10 Million Fireflies

The Last of Us Episode 3 Features One Subtle Video Game Easter Egg

There’s a shot in “Long Long Time” that looks very familiar.

Originally Published: 
Pedro Pascal as Joel in The Last of Us Episode 3

In “Long Long Time,” the third episode of HBO’s The Last of Us, viewers are introduced to Bill (Nick Offerman), a survivor who took over an entire town after the show’s zombie outbreak forced the rest of humanity to relocate to fortified zones. From there, Episode 3 charts the entirety of Bill’s bittersweet love story with a fellow survivor named Frank (Murray Bartlett). Spoilers ahead.

By the time Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) finally reach their settlement in the episode’s epilogue, Bill and Frank are dead. However, Bill took the time to bequeath all his weapons and equipment to Joel.

The episode then culminates in a shot that will likely seem very familiar to fans of Naughty Dog’s original video games.

Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) may meet the same end as most Last of Us’ characters, but their fate isn’t horrific.

Liane Hentscher/HBO

Looking Through a Window — After Joel and Ellie stock up on supplies, the pair drive out of Bill and Frank’s settlement in Bill’s old truck. Rather than staying in the car with Joel and Ellie, though, director Peter Hoar cuts back to Bill and Frank’s house.

In its last shot, Episode 3 looks out of their open window as the truck drives away. The shot then slowly pulls back, revealing the full frame of Bill and Frank’s window and a pot of the latter’s now-dead flowers. Above the flowers, an impressionistic sketch of Offerman’s Frank hangs in a frame on the wall.

The shot obviously carries a lot of emotional weight within the context of Episode 3’s story, but it also bears a striking resemblance to two images from the games that inspired the series.

The opening menu screen of The Last of Us.

Naughty Dog

Gamers will inevitably be reminded of Part 1’s haunting menu screen. However, the final shot in Episode 3 is also reminiscent of the poignant last image of The Last of Us Part 2. Again, Spoilers ahead.

Part 2 ends with Ellie returning to the abandoned farmhouse she and her girlfriend, Dina, used to share. Once there, Ellie picks up the guitar Joel gave her many years prior and tries, unsuccessfully, to play it again. After taking a moment to remember her final conversation with Joel, Ellie then sets his guitar down and leaves the farmhouse.

The game’s camera slowly drifts toward the window frame that Ellie’s guitar rests on. It then pushes in until the neck of Ellie’s guitar, the windowsill, and the curtains are in the foreground. From this perspective, players watch as Ellie leaves her former life behind.

Ellie walks away from her past in the final moments of The Last of Us Part 2.

Naughty Dog

The Inverse Analysis — There’s a clear visual connection between the final shots of Episode 3 of HBO’s series and The Last of Us Part 2. In the latter, Ellie’s journey toward a new life is visually juxtaposed by the guitar Joel gave her and the house she once shared with Dina. By visually foregrounding the relics of Ellie’s past relationships, the game makes the image of her walking away from them all the more impactful.

In “Long Long Time,” Joel and Ellie’s journey west is visually framed by symbols of Bill and Frank’s love. The image foreshadows how Joel and Ellie will, like Bill and Frank, form a surprisingly strong connection even in the face of a largely hopeless world.

Much like Part 2, “Long Long Time” ends by reminding us of how new lives can grow in the wake of old ones. That’s a fitting final note for the episode to strike, especially given its place in a show about how love has the power to both save and destroy us.

New episodes of The Last of Us air Sundays on HBO.

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