‘The Last Of Us’ Character: Bill, Explained: How Did Bill’s Last Letter Change Joel’s Mind About Ellie?


Generally, fans and staunch followers of comic books or video games don’t like it when a film or a series tamper with the original narrative, but the creative liberties taken by Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin have accounted for an exceptional emotional ride, one that made the third episode of “The Last of Us” stand out. The third episode is better enjoyed as a stand-alone, for people to be impacted and moved by it in this manner without feeling like it is jarring to the narrative. Though there is still a long way to go, it is a sweet victory for the writers and directors on board to be able to make the viewers experience something so poignant and heartwarming.

Bill’s methodical ways and means were proof of how paranoid he was in his life. He possessed all the characteristics of a conspiracy theorist, and he belonged to that class of people who believed that 9/11 was an inside job. Even before the Cordyceps Brain Infection had spread, Bill harbored quite a few anti-establishment sentiments. His mistrust led him to hide in his bunker when the army was killing people under the pretext of shifting them to containment zones. Bill probably never knew what it felt like to be loved. He had no idea what it was like to have someone be there for you unconditionally. He’d never spent a day just gazing at the deep blue sky, holding the hands of someone he cherished and being grateful that they were a part of his life. It wouldn’t be right to say that Bill was averse to attachment, but somehow, he never found the person who understood him. There were two sides to Bill: one was the conspiracy theorist, who was logical, brutal, and well prepared for any adversity that came his way; the other was this vulnerable, scared, and hopelessly romantic person who didn’t know how to express his feelings because until then, nobody had taken the effort to hear him out. 

In a post-apocalyptic world, it was normal for people to have an enhanced survival instinct, but what Bill had been able to accomplish was proof that he was a sheer genius. Bill was not only multi-talented but extremely self-sufficient. He had created an entire fortress by himself, and the kind of sophisticated security measures he had taken were beyond the imagination of any common man. Bill had made sure that his setup was sustainable, and he had probably taken the best decision of his life by not trusting the FEDRA. Bill already knew how his life was going to be, and he hadn’t expected that it was going to surprise him in ways that he couldn’t imagine. 

Bill had installed an alarm that started buzzing as soon as somebody trespassed on his property. One day, the alarm went off, and Bill went out, expecting that it would be another one of the infected who would have strayed and reached Lincoln. He found out that it was a guy named Frank who had fallen into the pit and injured himself. Frank said that he was coming from the Baltimore quarantine zone and was just trying to get to Boston. He begged Bill to just let him stay for one meal, as he hadn’t eaten anything in two days and didn’t have the energy to carry on his journey. Bill was an exceptional cook, and even amidst such chaos; he gave importance to table etiquette. 

A lot of times, we see that when a person is living alone, the probability of them leading their lives in a disorderly fashion is quite high, but Bill was an exception. He was very systematic in whatever he did, and we couldn’t help but notice that he had the most elegant cutlery. He cooked meals like a chef from a Michigan star hotel, and these small, nitty-gritty aspects of his personality spoke a lot about the kind of man Bill was. Bill’s perceptions, beliefs, wants, and desires changed after Frank came into his life. Frank didn’t want to just survive; he wanted to savor every moment and do things that, according to Bill, might have been unnecessary. They had a lot of disagreements about it, but Bill gave in most of the time. Bill was surviving just fine, but Frank made sure that they created memories together. Bill almost cried when he saw fresh strawberries planted in his backyard. He realized what he had missed out on all those years when he was living alone. Frank made him come out of his cocoon and made him realize how beautiful life could be. It was because of Frank that Bill came into contact with Joel and Tess. He didn’t want to have any kind of association with them at first, and he tried to be rigid and stubborn. But Frank didn’t know how to convince his partner that it was necessary to have friends and other things that made us human.

The third episode of the series, “The Last of Us,” made us realize how high the stakes were for mankind and that humanity stood on a precipice with the danger of falling over and collapsing any moment. After Bill decided to end his life together with Frank, he knew that Joel would come searching for him sooner rather than later. He left a note for Joel, and we are very sure that, while jotting it down, he wouldn’t have realized that it would impact Joel deeply enough to change his perception of things. Bill wrote in his note that there was a point in his life when he hated almost everything. He didn’t believe that the world was worth saving, and he never had any sort of faith in humanity. For him, things changed after Frank came into his life. He realized what it felt like to be alive and how wrong he had been the whole time. He had found that one thing that was worth fighting for, and he wanted Joel to do the same. Joel was in two minds about Ellie until the point she read out Bill’s letter to him. Joel always ran away from his feelings and avoided any sort of confrontation. 

Tess’ death had exacerbated matters, as she was one of the last links keeping him from falling into an abyss. Joel didn’t have the will to live after his daughter died. He felt nothing, he said nothing, and at times it felt like it wouldn’t matter to him even if the entire world burned down to ashes. Through his note, Bill reminded Joel that the job of men like them was to protect the people in their lives who they loved. When Bill talked about saving the one person who mattered, he was referring to Tess, as he didn’t know that she had died. After reading those lines, probably for the first time after losing Tess, Joel let his emotions get the better of him. The cathartic experience led him to the realization that he needed to save Ellie and try to make her reach the laboratory and give himself and the world a chance to be healed. Bill, before dying, made sure that Joel found a reason to live and realized that if we gave it a chance, life could be beautiful. Joel decided to take Ellie with him, though he said that the only condition was that she had to obey him at all times. 

Bill had already left the things with which Joel could make a car battery. Joel fixed the truck and embarked on the next adventure with Ellie. Bill had given Joel hope, and that was probably the most precious thing anybody could ask for in a post-apocalyptic world. Ellie played Linda Ronstadt’s “Long Long Time” in the car, the same song that Bill had played for Frank when they had met for the first time. Episode 3 of “The Last of Us” was an ode to the love that Bill and Frank had for each other, and even after they died, the love gave a sense of purpose to a hurting man, who once again found the will to survive.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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