'The Last of Us' Episode 3 recap: Murray Bartlett, Nick Offerman's sweet but tragic love story
The third episode of the hit HBO show, titled Long Long Time, finally reveals who Bill and Frank are, and how they're connected to Joel and Tess
While HBO's The Last of Us (on Crave in Canada) has started strong, Episode 3 really exemplifies that there is a commitment to robust character development in the adaptation of this famed PlayStation game.
The first two episodes were really focused on Joel (Pedro Pascal), introducing his journey with Ellie (Bella Ramsey), but in the third episode, titled "Long Long Time," we finally found out who Bill and Frank are, after being teased as allies to Joel and Tess (Anna Torv) in previous episodes.
With The White Lotus star Murray Bartlett and Parks and Recreation's Nick Offerman leading the episode, this portion of the story balances an incredible emotional, intimate relationship with moments of witty levity.
This is also the episode that Neil Druckmann, executive producer of the show, and writer and creative director of The Last of Us for PlayStation, anticipated would "upset" some fans of the game. For us, this is one of the most memorable and affecting moments of the series.
"As awesome as that episode is, there are going to be fans who are upset by it," Druckmann told The New Yorker. "To me, the story we tell is authentic to the world. It’s authentic to the themes that we’re talking about."
Here's everything you need to know from Episode 3 of HBO's The Last of Us (spoilers ahead):
Before we get into Bill and Frank's story (played by Offerman and Bartlett, respectively) we get an update on Joel and Ellie after Tess's demise.
Joel isn't particularly happy, not really looking to engage or speak to Ellie more than he has to, but the pair continue on their journey.
“Nobody made you or Tess take me," Ellie says. "Nobody made you go along with this plan. … You made a choice so don't blame me for something that isn’t my fault."
The pair are headed to go see Bill and Frank for help, just as Tess told Joel to do at the end of Episode 2. They stop at an abandoned store where Joel stocks up on supplies, and Ellie is able to find a box of tampons in the basement of this shop. It's the first time we see Ellie kill an infected creature, when she sees one buried under a pile of rocks, stabbing it in the head.
As they continue, Joel reluctantly takes Ellie through a path filled with human skeletons. As Joel explains, people in more remote communities were evacuated by FEDRA, told they were going to a quarantine zone. But when there wasn't enough space for everyone, some of these uninfected people were killed instead.
"Dead people can’t get infected," Joel says to Ellie.
Ellie also has a lot of questions about how this started, how the first person got infected and how the fungus spread. Joel tells her what he knows, and it's connected to what transpired in the flour and grain factory in Indonesia.
“No one knows for sure but the best guess, Cordyceps mutated," Joel explains. "Some of it got into the food supply, probably a basic ingredient like flour or sugar."
"There were certain brands of food that were sold everywhere, all across the country, across the world. Bread, cereal, pancake mix. You eat enough of it, it'll get you infected. So the tainted food all hits the store shelves around the same time Thursday. People bought it, ate some Thursday night or Friday morning, the day goes on. They started to get sick. Afternoon, evening they got worse. Then they started biting Friday night, September 26, 2003. By Monday everything was gone.”
Introducing Bill and Frank
Now the timeline goes back to Sept, 30, 2003. While uninfected people are being evacuated from their community, Bill (Offerman) is hiding in his basement bunker
"Not today your new world order, jackboot f-cks," he says, while watching his security camera footage of what's happening outside his home from a room filled with guns, other weapons and sulfuric acid.
Bill manages to avoid evacuation and leaves his home, driving around the now abandoned town to pick up supplies to create his own personal, blocked-off community, protecting himself from infected creatures.
Four years later, Bill sees someone stuck in a hole just outside his barrier. It's a man named Frank (Bartlett) from the quarantine zone in Baltimore, trying to get to Boston. Bill, who has the device to check if someone is infected, confirms he's OK and helps him out, pointing him in the direction of Boston.
But Frank is starving and tries to convince Bill to let him eat and regroup before his travel continues.
“Here’s the thing Frank, if I feed you then every bum you talk to about it is going to appear looking for a free lunch, and this is not an Arby’s," Bill says.
"Arby’s didn’t have free lunch, it was a restaurant," Frank comically says in response.
