HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Three Review – Television shows like HBO’s The Last Of Us aren’t the norm, even during a time when we’ve had almost a renaissance of quality shows made for the small screen.
Spoilers ahead, for episode three, if you needed a warning.
The third episode in the season, titled Long, Long Time, is an absolutely incredible 76 minutes of television. We’re introduced to Bill and Frank, as Ellie and Joel make their way to Bill’s in the hopes of Joel being able to pass Ellie onto them, or at the very least get some supplies for the long road, like a car.
Those familiar with the game will know that Joel and Ellie find Bill, a paranoid survivalist who begrudgingly helps Ellie and Joel get a car and be on their way further west.
In the show, Ellie never meets Bill, instead the audience is able to meet Bill and Frank, not as the hardened, angry and bitter people they became by the time Joel and Ellie get to Bill’s town.
But as two people, who were able to squeeze out a life filled with love when it was almost nowhere to be found.
HBO’s The Last Of Us Season One, Episode Three Review – Love Will Abide
“Not Today, You New World Order Jackboots”
The Bill we meet in the game is meant to be a kind of warning. Joel isn’t too far off from Bill, a point also made in the show. And if Joel didn’t begin to change and allow himself to care about someone again, namely Ellie, Joel would’ve ended up like the game’s Bill.
Old, paranoid, untrusting, and more than anything – alone. That’s not how things go, as anyone whose played the game knows, and its reasonable to believe think that’s partly because the warning of who Bill had become worked.
Craig Mazin instead wanted to do something much different with Bill this time around, while still getting to the same general end that the players do when they leave Bill’s town. A car, some supplies for the road, and a letter that’s been read.
At the end of this episode Joel and Ellie have a car, a whole bunch of supplies for the road, and Joel reads a letter left to him from Bill. How we get there is very different, and a much better story than the one we get in the game.
Neil Druckmann acknowledges the change and why it was necessary in the podcast companion show to the episode.
“This story in this episode, you could not tell in the video game. It’d be impossible to jump around that much. Especially the game The Last Of Us is, which again, is more kind of action-oriented.
You couldn’t go this long without some kind of set-piece, some kind of action sequence. And therefore, you could tell this kind of really moving, slower, romantic story where you jump around in years. And likewise, the story that the game tells and how you’re connecting with Bill in the game by, like, you’re playing alongside him, you’re surviving sequences with him.
He saves your life. Like, that’s how you meet him in the game, is you are Joel stuck in one of his traps and he comes and saves you. We couldn’t tell that story in the tv show. You’d be bored out of your mind if you’re not playing that sequence. So, it had to change.”
In the beginning, we see Bill is still the ever-paranoid survivalist he’s always been, and when FEDRA soldiers begin to round people up and bring them to quarantine zones, (if there’s room, that is) Bill is able to hideout until he’s left alone.
Once everyone else is gone he immediately goes about creating a self-sufficient utopia, and is able to enjoy the kinds of niceties that were otherwise a thing of the past for anyone left alive in the quarantine zones.
Four years into living in his own hub, disconnected from the rest of the world, Frank comes into his life in 2007. After that, everything changes.
Before I continue, it is imperative that I point out both Murrary Bartlett and Nick Offerman’s performances are absolutely incredible. Watching these two fall in love and how their story turns before it comes to an end was such a huge emotional hit that was not at all expected.
When Bill meets Frank, he’s as cautious as he can be, though once he’s proven not to be infected and its clear that Frank is just an unarmed man looking for food, Bill brings him inside for a hot shower, and a nice dinner.
At the beginning, they’re both awkward with each other. It’s clear that they both see something more in each other, and after dinner it’s music that helps seal the start of their love. After Frank’s insistence to give the piano left by Bill’s mother a go, they both play short renditions of Long, Long Time by Linda Ronstadt.
When Bill sits down, the emotion and heart he plays with brings Frank almost to tears. When they kiss, Bill is shaking, excited that Frank made that critical first move, and anxious as a new era in his life begins that he didn’t think previously possible.
That night they go to bed together, and we jump ahead three years later to an argument they’re having about Frank wanting to clean up parts of the town, to make their home feel like his as well, while Bill doesn’t see that point at first.
Frank then goes even further, insisting to Bill that they will begin to reconnect with the outside world, and make friends. Unbeknownst to Bill, Frank has already been doing this, by speaking to “a nice woman on the radio.”
In the next scene, we see Joel and Tess sitting down for what looks like a lovely lunch on Bill and Frank’s front lawn, and a friendly work-relationship between them is born.
Another three years pass, Bill and Frank are still living the kind of life those who’ve spent the last decade alive in quarantine zones could only dream of.
They have what will likely go down as one of the sweetest moments in the entire series, when Frank shows Bill a few rows of fresh strawberries he’d been growing for them as a surprise. Bill apologizes for “getting older faster”, than Frank, and Frank says he doesn’t mind.
“Ah, I like you older. Older means we’re still here.”
After that, Bill admits he was never scared until Frank arrived, and we’ve finally seen this new, hopeful Bill that simply doesn’t exist in the game.
That same night, Bill and Frank are attacked by raiders, and Bill is shot in the commotion. As Frank begins tending to his wound, Bill already begins preparing Frank as if he’s going to die.
It’s clear that Bill was always prepared for his death, and how he’d leave Frank set up to continue living on his own should Bill go before him.
He doesn’t die of course, and we jump ahead another ten years to 2023, weeks before Joel and Ellie will show up on their doorstep.
Love Will Abide
When Bill gets shot the night of the raider attack, and we see how well prepared he was for his own death, its not surprising that when Frank has decided his time on the Earth is done, Bill is entirely unprepared.
Frank had become sick, with what is never made clear, though it could be narrowed down to any number of the currently incurable diseases, as Frank remarks that there wasn’t a way to fix what he had before the world collapsed.
Knowing that he’ll die soon, Frank asks Bill to give him one last good day, that they get married, and that when he does go, he’ll fall asleep in Bill’s arms. An utterly distraught Bill at first isn’t willing, though Frank tells him that if he loves him, he’ll love him “the way I want you to.”
They have the day that Frank wants to have. Pick out snappy suits for them to wear, and Bill makes Frank the same delicious dinner he made them when Frank first wandered into his life.
Frank drinks the wine he knows to be chock-full of enough sleeping pills to kill him, and Bill does the same, admitting that he can’t live without Frank, because Frank was his purpose for living. They lie down together in their bedroom, open a window so their bodies don’t smell up the house, and die peacefully together.
When Joel and Ellie do make it to Bill’s, they walk in to find an empty house, locked bedroom door, car keys, and a letter, from Bill to whoever picks it up, though he also addresses it to Joel, knowing that Joel is likely the first person who will read the letter.
Joel and Ellie grab what they can and load it into their new truck, courtesy of Bill and Frank, and their journey continues.
It ends in roughly the same way that it does in the game. Joel and Ellie get the car and supplies they needed to keep going, and move on from Bill’s town. It’s the same conclusion, but the show used its opportunity as an adaptation to tell the kind of beautiful story that was impossible to tell in the game.
If this was the only new story we got from this adaptation, and everything else happens more or less the same way it does in the game, then it would be enough.
This weeks episode was the best yet, and I’m not so sure next week, or any of the weeks following really, will be able to top it.
You can check out the first three episodes of HBO’s The Last Of Us wherever it is streaming in your region, right now.