abby leaves Ellie and Dina alive, telling Ellie if she ever sees her again, she won't hesitate to kill her.

Who did Ellie's tattoo last of us? ›

The tattoo was designed for the game by California-based tattoo artist Natalie Hall, who was invited to Naughty Dog's Santa Monica studio after the team struggled to hit the right aesthetic internally. They talked her through the themes of the game, and Hall settled on a moth and fern for the design.

Is Joel alive in Last of Us 3? ›

If you've been wondering whether or not Joel dies in The Last of Us games, you've come to the right place! We hate to be the bearer of bad news, but he does get killed in the games.

What did 80s mean in The Last of Us? ›

"'80s means trouble. Code broken." Later, as Joel, Tess and Ellie make their way through the crumbling outskirts of Boston, we see a shot of their empty apartment as the radio plays Depeche Mode's 1987 song "Never Let Me Down Again". Trouble, it would appear, is afoot.

What is the scariest infected in The Last of Us? ›

1 Rat King

The final stage of the Infected is a vicious and disgusting mutation of the Cordyceps Brain Infection. The Rat King is a combination of Runners, Stalkers, Clickers, and other Infected, melded together into one giant monster. It is durable and deadly.

What is the scariest enemy in The Last of Us? ›

Rat King. Arguably the scariest and most dangerous type of infected, Rat Kings are a combination of Stalkers, Clickers, and Bloaters. Rat Kings reportedly take 25 years to develop and are the strongest type. Like Shamblers, Rat Kings didn't appear in the OG game, instead debuting in The Last of Us Part II.

What is the scariest scene in The Last of Us? ›

The Last Of Us: 10 Most Terrifying Scenes In The Show
  • 8 The Kiss.
  • 7 He Needs Help.
  • 6 The First Clickers.
  • 5 The Bloater.
  • 4 Fight With David.
  • 3 Sam Turning.
  • 2 Nana Addler.
  • 1 Planefall.
Mar 19, 2023

Why is Abby so buff? ›

However, the reason that Abby is so muscular is because the WLF has trained her for years, and fans will even see large gyms at the beginning of Abby's segment of the game. The reason that Abby has gotten so muscular over the years is because the WLF has both large farms and full gyms for training.

Does Abby become a vampire? ›

The following night, Owen invites Abby to visit a secret basement room. He wants to offer her a blood pact there, but when Abby sees his blood, she loses control and reveals herself to him as a vampire.

Is Abby a vampire? ›

Seeing blood, Abby reveals her vampire form and flees, feeding on another neighbor. The next night, Abby admits to Owen that she is a vampire and that Thomas was not her father. Owen discovers an aged photo of her with Thomas as a young boy.

What did Ellie find in Episode 3? ›

Ellie finds a Linda Ronstadt cassette in the glove compartment, which they play as they leave Bill and Frank's town. As they head for Wyoming, we see the truck depart from the open window to Bill and Frank's bedroom, where the two will remain together in each other's arms, forever.

What did The Last of Us review on episode 3? ›

It breathtakingly undercuts every conceit of the “zombie” genre to create a piece of chamber theatre every bit as brilliant as anything The Sopranos or The Wire had to offer. January 31, 2023 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review… Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett prove that true love survives the apocalypse.

What disease does Frank have in Episode 3 of The Last of Us? ›

What was Frank sick with in The Last of Us? According to co-showrunner Craig Mazin, Frank had either multiple sclerosis (MS) or early amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (AMS). When their story reaches 2023, Frank is wheelchair-bound and frail, spending his days painting while Bill tends to their quiet life around him.

Are there 2 endings to The Last of Us? ›

The post-apocalypse of Naughty Dog's survival-action game (and TV show) The Last of Us is a bleak and hopeless one. But one of the game's scrapped alternate endings, which took a turn for the improvised and musical, provided a swelling, romantic sense of hope (and plenty of laughter).

How did Ellie's girlfriend get pregnant? ›

Background. Near the end of Dina and Jesse's relationship, the two had a sexual encounter that resulted in Dina becoming pregnant with JJ. She revealed her pregnancy to Ellie near the end of their first day in Seattle while they were sheltered inside a theater, thus explaining Dina's recent bouts of sickness.

Was Ellie's mom immune? ›

tl;dr Ellie's mom was bitten before Ellie was born, this caused immunity.

Why was Ellie immune? ›

Ellie's Immunity Comes From Cordyceps Already In Her System

Whenever Cordyceps has entered Ellie's system - such as the bites shown in The Last of Us episodes 2 and 7 - the Cordyceps already in her system make the new fungi entering her body think she is already infected, rendering her immune from its effects.


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