‘The Last of Us’ episode 3: The tiny detail that explains the show’s first mystery

Well that was a lot.

The last of us Episode 3 was an emotionally draining experience with so many touching moments and hidden details that we almost missed an important flashback.

The thing is, though, Episode 3 not only served as a beautiful, self-contained story that sheds more light on the diverse people surviving in a post-Cordyceps world — it also uncovered a secret from Episode 1.


The Last of Us makes perfect use of the enemy that nearly made me abandon the game

What happens in episode 1?

Towards the end of the first episode of the series, shortly after Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Tess (Anna Torv) take charge of Ellie (Bella Ramsey) in the Boston quarantine zone, they leave her at her apartment while they discuss what’s going on in quarantine to do is go outside. Ellie overhears them saying the names “Bill and Frank” before spotting a radio with a large songbook next to it. Hidden inside is a piece of paper with ‘B/F’ scrawled across the top and a short code underneath, suggesting that different decades of music mean certain things. ’60s is “Nothing in Stock”, 70s is “New Stock” and ’80s has a red “X” next to it.

The moment Joel comes back into the room, Ellie begins to interrogate him.

A young girl stands in a dark room and looks defiant.

Nothing gets past Ellie.
Credit: Liane Hentscher/HBO

“So who are Bill and Frank? The radio is contraband code, isn’t it? 60’s songs, we don’t have anything new, 70’s, they have new stuff – what’s 80’s?”

Later, after Joel takes a nap, Ellie tells him, “Oh, the radio came on while you were sleeping. It always said wake me up before you go, go.”

“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” is a Wham! Song from 1984. Sure enough, Joel’s reaction — a mumbled “shit” — suggests this is bad.

“Got it,” Ellie grins. “80s mean trouble. code broken.”

Later, as Joel, Tess and Ellie make their way through the decaying suburbs of Boston, we see a footage of their empty apartment while the radio plays the 1987 Depeche Mode song “Never Let Me Down Again.” Trouble, it seems, is afoot. But it’s not until the end of Episode 3 that we learn exactly what the code means.

What happens in episode 3?

Finally, in Episode 3, we are introduced to the mysterious Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), a gay couple living alone in a walled town just outside of Boston. However, Joel and Ellie are too late – when they get there, Bill and Frank are both dead, having both taken fatal overdoses in response to Frank’s terminal illness.

And sure enough, when they explore Bill’s extremely well-appointed basement, they come across a radio.

“Why was the music playing?” asks Ellie while Joel taps a button to stop playback.

“If you didn’t reset the countdown every few weeks, this playlist would be on the radio,” he replies.

Ellie looks at the screen and confirms what we’re already thinking: “80s.”

Joel doesn’t answer directly, but it’s enough to confirm exactly why he mumbled “shit” in Episode 1 when Ellie tricked him into going to Wham! song played. The radio code wasn’t exactly “problems” for the ’80s as she suspected — it meant something had happened to Bill and Frank that prevented them from resetting the timer.

For someone as cautious as Bill, Joel would have known that that probably meant he was trapped or dead. And that Depeche Mode song we heard at the end of episode 1? That meant Bill and Frank had probably been dead for several weeks by the time Joel, Tess, and Ellie left Boston.

The last of us will now continue to be streamed HBO Max(opens in a new tab) with new episodes airing weekly on Sunday nights on HBO.

https://mashable.com/article/the-last-of-us-episode-3-80s-music-radio ‘The Last of Us’ episode 3: The tiny detail that explains the show’s first mystery

Zack Zwiezen

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