Bill ends up letting Frank in his home to shower, gives him clothes to change into and makes a lovely rabbit dinner, paired with a bottle of Beaujolais wine. Frank sees Bill's piano and thumbs through his sheet music, starting to play and sing “Long Long Time" by Linda Ronstadt. Bill asks him to stop, taking over the song.
Frank asks Bill who the woman is Bill is singing about, Bill responds by saying there isn't a woman. Frank then leans over and kisses Bill.
"I’m not a whore, I don’t have sex for lunches," Frank says, now in bed with Bill. "So if I do this, I’m going to stay for a few days, is that OK?"
Bill agrees and then the timeline moves forward again.
'Paying attention to things, that’s how we show love'
While the romantic relationship between Frank and Bill is hinted at in the game, The Last of Us series takes the opportunity to develop this relationship much further, as a way of really exploring the concepts of love, sacrifice and protection in this story.
Frank and Bill, having lived together for four years now, are having a spat because Frank wants to fix up and restore parts of the community.
"Paying attention to things, that’s how we show love," Franks says.
He also wants the couple to have friends and there's a woman Frank's been talking to over the radio. That woman is Tess, which results in her and Joel going to Frank and Bill's home for a meal. While Frank is excited about the human interaction, Bill is still skeptical but realizes there are some advantages to having smuggler allies.
In one sweet moment, in 2013, Frank brings Bill to a patch of land where he's grown strawberries, after trading Tess seeds for one of Bill's guns.
But that comforting moment is quickly dismantled by raiders. Frank wakes up to the sound of gunshots and fire he can see from the bedroom window. Going outside, Frank sees that Bill has been shot. Thinking he's going to die, Bill tells Frank to call Joel, because he doesn't want Frank to live alone.
'You were my purpose'
We make one more jump to 2023, pleased to see that Bill is still very much alive, but Frank isn't doing well. His health has deteriorated and needs to use a wheelchair.
Bill wakes up to Frank, after moving from the bed to his wheelchair on his own, saying this is going to be his "last day."
“I’ve had more good days with you than with anyone else," Frank explains. "Just give me one more good day."
"Starting now, make me some toast, Then take me to the boutique where I’ll pick outfits for us. You’ll wear what I ask and we’ll get married, and you’ll cook a delicious dinner."
“I never liked you but it’s like we’re friends, almost, and I respect you" Ellie says, reading Bill's letter. "I used to hate the world and I was happy when everyone died."
Bill is crying but goes through with Frank's requests, with one exception. That night at dinner, instead of just putting the pills in Frank's wine, Bill puts some in his glass too.
“This isn't the tragic suicide at the end if the play," Bill says. "I’m old. I’m satisfied and you were my purpose."
"I do not support this. I should be furious, but from an objective point of view, it’s incredibly romantic," Franks says in response.
When Joel and Ellie make it to Bill and Frank's home, Ellie finds a letter Bill left on his dining room table "to whomever, or probably Joel."
Ellie reads the letter, which says to not go in the bedroom, but they left a window open so the house wouldn't smell.
“I never liked you but still, it’s like we’re friend, almost, and I respect you" Ellie says, reading Bill's letter.
"I used to hate the world and I was happy when everyone died. But I was wrong because there was one person worth saving. That’s what I did, I saved him then I protected him. That’s why men like you and me are here, we have a job to do and god help any motherf-ckers who stand in our way.”
Bill also wrote that Joel can have all his equipment and weapons "to keep Tess safe."
That's when Ellie stops reading and Joel goes outside. He takes a deep breathem cumples up the letter and then he starts charging a car battery to get them out of there. Joel tells Ellie that his brother is in some kind of trouble in Wyoming, but he used to be a Firefly, so he may be able to help Ellie reach the lab working on a cure.
Before they leave, Joel sets three rules with Ellie. Don't bring up Tess, Ellie can't tell anyone about her "condition" and she has to do what he says when he says it.
Ellie takes her first ride in a car, saying it looks like a "spaceship" and as they drive off, she puts in a cassette tape of Linda Ronstadt's "Long Long Time." A perfect full circle moment to conclude this devastating but incredibly romantic love story.