HBO’s The Last of Us has continued to impress, with episode 3, “Long Long Time”, earning widespread acclaim from critics and fans alike.
Warning: spoilers for HBO’s The Last of Us episode 3 ahead.
Some viewers may have been initially disappointed by the lack of a cold open that the previous episodes have used to provide context and worldbuilding to the show. Still, in a way, the bulk of the episode does that and by the end, it would absolutely have felt like it skewed the pace and balance if there had been one.
Episode 3 aired at one hour and twelve minutes long, but showrunner and episode writer Craig Mazin said in an interview with Deadline that the initial cut made by director Peter Hoar was around two hours long and had him in tears. “I cried so hard it hurt,” said Mazin.Image credit: HBO
We rejoin Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) as they walk through the woods outside of Boston, trying to make it to Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), survivalists who live in their own well-defended compound and traded with Joel and Tess.
The focus of the episode quickly switches from Joel and Ellie to Bill and Frank. It explores how they meet, how they live, and how they die. It’s undeniably one of the most emotional hours of TV ever made, both achingly sad, and probably the happiest thing that will happen in the show.
Bill and Frank won the sweetest revenge on the world gone to crap – lives lived well. Bill’s solitary existence of paranoia and anger expands with surprising ease to accommodate Frank. We follow them through the years as they continue to learn together, voyeuristically learning alongside them lessons like how important it is to allow for individualistic expressions of love.
It may seem at first glance that lessons like this are wholly out of place in a post-apocalyptic zombie show, but it’s an important lesson in what the fight is for. Why struggle through it all if not for moments like these?
Through Bill, it also teaches us a lot about Joel. They see the parallels between each other and the show goes to lengths to highlight them to us. We know Bill can only thrive with a purpose – he’s a protector, and now we know for sure that what Joel chooses makes sense. He was always going to take Ellie somewhere safe in the end.Image credit: HBO
The episode includes a lot of small details that are built on later, but its ephemeral beauty ensures it stands out as a truly special episode of television.
Media, where a gay relationship can prosper against all odds, where there is vulnerability without motive, and where the characters’ arcs end on their own terms, is a vanishingly rare thing. HBO and the series creators made a point of having one of the leading characters be played by a gay man (Murray Bartlett is gay), and the director, Peter Hoar, is also a gay man. They are also both middle-aged and are facing their own mortalities, something highly present in this episode.
Even if you don’t care too much about the series overall, this episode stands out on its own, a shining example of a story that can move people to tears with only two characters and one set. People will be watching this episode and crying for many years to come.
Featured image credit: HBO