The Last Of Us - Episode 03 - Long Long Time Review
*It’s rare that we at Player 2 cover anything that isn’t in the video game realm, but with it’s roots firmly in gaming, and the prestigious talent involved in it, HBO’s adaptation of The Last Of Us is an incredibly fascinating project. So join us, each week as we dissect the newly released episode, from the series’ first to its last.*
The Last Of Us has quickly shown that no matter whether it’s exploring a huge amount of background story, hitting on the impactful moments of Ellie’s bite or Tess’ infection, or even the more (apocalyptic future) day-to-day moments of walking the infected world sharing stories and cracking jokes. Whether the moments be big, or small, HBO’s The Last Of Us has continually struck a chord with the viewer. With Episode 03 though it does something very different again, pivoting off in a vastly different direction, one filled with directional risk, but one that pays off great dividends.
The episode begins as expected, Joel and Ellie now live in the aftermath of Tess’ death, brutally, having sacrificed herself after getting infected to blow up the enormous horde of infected that were pursuing them. Joel, who had given Ellie very little of himself up until this point has raised the protective walls even higher following Tess’ passing, and is giving nothing away as Ellie continues to be her youthful, inquisitive self. The acting from both Pascal and Ramsey is sensational here, both showing a complete unwillingness to budge from their positions, a rock and a hard place going at it. The duo make their way to an old, evacuated building where Joel claims to have stored resources in the event that they were needed. With that time now here, Joel is rummaging for what he needs while Ellie explores. Eventually, after she finds an amazing Mortal Kombat II arcade machine, Ellie makes her way to the basement, she happens upon an infected, pinned under fallen debris. This is a huge moment of discovery for Ellie – she can essentially experiment on an infected, with little to fear, she does so, killing it in the end before fleeing upstairs as Joel calls out for her. The journey continues from here, as does Ellie’s questioning of Joel, this time honing in on Outbreak Day. Joel has to explain some harsh truths to Ellie, including the fact that some people, were murdered simply because there wasn’t the room in the QZs to hold them. It’s with this moment that a flashback kicks in, taking us back to one such town being evacuated and one person deliberately evading the governing forces, someone we know as Bill.
The bulk of the episode is a look behind the scenes at something we never saw in the original game, Bill’s backstory. We know him to be gruff, and jaded, we know of someone called Frank who was important to him and had seemed to be a former partner – this episode confirms the speculation to be true. We see Bill’s emergence from his bunker post-evacuation, and celebratory claiming of his once full town, now as his own, but before long Frank appears. He’s fallen into one of Bill’s traps, but Bill brings him in for food and a shower. A connection immediately forms between the two, one that develops into feelings of romance, and before you know it, a sexual encounter.
Of course, like any relationship, there are ups and downs, and we see the highs and lows of the relationship, including Frank’s betrayal of Bill’s rules that leads to Joel and Tess appearing to form a working relationship going forward, you even learn about the musically-geared code that features in the premiere episode that Ellie immediately cracked. Joel warns Bill of a raider threat, and sure enough that follows, leaving Bill injured but the town untouched as Bill’s paranoia fuelled traps see to it that nobody progresses beyond the boundary of the town.
Ten years later, 2023, and it’s Frank who is suffering though. Old age is wearying Frank, and he’s come to the conclusion that he needs to pass away, and asks Bill to assist. The show deviates from the game in the sense that Bill finds it impossible to imagine a world without Frank and so opts to commit suicide so that he passes along with Frank – it’s a soul-destroying but simultaneously beautiful end to a beautiful relationship between two men that seem largely incompatible initially but are brought together through necessity which then leads to something greater. Shortly after, we cut to the present day where Joel and Ellie arrive, discovering a goodbye note from Bill, one that instructs them to take whatever they need to survive, which they do; notably, Joel doesn’t notice Ellie stifling away a handgun of Bill’s that will inevitably play a part in what lays ahead for the pair.
While “Long Long Time” doesn’t progress the core narrative much further at all, and deviates from the source material in a handful of ways, what it does for the broken world of The Last Of Us is immense. The game only hints at the grief that Bill has experienced, telling, but not showing how he had come to be the gruff, grizzly, but broken man we see him as in Naughty Dog’s 2013 masterpiece, but this take elevates the character further, and depicts a fascinating way of living a better life in a broken world that 99.9% of those who remain will never understand. The end hurts, and the story may ultimately serve as the means to an end in terms of Joel’s journey, but it hits to the core. If you’ve ever been through hardship (sure, not of the scale of a fungal pandemic), then you’ll no doubt understand how those moments can galvanise relationships and form unexpected ones, and the story of Bill and Frank’s is one of the best.
The Last of Us is available to stream now on BINGE, with new episodes every Monday. This episode was reviewed with early access kindly provided by BINGE.