The Last of Us HBO Episode 3 Review
This is one of the best episodes of television you will watch in 2023; unexpected, riveting, and emotional. My full review of The Last of Us, Episode 3: "Long Long Way."
Please note, this review contains significant spoilers for the plot of The Last of Us TV series and recaps Episode 3, "Long Long Way." I recommend experiencing the show for yourself which is streaming on demand via HBO and Crave TV. If you are looking for a spoiler-free summation of the show and its premise, visit here.
Episode 3 of The Last of Us changes the pace of the series significantly from the first two episodes, offering an incredible story with stellar writing and performances. The earlier entries of the series offered heart-pounding, action-packed sequences that align closely with the game, excellent in their own right. Episode 3 slows things down and focuses more on character development, but not where you'd expect it with Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey). It moves in a brave, all-new direction with two other characters that share their journey in this post-apocalyptic world.
"It moves in a brave, all-new direction with two other characters that share their journey in this post-apocalyptic world."
The episode begins with Joel and Ellie taking stock of the horrors they experienced in Boston and the loss of Tess (Anna Torv). They continue their journey across the country experiencing horrors both in the present and past that connect to Bill's (Nick Offerman) story. Meeting up with Bill is the next major stop on their journey, where they look to restock and find a faster way to get across the country.
Along the way, Joel recounts to Ellie how the spread of the cordyceps infection happened in a matter of days, while at the same time confirming "The Bread Theory" which is a fan-favourite piece of lore pieced together from the video game series. Eventually, they are confronted with a mass grave that creates a transition back to the start of the pandemic and introduces Bill and his backstory.
Breaking the mould
If you have played The Last of Us Part I you will be familiar with Bill, a well-armed, snippy hermit who has a soft spot for Joel, and eventually aids your party. The TV series could have played the same card with Nick Offerman's portrayal of Bill, but thankfully they went so much deeper offering the biggest shift away from the game's storyline yet. Director Peter Hoar and executive producer and writer Craig Mazin veer the story in a welcome, completely unexpected direction.
"The TV series could have played the same card with Nick Offerman's portrayal of Bill, but thankfully they went so much deeper offering the biggest shift away from the game's storyline yet."
The audience is first introduced to Bill much like his character in the game; he is a rough, grizzled survivalist. At first, the show seems to be on the same path as the game introducing Bill's character as a gun-touting hermit. We are taken through how Bill survives and ultimately sets up his own well-secured, booby-trapped compound to protect himself from the outside world. He seems perfectly content living in his newfound isolation until he is unexpectedly joined by Frank (Murray Bartlett) who falls into one of his traps.
This first encounter between the two men is integral to the series and sets up one of its main conflicts: trust, or lack thereof in people. The majority of this episode focuses on the development of a friendship between these two characters who are so different yet so similar in their isolation from the world. It’s a story that culminates in an unexpected love story.
Lovers in a dangerous time
Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett are a revelation as Bill and Frank. These two share an unexpected love story of tenderness, humour and passion that is incredibly moving throughout the episode. They go on a journey together to protect each other from their own personal demons, and it’s impossible not to be drawn in by their chemistry. Both performances manage to be simultaneously subtle and powerful, with neither actor playing too large for the moment - but rather carefully trading off one another’s energy in what is some of the best television acting this year. The writing captures every nuance of these characters; we understand them without being told who they are. It's masterful work that creates palpable tension leading up to the climax of the episode.
Offerman and Bartlett bring Bill and Frank to life in such a moving way and, through their performances, you instantly feel the bond between them. Their portrays are gripping as they grapple with their notions of survivalism and responsibility for others - something that hasn't been experienced by either character since before the outbreak. The writing for Bill and the performance by Offerman in this episode, in particular, is what stands out the most.
A tragic love story that is so much more
Mazin has crafted an incredibly human story that focuses on how two characters find solace in each other during an unimaginably dark time. Weaving together moments that feel so real between the two you feel their relationship grow over 20+ years. Scenes such as Bill and Frank carrying on like an old married couple; gardening, painting and fixing up their home feel so real. There's some genuine humour thrown in for good measure thanks to Nick Offerman’s dry comedic delivery that lends itself perfectly to the show. They seem caught in the eye of a Hurricane and are perfectly content as long as they have each other.
"They seem caught in the eye of a Hurricane and are perfectly content as long as they have each other."
Offerman and Bartlett have a chemistry that radiates from the screen in a manner that is both tender, but also heartbreaking. It's one of those moments where you find yourself holding your breath emotionally, waiting for what comes next for these two characters. You want their happiness and love to burn brightly against the darkness that is The Last of Us, but at the same time, you know it can't last forever.
"It's one of those moments where you find yourself holding your breath emotionally, waiting for what comes next for these two characters."
Sadly, Frank grows ill with a terminal disease and decides to end his life with the help of Bill through an overdose. He proposes this happens at dinner with wine and that he passes peacefully in sleep. It’s a heartbreaking scene as Bill says goodbye to his long-time companion, but in a twist also takes a lethal dose to join him.
(Credit: HBO/Crave) At the end of the episode, Joel and Ellie reach the compound and can't find Bill and Frank. It's a brilliant way to bring them back into the story and allow viewers to reflect on the world around the two. When Joel tries to enter the bedroom of the assumedly deceased couple, (we never see them posthumously) Ellie interrupts him with a note from Bill explaining what happened and for Joel to take whatever he needs from the property along with his truck. The episode concludes with Joel and Ellie back on the road and it's a reminder of the beauty and fragility of human relationships in such a dangerous world.
Final thoughts on Episode 3 "Long Long Time"
It would be far too simple to say this episode simply contains an unexpected love story between two characters. It is so well-written, acted, and directed that it deserves more recognition. It's more than a love story, it is a reminder of the beauty and fragility of human relationships in times that test us to our core. The relationship between Bill and Frank isn't one that you'd expect to care about, but by the end of the episode, their story has broken your heart and made you think about life in a new way. Offerman and Bartlett bring the characters to life with powerhouse performances that will stay with you long after watching this episode. This is one of those viewing experiences where you feel every emotion and see a glimmer of light in a seemingly hopeless world. It's an episode that showcases humanity in its darkest hours but also provides hope as we see two strangers connect in a way that transcends death itself.
This is one of the best hours of television you'll watch this year, as Mazin and Hoar craft a human story filled with layers of emotion, humour, struggle and redemption. If ever there was proof that great television can move its audience on such an emotional level, this is it.
It's truly remarkable television that you won't want to miss out on, highly recommended.
About the Author - Matthew "Dapper Tux" Rondina
Matthew has been involved in all things gaming since the 8-bit era. He is a veteran of the video game and tech industry who has been passionate about technology and gaming for over 20 years. Along with being the Managing Editor of dappertux.com, he has bylines with Best Buy, Cineplex Entertainment, Mobile Syrup and Walmart. Follow Matthew’s gaming + tech adventures on twitter, Instagram and join in on the fun!
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