‘The Last of Us’ Season 1×03 “Long Long Time” Takes An Emotional Character-Based Detour – Recap
“Long Long Time” picks up in the aftermath of Tess’s (Anna Torv) sacrifice. We have a collection of opening notes with Ellie (Bella Ramsey) coming face-to-face with an infected and Joel (Pedro Pascal) finally pressing the loot button on his old stash. From there, we are whisked off to a series of post-outbreak flashbacks starring Nick Offerman’s Bill and Murray Bartlett’s Frank.
This episode broke me. It’s been a long time since I’ve cried this hard in front of my TV. If you have not seen the episode, stop reading now. The following words by me will only ruin one of the best hours this series has to offer.
The first two episodes of The Last of Us were faithful recreations of the most-beloved game from Naughty Dog. The careful adaptation from show creators Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmannhas led to rave reviews online and over 22 million viewers for the first episode alone. It’s clear that HBO has another hit on its hands, so clear in fact, HBO has greenlit the show for a second season. Following these seminal two episodes, the creatives behind the show have made their most significant alteration to the source material and have put their unforgettable stamp on the franchise with episode three, titled “Long Long Time.”
This bottle episode features an unlikely love story at the end of the world. The performances are moving, nuanced, and most importantly, believable. Offerman is a powerhouse bringing his signature charm and outdoorsmen-ship to already well-defined role. Bartlett brings life to a character that was merely a quick dark footnote in the game. What Bill and Frank offered in the games is expanded tremendously for the series adaptation, with a slight shift from the usual dread and bleakness for something more sentimental.
Had you told me that Ellie and Bill would never cross paths in the show before seeing this series, I would have thought something went wrong. Bill from the game is in the same spot as Bill in the series. They are both gruff “prepper” types that set up traps and hoard supplies. The departure is the on-screen existence of Frank. In the game, it’s implied that Frank and Bill had a disagreement which had Frank leaving and later ending his own life. He leaves a message behind saying, “I doubt you’d ever find this note ’cause you were too scared to ever make it to this part of town. But if for some reason you did, I want you to know I hated your guts.” Frank never utters a word in the game, but in the series, he is a full vibrant character.
Bill’s sexuality is implied but never fully explored in the game. Frank is referred to as a “partner,” making the situation open to interpretation, with other hints if you look for them. If you don’t look around to discover more, you might miss that Bill is a gay man. In the era when the original game launched, many LGBTQIA+ characters were pushed to the margins of game stories. The series has done good work to increase representation, and it shouldn’t feel this important, but it is lovely to see the joyous love that Frank and Bill share play out on screen.
I’m thankful that one of the biggest shows of 2023 is featuring a gay love story so predominantly. These undeniable performances elevate what was hinted at in the games. Sure, I would have loved to see Ellie beat up Bill with a metal pipe, but this is a rewarding tweak to the game’s story for me.
Despite the changes, the setup is the same. Joel and Ellie need a car and supplies for a cross-country adventure. Instead of a fetch quest for battery parts, we see two lovers growing old at the world’s end. The strawberry scene and their final dinner together are filled with massive humanity. Bill may have never found the love and happiness he was too afraid to seek if not for this broken world.
The trust that builds between Frank and Bill moves at the perfect pace. To start, it’s slightly awkward, bubbling with hesitant confidence. From there, Bill’s “first-time” nerves mix well with the back of his mind feeling that “this thing could go sideways” at any time. Hats off to the team for crafting a sex scene that doesn’t feel forced and actually adds to the character’s emotions.
To me, it’s undeniable that this is a ten-out-of-ten episode. The most-watched new series on the planet just spent an entire episode on love. That’s a great use of HBO cash if you ask me.