The Last of Us: Episode Three - 'Long Long Time' Spoiler Review

The third episode of The Last of Us (titled "Long Long Time") was a big departure from the game, and it was a smart change that delivered a heartbreaking episode of television. Episode three currently holds a 96% on Rotten Tomatoes, and I got irritated that there was one critic who rated it poorly. I know not everyone can be satisfied, and I appreciate that everyone will have a different outlook on things. Long Long Time was a fantastic episode that delivered a little bit of everything, and it left the audiences wanting more of Bill (played by Nick Offerman) and Frank (played by Murray Bartlett). Going into the episode I had no idea what to expect, because the preview was edited in a way that made the plot of the episode vague. Before the show started airing there were some critics who had seen episode three and they said it was one of the best episodes of television ever. There is a similarity between The Last of Us and The Walking Dead, both worlds feel similarly inhabited by both the best of humanity and the worst of it. In The Last of Us we have only briefly seen raiders (in episode three), but it has been hinted in the show that the humans outside of the QZ are more of a threat than the infected. When Joel and Ellie were walking to Bill and Frank we see that Joel is very alert, and it was not because of the infected. The Walking Dead from season three on had humans become the main antagonists in each season, while the dead were more of a background threat. The Last of Us have yet to showcase the bad humans, but it is a matter of time before we meet some. Bill and Frank were a great new addition to the world of the show if only for one episode, but with the show's penchant for flashbacks there is room for more appearances by them. 

Nick Offerman is seen by me as Ron Swanson (from Parks and Rec), but since that show ended he has steadily been working in different roles. Offerman gives what I think is the best performance of his career with his portrayal of Bill. The character of Bill is very similar to Ron Swanson, as both characters don't trust the government nor other people very much. Both Bill and Ron are good at their core, but both also have a cantankerous exterior that is not easy to break through. Offerman delivers an awards-worthy performance, and Bill's evolution over the course of the episode works because of Offerman's performance. Murray Bartlett gives an equally impressive performance as Frank, but it stands out less because Frank is a normal well-meaning individual. Bartlett has been a busy actor in the last couple of years; he had a lead role in the first season of The White Lotus (HBO), and a lead role in Welcome to Chippendales (Disney Plus/HULU). The episode also featured great performance from Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal who made every second of their time in the episode count. The Last of Us has delivered three incredible episodes, and the show's willingness to depart from the story of the game will allow the show to serve the story rather than follow a predetermined path. 


The episode starts with Joel building a tower of rocks; and they are now in a forest (outside of Boston) which is about a five-hour trip to Bill and Frank. While walking Joel stops them as they approach a gas station saying he needs to get something he stashed in the shop. Joel tells Ellie the shop has been picked over, but while Joel is trying to remember where he stashed stuff Ellie explores the rest of the store. Ellie comes across a panel in the floor that leads to a basement where she finds a box of tampons and an infected trapped under a lot of rubble. Ellie pulls out her knife and she cuts the infected across the forehead to see what is inside (looks like fungus) before she stabs it in the head killing it. Ellie returns to Joel who has found his stash and they leave with Joel leaving the assault rifle behind since he says there is no ammo for it. As they walk Joel explains what happened to Ellie who only knows what FEDRA told her. Joels says that Cordyceps mutated and got into the food supply and once people ate too much of it they got sick and then they started biting. Joel wants to detour, but Ellie wants to see why Joel does not want her to look at what is ahead. Ellie finds a mass grave, and Joel explains that soldier would go into towns and evacuate the residents. If there was no room at the QZ the soldiers would kill the residents because dead people can't be infected. The camera zooms into a piece of clothing in the grave and when we zoom out we are back in 2003 seeing a woman with clothing being evacuated.

