The Last Of Us went in a whole new direction with this Sunday’s episode, giving us a glimpse into a completely different side of the apocalypse, and offering up one of the best episodes of television I’ve seen in a long time. While this show is mostly very dark and very grim and often quite scary, the third episode is another beast entirely. Here we see how some people not only survive, but flourish in the apocalypse. Even at the end of the world, love finds a way.
While the opening of the episode returns to Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) not long after Tess’s (Anna Torv) tragic death, most of the episode follows Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) and the life they fashion together in the end times.
Joel and Ellie do a bit of scavenging together and Ellie—sensing Joel’s anger toward her—reminds him that he and Tess chose to take her. Nobody forced them so he can’t blame her for Tess’s death. He seems to respect this and we begin to see a thawing in their relationship. It’s still awkward, standoffish and tense, but a little less so. Already we see Joel’s protective side come out, especially when he wants to spare her a grisly sight: the skeletal remains of a mass grave, where the military lined up civilians who had no place to go and killed them rather than face them as Cordyceps zombies.
This segues directly into a flashback where we see people being taken from their homes by the government, ostensibly to be taken to a safe place—though we know this isn’t necessarily true. One man stays behind, and when everyone is gone he’s like a kid in a candy store.
Bill is a survivalist libertarian gun-toting, don’t tread on me type. And in this particular scenario, all those qualities pay dividends. As soon as everyone else is gone, he sets up his base. An electric fence to circle the town and keep out intruders. Traps—mines and pits and so forth—encircle the fence. He has propane and propane accessories, meat, gardens, and plenty of wine.
And then one day, a stranger falls into one of his pits. This is Frank, and Frank begs to be let inside for some food. Grudgingly, Bill allows it. He let’s Frank take a shower and gets him new clothes and then cooks him what appears to be a splendid meal, which he pairs with just the right bottle of wine. Frank is astonished by the hospitality, and you can tell right away that he’s eyeing Bill with more than just gratitude. He’s also eyeing the piano in the other room and asks to check it out before he has to leave.
He sits down and goes through the sheet music and settles on a song: Long Long Time by Linda Rondstadt (also the name of Episode 3). Little does he know that this is a song that means a lot to Bill. Frank’s singing and playing leaves a lot to be desired and Bill ends up stopping him. He sits down and plays it himself. It’s a beautiful moment and Offerman is terrific. He makes Rondstadt’s song seem incredibly bittersweet.
“Who’s the girl?” Frank asks, a glint in his eye (in a way that only Murray Bartlett can make his eyes glint).
“There is no girl,” Bill says.
“I know,” Frank says, putting his hand on Bill’s shoulder.
And from here, a life-long love springs. At first, Frank says that if he sleeps with Bill—who has never slept with a man before despite being gay—he’s going to stick around a few more days. But we cut to ‘three years later’ in the next scene, to a marital squabble between the two.
We learn how they befriend Joel and Tess and form a trading relationship with them. We get moment after moment of tenderness. Frank surprises Bill with a patch of strawberries, and Bill giggles in delight when he tries one—the first strawberry he’s had in years. “I’m sorry,” he says to Frank. “I’m sorry that I’m getting old before you.”
We see bandits attack, and Bill fight them off with his traps and flamethrowers and electric fence, but he’s shot and for a moment, we think he’s going to die, but Frank tends to his wounds and saves him. “Before I met you I was never scared,” Bill tells him. He was happy when everyone went away. The apocalypse was the best thing to ever happen to him. Until Frank fell into his lap.
We come to the end of their lives. Frank has developed a degenerative disease that has him bound to a wheelchair, unable to get in and out of bed on his own. He tells Bill that it’s his last day. He wants to have one good final day and then end it all. He wants to get married down at the boutique and have one last wonderful meal and then he wants Bill to grind up all his pills and put them in the wine and fall asleep in his arms.
They have their last day together, though Bill—in tears—tries to refuse him. “Do you love me?” Frank asks. Bill nods. “Then love me how I want you to love me.”
Bill ends up poisoning the whole bottle. “You were my purpose,” he tells Frank. He doesn’t want to go on without him. Frank says he should be upset by it, but “it’s very romantic.” They go to bed together and fall asleep in each other’s arms and never wake up.
Joel and Ellie show up some time later and find Bill’s note. He’s left everything to Joel and tells him to use it all to protect Tess. That’s what men like him and Joel are meant to do. To protect others. Joel and Ellie gather supplies, get in Bill’s truck and drive away. Ellie finds a cassette tape in the truck and puts it on. It’s Linda Rondstadt. “This is good,” Joel says. “I guess,” she replies, not at all convinced.
While it’s definitely sad that we didn’t get any Bill and Ellie scenes, I can’t say I wish they did anything differently here. Instead, we got a truly beautiful character sketch of two people who truly made the most of their lives after the world ended. It’s so refreshing in so many ways to see the good that people manage to scrape together even in a time as dark and horrible as this show’s fungal apocalypse. Bill and Frank managed to build a life together and not just a hardscrabble one, but a fulfilling existence that ended up being the best part of either of their lives despite everything.
Beautifully written, acted and directed, even though this episode diverges the farthest from the game—where Bill and Frank’s relationship is mostly just alluded to—it was still the best of the season so far. Showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann wrote the episode and Peter Hoar directed. I’m sure it will be controversial—I’m waiting for the angry accusations that it’s ‘woke’ or whatever silly nonsense any inclusion of queer romance inspires these days—but I for one loved every second of it. Deeply profound, emotionally poignant and powerful, this isn’t what I expected but I’m glad to be so pleasantly surprised.
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You can watch my video review below:
Further Reading From Yours Truly
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