TV Review: The Last of Us, Episode 3

By Matthew Moorcroft

Highest Recommendation

  • Directed by Peter Hoar
  • Starring Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Nick Offerman, Murray Barlett
  • TV-MA

Oh wow.

The praise going into this episode of The Last of Us was near overwhelming to the point where I was worried it wasn’t going to live up to it. It’s easy to get swept up in hype and lose the bigger picture, and I like to keep a level head a lot of the times when dealing with acclaimed pictures or shows just so I can rationally orchestrate my thoughts on whatever it is I’m talking about. But I’m not going to do that here, because I can’t. I got swept up in the hype because, indeed, Long, Long Time is really that fucking good and it’s impossible to deny otherwise.

And the great thing about it is that it’s completely it’s own thing. Bill and Frank are otherwise tertiary characters in the game – hell Frank isn’t even there outside of the reveal of his grim fate – and mostly serve as a brief plot point so Joel and Ellie have a car that they can use for the rest of the playtime. Unfournately, that kind of storytelling doesn’t really work on TV as mentioned before when discussing the last episode. As such, you are sorta of faced with a dilemma – do you make Bill and Frank larger cast members? Or do you complete exercise them from the story?

The answer is… neither, actually, as Craig Mazin does the smartest possible thing and instead gives them their own story. Bill and Frank’s relationship was footnote in the original text, but here it’s the actual text, taking center stage as their relationship is explored in three different stages over the course of 20 years. Bill is a paranoid survivalist, having bought into conspiracy theories prior to the infection and now resides in a bunker of his own making. Frank, on the other hand, is a stranger that one day wanders into his home, lost and alone.

What follows is a tender, delicate episode that features only a little bit of actual gunfire (though it’s still there, of course) and is mostly instead a two-man play of two people who were able to find love within the apocalypse. It’s a beautiful portrayal, with Offerman and Barlett both giving maybe career-best stuff here. Offerman in particular has to do a lot in a very short amount of time and he proves that he’s more then capable, as his famously Ron Swanson-esqe façade is slowly broken down here. He’s simply captivating, and Barlett’s equally as committed and devastating performance helps a lot in that regard.

And when the final crescendos of the relationship do happen, there won’t be a dry eye in the house. It’s rare to see an LGBTQ relationship really portrayed like this on television – one without much in the way of pain, hate, or trauma. Instead it’s loving, positive, and realistic. They have their fights, but it’s over petty stuff like “I wanna paint the house”, and the fact we’ve had to wait so long for such a real portrayal is insulting. But now that we do have it, it’s also fantastic that it’s done so well and brought to life so excellently. Peter Hoar, best known for his work on the acclaimed miniseries It’s a Sin, brings a keen eye to proceedings by focusing on the intimate rather then the grand. The scene where Frank shows Bill his strawberries is a great little scene but also highlights Hoar’s focus immensely – this is what people are fighting for.

Then we have Joel and Ellie, whose story bookends the episode. Both of them are currently at odds with each other, though not for a lack of trying. Joel clearly sees Ellie as partly responsible for Tess’ death, and while Ellie is definitely trying to reach out to Joel, it’s clear she has her own baggage. After all, she has possibly a sadistic side to her; her killing of the infected seemed to be almost gleeful, like an act of vengeance. The dichotomy works wonders once you see it opposed to Bill and Frank, and you see just how far they have yet to go in their slowly budding father-daughter relationship.

And of course, that final shot, which is just sublime. You almost don’t want the episode to end cause it’s so investing throughout but by the end you are engrossed and driven to tears. It’s a beautiful 75 minutes of television and would work as a killer short film in it’s own right, which is the mark of a great piece of standalone TV. Just phenomenal.

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