Well, if previous episodes of The Last of Us TV series left you heartbroken, this one won’t break form. In episode 3 of the horror series, we’re introduced to Bill, play by Nick Offerman, a bunkered conspiracy theorist who’s well prepared for the burgeoning apocalypse.
He weathers the initial outbreak through his already fortified home, taking advantage of all the desertion to gather other supplies. Finally, he can be alone and live his life in peace – oh, if only it were that simple, though, because one of his traps caught someone, and they aren’t a raider.
They’re just a regular person, Frank (Murray Bartlett), who was part of a group that’s since been devoured by infected. He’s all that’s left. Bill quietly provides some shelter, a shower, and some freshly cooked food, all incredibly rare commodities in the wasteland hereafter. A shared love of the piano leads a more intimate encounter, and before we know it there’s a time-jump and Bill and Frank have been a couple for several years.
The Last of Us episode 3, ‘Long Long Time’, is a romantic portrait of Bill and Frank’s time together, framed within Joel and Ellie‘s journey. Over two decades they lived in their meticulously guarded sanctuary, completely self-sufficient. Bill would happily exist that way forever, but Frank secretly starts talking to Tess in Seattle over the radio, eventually organising a meet up.
This causes some tension, in addition to Frank’s desire to occasionally do some decorating about the place. But Bill relents because he’s in love, and we cut to Tess and Joel, only a few years into their careers as survivalists. They want to trade supplies, but Bill would rather not rely on anyone, something Joel understands and respects.
Frank does the occasional bartering regardless, to acquire quality of life materials like seeds. Despite some bickering, he and Bill have a happy life together. They’re settled and content, carving out a safe haven within the wasteland.
This significantly deviates from Naughty Dog’s original horror game, where Frank is dead by the time you encounter Bill. There’s not much mention given to their life together, so any kind of deeper camaraderie is entirely up to the player. It’s the same resistance to explicit queer love that remains common, where it’s left to subtext lest some parts of the fandom are somehow alienated.
Cowardice. Storytelling impotence born out of fear of upsetting bigots. The drama series embraces the opportunity to deepen Bill’s The Last of Us character, and make Frank more than a memory. From the second they start bonding over playing piano, you can see the attraction. Bartlett’s confidence causes a shy twinkle in Offerman’s eye that’s undeniable.
Even when they’re arguing, which seems regular enough according to the jumps forward, it’s rooted in that sense of belonging. They might frustrate each other, but they don’t get angry, nor do they defy each other’s boundaries. Bill and Frank have that comforting vibe to them where the world makes a little more sense because they’re together.
Craig Mazin wrote the episode, directed by Peter Hoar, and they compound the poetry of Ball and Frank with some canned flashbacks to immediate outbreak from Joel. He shows Ellie a trench full of bodies, where people were trying to get into quarantine, but there was only so much room, and Cordyceps only has one preventative measure.
In the distance, they can see the husk of a crashed plane, the useful parts picked clean. The Last of Us HBO show is eager to expand the 9/11 through-line into the ensuing US warmongering and xenophobia that came after. The WWII comparison in the scattered bones is an effectively chilling image that underlines a message about what America looks like in crisis.
Frank and Bill’s homestead seems all the quainter and more worthy of protection. One night, they’re targeted by raiders, who fall prey to Bill’s tripwires, electrocution, and turrets. The altercation leaves him with a bullet-wound that he survives, but in a tear-inducing twist, it’s Bill who’s left wheelchair-bound.
The cause is never confirmed, but it’s some form of degenerative illness for which there probably wouldn’t be a cure even if healthcare still existed. They still create art and tend to the garden and eat together, and Bill asks Frank to marry him, before choosing to end his own life.
I’ll be real – this whole bit is absolutely crushing. The men enjoy one last perfect day and evening together, before it all comes time. Upon giving Frank his poisoned wine glass, Bill reveals the whole bottle is laced, so they can pass in each other’s arms.
Max Richter’s ‘On The Nature of Daylight’ plays, just to ruin your life even more. The world is a cruel place, and time is a wretched curse. But if we’re lucky, we can find some goodness in each other, if even for a while. It’s the most we can hope for. In fact, it might be the only thing ever worth really striving for.
Joel and Ellie arrive to a note from Bill. He explains what’s happened, and his respect for Joel as another person who understands being a protector. They’re welcome to stock up as much as they like. They do so, putting on their costumes from the videogame in the process, and head out on their way, one last shot from the open bedroom window bidding them goodbye.
Exquisitely constructed television that uses the medium to do something the original text couldn’t. The Last of Us TV series is pretty great so far, but this is the first masterpiece of the season. It wouldn’t be a crime if it’s the only one, either. That’d suit Bill just fine, anyway.
The Last of Us is streaming on NOW in the UK, and HBO Max in the US. For more, check out our sister site The Loadout’s list of the all the best PS5 games.
Nick Offerman joins the Last of Us for what might be the best episode of the entire TV series.