While we watch the residents get into a military truck we see that one resident is in his basement watching camera showing what is happening. The man in the basement hears soldiers in his house walking around, as they leave the man leaves a bunker hidden in his basement with a gas mask on and shotgun. The man (played by Nick Offerman) goes on a bunch of errands collecting supplies like gas, oil, and building materials. The man builds a fence around the small neighborhood and he sets up traps on the outside to prevent trespassing. One day (four years later) a trap is tripped and when the man goes out to inspect he finds an uninfected human has fallen into a pit. The man in the pit says his name is Frank and he is from the Baltimore QZ which fell so Frank and nine others escaped with Frank being the sole survivor left. The man gets a ladder to get Frank out of the pit, but he uses the FEDRA device to test for infection before letting him get out. Frank says he is hungry, and the man tells him to walk saying he cannot feed him otherwise other homeless will come for a free meal. The man relents and allows Frank inside letting him shower and cooking Frank a meal. Frank is blown away by the meal and that the man knew what wine to pair with the food. Frank sees an old piano which the man says belonged to his mother. Frank searches through the songbooks until he finds one that he believes belongs to Frank which is a Linda Ronstadt song book. Frank starts playing Long Long Time which he does poorly before the man stops him. The man then begins to play and sing the song better than Frank and they share a moment before Frank kisses the man who now gives his name as Bill. 

Frank and Bill sleep together after Frank asks Bill to take a shower, and we learn that Bill has never been with a man before. The story jumps ahead three years and we see an argument between Bill and Frank centering on how Frank wants to make their enclosure better looking and Bill does not want to waste the resources. Frank wins the argument, but then he adds that they will have friends over which Bill says they have no friends and Frank says he has been talking to a woman on the radio. We jump a little forward to an awkward lunch between Bill, Frank, Tess and Joel where Bill keeps a gun cocked at the dinner table. Tess and Frank bond leaving Bill to talk to Joel who says he can trade with Bill for better quality fencing that will last for the rest of their lives. As Joel and Tess leave Joel warns Bill that raiders will come at some point during the night. We jump forward three more years with Frank surprising Bill that he has started growing strawberries which he got from Tess after trading a small gun. Bill and Frank share a strawberry overjoyed at the sensation of eating strawberries again. Bill tells Frank that he was never afraid before Frank showed up and they kiss. At night the raiders come, and Franks wakes up to the raiders setting off the traps. Frank searches for Bill, and he finds him outside shooting at the raiders with a gun. The raiders cannot get past the wall of fire around the property or the electrified fence, but they shoot Bill in the stomach. Frank brings Bill inside and tends to the wound as Bill says to call Joel, and that he doesn't want Frank to be by himself. 

We jump forward 10 years (now 2023) where see Frank is now stuck in a wheelchair due to a disease that also prevents him from using his hands properly. We see Bill taking care of Frank, but in the morning Frank tells Bill that this is his last day. Frank wants one last good day with Bill before he wants Bill to help end his life. Bill does not want to hear about a life without Frank, but he understands that it is Frank's choice. Bill and Frank get married, Bill cooks Frank the same dinner he made on the day they met. Bill then gives Frank a glass of wine with a bunch of pills crushed up into it, and Bill drinks wine too and Frank realizes that Bill has poisoned himself. Frank says he wants to be mad, but what Bill did is just so romantic and the pair head to bed to fall asleep in each other's arms one last time. Joel and Ellie make it to house, but it has been weeks since Bill and Frank have dies so it is obvious nobody alive is there. Ellie finds a note that Bill wrote for Joel where he encourages Joel to protect what matters most (Bill meant Tess not knowing she is gone too). Joel steps outside to have a moment to himself before he begins planning the next step. Joel finds Bill's trucks and makes a car battery using supplies Bill left, Joel tells Ellie that he will take her with him as he searches for his brother who was a Firefly. Joel believes Tommy will know where to take Ellie, so Ellie and Joel load up supplies in Bill's truck and they leave as the episode ends. 


This was a long episode (but apparently the original cut was over 2 hours long), but it was a perfect length for the story they were telling. I know there were some people who did not like the changes made to the characters of Bill and Frank, but I think what Mazin and Druckmann did on the show was an improvement. In the game the story of Bill and Frank had an end that was much less romantic and a lot more bitter and angry. In the game you never meet a living Frank, you only encounter his dead body which was because Frank left Bill was attacked by infected, bitten and he hung himself before he could turn. In the game Ellie and Joel find Bill who is alive, but he is angry, paranoid and bitter especially since his falling out with Frank. The Bill in the game tells Joel that it is wrong to love someone in this world, and that it will get them killed. The distinction between the characters in the game and series is very different. I know some like the story in the game, but I am not sure that story works in the show, and also since Bill only appears once he is not an essential character of that universe. The Bill character in the game was essential to the story, but in a mechanical way that has no heart in it. The Bill character in the show is a focal point of someone who like Joel was someone afraid to love until he met his partner. Bill in the series urges Joel to protect what he loves, while the Bill in the game urges Joel push away from attachment. 

