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The Symbolism Of Time In HBO’s ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 3

HBO’s “The Last of Us” episode 3 made a lot of viewers tear up with Bill and Frank’s relationship. For more than an hour, we were treated to a fantastic and heartbreaking love story. Time played a very important role in the episode, not just with Bill and Frank but also with Joel and Ellie. So let us decode it all.

Spoilers Ahead

Relationship Of Time With Bill And Frank

We flashback to the very beginning of the outbreak, with Bill sitting in his bunker, watching the military evacuate people from his little town. Then we flash forward three years and watch him go through his life when Frank literally falls into it. The past three years have clearly been lonely for Bill, even though he has kept himself busy with various activities like securing his space and growing vegetables to sustain himself indefinitely.

When Bill has lunch with Frank, he opens a bottle of Beaujolais-Villages. It’s a wine that hasn’t aged much since its price or taste doesn’t alter even after years. So when Bill offers this drink, it symbolizes that he’s middle-aged, but in terms of romance, he’s young, naive, and inexperienced. Also, just like how the wine doesn’t change even after a long time, Bill, too, has remained unchanged in the life he is leading. 

After this, we see the biggest symbolism of time when the show fast-forwards a few years. Now we see that Bill and Frank are in a relationship, and the latter wants to make some changes to the living arrangements. Bill, who had mapped everything out, was just living logically. But Frank wanted to live rather than to survive. So over time, Frank has changed from the man who, at the start of the episode, was shown to be stubborn and obstinate.

The passage of time shows us how they became friends with Joel and Tess, and it shows them getting old while still enjoying the little pleasures of life, like eating a strawberry. When Bill says that he’s getting older, Frank replies that older means that they are still alive. In an apocalypse populated with death and where people die within moments if they are not careful, living a long and happy life is a luxury bordering on impossibility. But it’s one that Bill and Frank were able to achieve.

So when time finally erodes Frank’s ability to walk or do anything properly, the two choose to end their lives on their own terms and in each other’s arms. In the official podcast of “The Last of Us,” Neil Druckmann, Craig Mazin said that in a landscape where everyone dies, Bill and Frank wins.

The Importance Of Time In Ellie And Joel’s Relationship

Joel’s broken watch has been a widely discussed symbol in “The Last of Us” fandom. It symbolizes that time for him has stood still from the moment Sarah died. Even twenty years later, he is still mourning her loss and is unable to move on. In fact, the show has almost no sense of time after the pandemic begins. This is in contrast to the beginning of the premiere episode, which is littered with clocks.

From the alarm that wakes Sarah up to the ticking clocks in the watch shop she goes to and the timer in her neighbor’s kitchen, all of it serves as a reminder of time moving on normally. But that changes after the infection. Moreover, Tess’ loss has added to his burdens. But this isn’t all that’s related to time. In the episode, there’s a grandfather clock whose hands Ellie accidentally breaks while inspecting or playing with it. 

It symbolizes that time is already standing still for her because she thinks that she won’t reach adulthood. After all, her purpose in life is to save humanity by helping the fireflies create the vaccine. It’s a goal she has accepted. In fact, she has chosen this because she suffers from survivor’s guilt. Even though she tells Joel that he shouldn’t pin Tess’ death on her, secretly, she blames herself.

In the official podcast of “The Last of Us,” Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin confirmed that Ellie is lying to herself as well as to Joel. And why wouldn’t she? After all, even at her young age, she has seen people die to protect her. So, her breaking the hands of the clock means that she accepts that she doesn’t have much time left. However, players of the game know that her destiny isn’t that. We know that Joel will save her, and the letter that Bill leaves for Joel telling him to protect his loved ones is a reminder of that.

We see that, with time, Joel’s feelings for Ellie are changing. He already behaves like a father to her by giving her his jacket and food and getting worried when he doesn’t hear from her for long. It will be a stunning journey to see Joel fully embrace his role as a father to Ellie. How will that play out in the show? For that, we will have to keep watching.

See more: Kevin Feige Reveals The First Goal Of Marvel Studios, And It Makes A Lot Of Sense


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