The Last of Us Episode 3 may be the series’ best episode yet – and considering how strong of a start it’s had, that’s saying something. “Long Long Time” picks up in the aftermath of “Infected” as Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) continue their trek along the former United States. As their journey continues, Joel starts to tell Ellie more about how the world fell to the Cordyceps virus. The bulk of the episode, however, is dedicated to a flashback sequence. At the beginning of the Cordyceps infection, survivalist Bill (Nick Offerman) hides out in his bunker, trusting nothing and no one. Then one day, a man named Frank (Murray Bartlett) enters his life – and everything changes.
The flashback sequences have been the best addition to The Last of Us. Not only have they managed to expand upon the game’s world and show just how the current state of humanity sprung into being, but they also stop the show from being a shot-by-shot remake of the game. Because if that was the case…why not play the game? It also allows more depth to characters that had a small or nonexistent role, such as Frank and Bill. Co-showrunner Craig Mazin depicts all the stages of a relationship, from their first meeting – which is less “meet cute” and more “meet at the barrel of a shotgun” – and everything in between. Frank and Bill fall in love, yes, but they also manage to scrape something resembling a normal life out of the chaos. They go on runs. They plant vegetables. And they even have arguments, which feels realistic! Even if it’s the end of the world, you can still have arguments with your significant other.
None of it would work without Offerman and Bartlett’s performances, which are oh-so-achingly human. When asked why he cast Offerman as Bill, especially since Offerman is known for his comedic roles, Mazin had this to say: “Funny people have soul.” And Offerman has soul in spades and shows it over the course of the episode. When we first meet Bill, he’s cautious to a T—he has security cameras keeping a tight watch around his home, the walls of his basement are lined with guns, and he’s even rigged numerous traps outside what used to be a peaceful suburban neighborhood. Yet in his encounters with Frank, the hardened shell falls away, and we see a man so afraid to let the world hurt him that he throws up emotional shields. Frank just happened to be the one man who could get past those shields.
Bartlett matches Offerman’s prickly exterior with a carefree energy – Frank feels like that eccentric uncle some of your family members love and others hate. He also has perfect chemistry with Offerman, with one scene serving as the standout of the episode. Discovering an old piano in Bill’s house, Frank immediately starts to play a song and then lets Bill take the keys. The pinking of the keys intertwines with the score, and director Peter Roar finally delivers a tender kiss between the two men that has enough passion in it to fuel a dozen relationships.
In fact, Hoar seems to paint Bill and Frank’s relationship as a direct counterpart to Joel and Ellie’s. Like Bill, Joel has been hardened by past experiences and is quick to be on his guard. Yet around Ellie he seems to loosen up more, even sharing his own thoughts on what caused the end and how far others would go to keep themselves safe. Pascal once again lets his facial expressions do the talking, with his eyes showcasing concern, fury, and even sadness – all at the same time. And I have to take the time here and applaud him for the work he’s put into crafting Joel’s voice. As a Texas native myself, I can tell when I’m talking to one of my own, and I’m impressed that a Chilean-American man sounds like he was born and bred in the same state that I was.
The Last of Us Episode 3 shifts the series’ narrative gear to deliver a tragic yet touching story about love in the apocalypse – resulting in the series’ best episode yet. I only hope the rest of the series lives up to or surpasses “Long Long Time,” as it’s a key example of what makes The Last of Us such a compelling story.
The Last of Us is available now on HBO Max with new episodes premiering every Sunday.
The Last of Us Episode 3 — "Long Long Time"
- Rating - 10/1010/10
The Last of Us Episode 3 shifts the series’ narrative gear to deliver a tragic yet touching story about love in the apocalypse – resulting in the series’ best episode yet.
Born and raised in Texas, Collier “CJ” Jennings was introduced to geekdom at an early age by his father, who showed him Ultraman and Star Trek: The Next Generation. On his thirteenth birthday, he received a copy of Giant Size X-Men #1 and dove head first into the realm of pop culture, never looking back. His hobbies include: writing screenplays and essays, watching movies and television, card games/RPG’s, and cooking. He currently resides in Seattle.