The decision to spend a majority of the episode away from out main characters was a risky one, but one that is paid off by the end of the episode as an essential one. The show has been subtle about Joel since we saw Sarah die, the Joel in 2023 keeps everyone at arms length. The Joel in the show has been with Tess for at least 13 years, and yet we barely saw him mourn her or show her affection. In the flashback to 2010 where we see Joel and Tess having lunch with Bill and Frank Joel does not know what word to use to describe his relationship with Tess to Bill. In 2023 it appears that he still struggles with that, and to me that is because that Joel has lost so much (presumably Sarah, and her mother) that he shuts down his emotions. I think Bill is analogue for Joel in that they were emotionally shut down from people, but Bill opened himself up to Frank and he found his purpose in life. Tess might not be Joel purpose, but Ellie is and the letter is the beginning of him realizing that he again has something to protect. I think it will be a slow process, but I do think we will continue to see Joel open himself up emotionally as the season progresses. The diversion to tell the story of Bill and Frank was more about showing how the world ending does not mean there is nothing left to love or care for. While Bill and Frank's ending was incredibly sad, it was also beautiful as it made sense that Bill would not want to live without Frank. The Bill we met at the beginning of the episode was perfectly happy to be on his own, but meeting Frank changed his life for the better. 

In my review of episode two I had commented that only nitpicks had caused me to rate those episodes lower. Episode three for me is a 10/10, I could only find one nitpick which is the location of the forest to Boston (which has been a running joke on Twitter since the episode aired). Episode three is a masterpiece of television, and everything about it worked so good for me. The Last of Us is the best video game adaptation, and it is not even close how much better this show is than everything else. The changes to game story in the series are being done for practical reasons that are designed to make the show better. I know the audience score the episode is lower than the critic score, but I take that with a grain of salt. I am more of fan than a critic, but fans can also be capable of letting their biases get in the way of enjoying things. I think some of the lower score are from people that didn't like the choice to make Bill and Frank's relationship so explicit. I am sure there were some people who did not like the diversion of the game story, and they are wrong that the game story is better in context to the series we have seen so far. Others might have been put off by the episode not featuring Joel or Ellie for a long middle stretch, and feeling like this was a filler episode. I think the point of this episode is for Joel to discover that after everything he has lost there is still a reason to care and love. In the game Bill was a cautionary tale of seclusion and paranoia, while in the show Bill was a stirring example of the good that can happen when you open yourself up to others. 

Long Long Time was an episode of television that will stay with me for a long long time (pun intended). HBO has always delivered exceptional television, but I think episode three might be one of the finest examples of letting storytellers tell a story. Marvel and DC have become plagued with interference from executives who view the bigger picture and profits ahead of quality (at times). DC let Matt Reeves tell his Batman story, and The Batman was one of the best films of 2022 (according to me). I think Marvel has consistently delivered quality entertaining stories, but I think they have never given audiences a special type of film (I think Black Panther got close). I hope The Last of Us continues to deliver amazing episodes so that Marvel and DC can start giving audiences more mature stories (Marvel more than DC). Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann are doing a spectacular job with the show, and it is has me excited for what is to come in the season and the newly greenlit second season. Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey are perfectly cast as Joel and Ellie, and the casting of Offerman and Bartlett was also great as both actors delivered awards worthy performances. The dynamic between Ellie and Joel has me excited as Bella Ramsey and Pedro Pascal have great chemistry already. The subtle performance being given by Pedro Pascal is fantastic, the looks he gives when he realizes Bill and Frank are gone and when Ellie reads Bill's letter to Joel was jarring. Joel is being put through a meat grinder in the first three episodes; he has lost his daughter, Tess and Bill and Frank. You can understand why Joel is putting so much effort into keeping himself closed off, but the walls are breaking now. 

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