I made the mistake of reading other people’s reviews of this episode after I watched the episode but before I wrote mine. So, I am going to admit to some critical dissonance. In general, I think this is a very good story about love under the apocalypse and also the kind of humanistic sad stories of loss that zombie apocalypse fiction excels out. So, as a standalone tale, I think it really works well but I am not a fan as a part of the larger narrative.
The premise is that pre-apocalypse survivalist, Bill, watches the Federal government (FEDRA) round up his entire town before killing them. Joel gives the weak idea that if the government doesn’t have room for survivors, they killed them so they couldn’t be infected. This is so stupid and nakedly evil (as well as falling into conspiracy theory bullshit) that I was immediately turned off the episode.
You’re going to have blame the fact I grew up in Kentucky and was surrounded by survivalists that playing into their fantasies in any way is something that ticks me off. I don’t even need to believe the government is a bunch of good guys to just think it’s stupid. Make them slave labor or put guns in their hand to go kill zombies. Or, hey, leave them alone since they were doing fine in their isolated community. I’m an anarchist in RL and this is to stupid evil for the government.
Bill eventually attracts a wanderer, Frank, and the two of them settle in together. It’s rare a gay relationship gets to be the focus of media and TLOU as a franchise has always been pro-LGBT depiction. It’s a bit romanticized, though, and we see none of the idea that Frank was a bad partner for Bill. Quite the opposite. That leaves me kind of iffy because I liked that it wasn’t an idealized relationship in the game. We need more depictions of the variety of relationships available.
There’s a lot of good moments in the scene and I am impressed at the write up of Bill as an impressive engineer as well as the focus they give on his relationship with Frank. Bill is a misanthrope who actually sees the benefit of building himself a massive fortress on the remains of a dead society and doesn’t really care about the old world dying. However, he misses out on much of human interaction and Frank reminds him of what was good in life. These moments are well-done and the best part of the episode by far.
Either way, the story ends on a tragic note where Frank’s health deteoriates without access to medicine. It proceeds to end on a lovely positive note where Bill decides to take his own life rather than live without his loved ones. Given that in RL, I’ve had to deal with suicidal family members, I’m going to say romanticizing suicide is another thing that objectively pisses me off.
A lot of reviewers seem to miss the subtext this or just disagree but I hate that Bill, a great gay video game character, is killed for the sake of pathos. It’s a well-written episode but it’s one that has some serious issues.