After being left reeling from the ending of episode 2 of The Last of Us, we didn’t know what to expect from episode 3 titled “Long, Long Time”. As the episode commences, I feel that I, too, am grieving with Joel after the loss of Tess.
Continuing on the journey to Lincoln, Massachusetts with Ellie, they come across a mass grave on the side of the road where Ellie makes a statement, “These people weren’t sick?” Joel replies, “No, probably not.” Ellie is confused, “Why kill them?” Joel explains to her that they did evacuate people, but they couldn’t house them all. In turn, “Dead people can’t be infected”. This one line sums up perfectly that it didn’t matter if these people had been healthy; they killed them anyway, leaving us with that somber thought as we see what appears to be a baby and an adult’s body left to rot in this mass grave.
We are now seeing the child and mother murdered, but in their former life, some 20 years before Joel and Ellie pass their grave. This scene is pivotal to the transition into the past. Now I am thinking about how eloquently the 20-year time jumps draw the viewer in, and writer Craig Mazin did just that – so, so well.
In this scene, we are introduced to ‘The Prepper’ Bill (Nick Offerman), who is monitoring the country estate he resides in as the army takes away survivors. This bunker that Bill has created under his living room is the pinnacle element that saved his life and introduces us to him.
Bill’s area now only has himself living there, meaning we get to see one epic montage of him creating a superior barrier to protect him from infection and, of course, the raiders that inevitably may come knocking!
During this time, we see elements of the game, which, if you’ve played it, will recall. Bill sticks to himself and is on the outskirts. He protects himself with a slew of traps to kill the infected, which he laughs at in one moment of one being shot in the head. “That doesn’t get old”. Now cue the music with “White Room – Cream.”
The expansion of this storyline continues with us meeting an unarmed man that happens to fall into one of the traps. Bill decides to help, feed and clothe this man instead of killing him on the spot or simply just sending him on his way (which he does offer to do).
In this moment, I was torn as a viewer, and a huge part of me thought – is this Frank? There are a number of awkward moments on-screen for me, and I was left wondering which turn is this going to take. My thoughts shifted, however, when Bill served rabbit pairing with a bottle of Beaujolais, and the stranger remarks on the choice – I just knew that this had to be, in fact, Frank from the video game. In the TV series, Frank is portrayed by Murray Bartlett.
The next scene is delicate, beautiful, and is acted to perfection by both Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman.
As we now follow the life of these characters through time jumps, we see Tess and Joel visit the compound. Frank and Tess strike up a close bond, while Bill appears apprehensive about allowing others to enter their private world of two. Joel offers advice to Bill regarding the health of the fencing and potential raiders who may come to take what the men have built together. Joel also adds, “But of all the people you could have found on the radio, we are decent people just trying to get by.” Bill’s response is golden; “Well, aren’t I the lucky one.” It goes to show that these two aren’t so dissimilar and are motivated to protect the ones they love.
Bill and Frank now come up against raiders who want to take the compound. Thanks to Bill’s upgrading of the fences and ingenuity of traps, they are held at bay, but not without Bill being shot.
Now, at the tail end of this nearly 75-minute runtime episode, we see the next time jump, ten years later, and both men are elderly. Luckily, Bill does survive; however, Frank is unwell and dying. At this reflection point as a viewer, we have watched the growth, love, protection, and ageing of two wonderful people, and it’s now Frank’s choice to live his final day.
The next few scenes are gut-wrenching and extremely moving as Bill prepares to give Frank his wish of the perfect day and accepts his choice to end his life. The men get dressed up, take a walk around their beautiful estate, and get married. The final scene is a meal prepared by Bill, which is, of course, the rabbit – the first meal they sat down to some twenty years ago. The small but major details, such as turning the plate the way Frank prefers it and serving of Beaujolais wine, made me feel right there with these two. After the meal, Bill proceeds to assist Frank with his dying wish and gives him a wine with crushed pills. It’s at this point Frank realizes that Bill is drinking the same wine, and it’s at this point Bill confirms this fact and that he, being an old man, can’t imagine living without Frank. In a poetic and romantic gesture, the two retire to bed after the most wonderful last day together.
Note: From an objective point of view, it’s incredibly romantic.
Now, weeks later, in the final act, we see Joel and Ellie at the gates, and of course, nothing passes Joel, he knows something is amiss. As they enter Bill and Frank’s home, it’s clear that the normally green lush garden isn’t so, and the plates are still on the table from what looks to be weeks of soiled food. Ellie finds a letter addressed to “Whomever, but probably Joel,” and Joel asks her to read.
In the letter delivered so well by Ellie, we have a slight reprieve with humor with the ‘He, he, he, he’ remake, but it’s short-lived with the expectation to take all of what was Bill’s and use it to protect Tess. This is the moment where Joel feels sadness and failure again for not protecting her in episode 2 of the series. After setting down the ground rules and readying up for the journey to Wyoming to locate Tommy, we see our two protagonists off again.
Episode 3 of The Last of Us built on Bill’s story and expanded it into such a wonderful life with Frank. The episode was brilliantly written and directed that left me emotional with every single time jump. It explained a lot of what happened to healthy non infected people and what to expect from outsiders like raiders in The Last of Us world. I can’t recommend this episode enough and the work of Murray Bartlett and Nick Offerman is outstanding. Some of the most riveting television I’ve ever watched and I can’t wait to see what the remaining episodes hold for the series. My recommendation for this episode is – If you just watch closely you’ll see the beauty in the simplest tasks, wall art and gorgeous things that reside in their world.
Episode 3: Long, Long Time
Director: Peter Hoar
Written by: Craig Mazin
Air date: January 29th, 2023 (January 30th, 2023 Australia)
Lover of all things gaming, film and technology from 80’s to now. My background in Marketing & Operations Management has provided me with a strong work ethic and ability to think outside the box.