‘The Last of Us’ Episode 3 Review: The ‘Long Long Time’ Stunners – Spoilers

Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett star in an hour of television that immediately sets the bar for the rest of 2023.

(Editor’s note: Included in the following review spoilers for “The Last of Us” episode 3, “Long, Long Time”.)

One of the best things a show can do is break the illusion that everything is a foregone conclusion. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to enjoy storytelling that makes each choice feel like just one in a wave of possibilities. Watching “The Last of Us” Episode 3 a second time, it’s hard not to be shocked by the first meeting between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), when a single decision determines the events of the next 16 years. in motion. After Frank falls into a makeshift trap set up by Bill to catch potential intruders, the gruff libertarian self-proclaimed “survivor” decides to let in his first guest since at least the end of the world. This split-second choice is the thing that changes both of their lives.

In the telecast, roughly 48 minutes pass between Bill getting ready on the day of the outbreak and joining his newlywed husband for the farewell sleepover. What “A Long, Long Time” is able to show in those years, in the moments in between, is a couple’s life not necessarily built on milestones or highest peaks, but a series of choices that come with life (and death). It’s an episode — written by co-creator Craig Mazin and directed by Peter Hoar, recently of “It’s a Sin” fame — that explores both survival and love as processes.

“The Last of Us” is in its third week of great TV thanks to its restraint. As effectively as Bill adjusts his trip wires and generators, Mazin and Hoar paint a picture of someone accustomed to, and probably content with, an isolation. That’s what makes Bill and Frank’s first dinner of rabbit and Beaujolais such an effective first date, primarily because Offerman plays up the realization that if he lets Frank in over the fence, he’s already let him into his life.

Bill’s district is successful because it was perfectly maintained. Her and Frank’s partnership survives because it doesn’t. This messiness is there from their first song, and they both try their best on ‘Long, Long Time’. Frank takes a more frenzied, almost lounge act approach, fumbling through the keys. Whatever the song evokes in Bill, he insists on playing it closer to the original Linda Ronstadt version. Slower, less powerful. The heart is there. At this moment, the two men can meet in the middle. Frank allows himself to embrace a life with comforts that a collapsing Baltimore QZ couldn’t even dream of offering. Bill, on the other hand, allows himself to be close to someone.

Featuring Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett "The last of us"

Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett in The Last of Us

Liane Hentscher/HBO

The song is a microcosm of what works in both Bill and Frank’s story and the show. The strings and harpsichord are really early 70’s razor sharp, between molasses and real desire. It ends up hitting the same sweet spot as every episode of The Couple’s Last Day , a sequence that never devolves into saccharine even though it would be so easy for it to. And you can’t achieve decades of solid, lasting partnership without a dose of humor and some sadness. Gary White’s “Somebody Told Me That But I Don’t Know What It Means” lyric is meant to slide something self-conscious and self-aware into something sombre, just like Bill’s comment about Joel in his farewell letter. .

Frank’s explanation that caring is how we show love fits well with Lincoln’s overall approach. When we first see the entire town empty, production designer John Paino and the series’ design team create what feels like a New England background film, a template for a carefully controlled show with only Bill’s hand on the arm. By the time Bill and Frank are fighting outside the house sometime in 2010, the signs are that an entire city block may be too much for two people to handle, appearances-wise. It’s an intimate story, set against a larger-than-expected backdrop, and delivered with such care that the passage of years feels deserved, even in such a compressed time frame. Lincoln’s general condition parallels their own fragility. It can be found in the rust and peeling paint, but also in the tiny glimpses of the giant sedan stack that doubles as extra fence security, things that take an incredible amount of work but become essential once they’re done. are actually part of the framework of their lives.

This concern extends to Offerman and Bartlett’s performances. Bill doesn’t shed all his layers after Frank—even at the end, he has the faint aura of a man with a Gadsden flag in his bunker. He’s also someone who can be moved to tears and giggles by the mere taste of strawberries, or can gently dispense a pill with cute nicknames. Credit Offerman for showing Bill’s gentler side just as easily as stepping into the shoes of a no-nonsense grump who drops instant classics like “This ain’t Arby’s” and “THE GOVERNMENT ARE ALL NAZIS!”

Bartlett’s superpower, meanwhile, is fervor, best reflected in his work on “Looking,” which was crafted to fit the more pointed purpose of “The White Lotus” and ultimately become the redeeming part of “Welcome to Chippendales.” .” Here, Frank’s Brawny Man looks are matched with an enthusiasm that is present whether one or three people are dining. Bartlett firmly and knowingly delivers Frank’s itinerary for his last day, allowing him to know that a chance encounter led to a good life with a good man. What actors Mazin and Hoar are able to bring to that final day, without making it obvious, is the kind of work that fills the 16-year emotional void we don’t see.

Murray Bartlett entered "The last of us"

Murray Bartlett in The Last of Us

Liane Hentscher/HBO

“Long, Long Time” is not just a story based on emotions and aesthetics either. Bill and Frank’s relationship is one of space and movement. Part of that is the physicality of Offerman and Bartlett playing older men who move more slowly through the world, commenting on how much their bodies have changed. Hoar also smartly knows how to place them in key positions from start to finish, starting with their first date at their table and gradually getting closer as the two men do. On the couple’s last morning, we are as far from Frank’s wheelchair as their bedroom will allow, so Frank’s journey from bed to chair truly feels like a farewell. Bill brings out a final bottle of Beaujolais, a thoughtful, tearful touch that ties their story together in a beautiful, full-circle moment. This is also emphasized by the fact that whether out of necessity or love, the two men are much closer to each other than on the other side of the table at the first lunch.

You can almost imagine Bill talking about having someone to love, the way Ellie talks about getting the chance to fly on a plane: something other people should do, but now it’s impossible. “A Long, Long Time” consciously includes Joel and Ellie as bookends to this story, showing that Bill and Frank have more to offer than a refrigerator full of batteries and some spare flannels. The relationships between Bill and Frank and Joel and Ellie are very different, but Bill’s farewell letter highlights the greater purpose of the episode, aside from sparking hope, peace and companionship in a lonely world.

It poses a question that all apocalyptic stories raise: when everything comes crashing down, what do you reach for? Bill’s answer is to find people worth protecting. It’s a difficult message to hear for Joel, a man we’ve just seen lose the most important person in his life in a matter of weeks. His method of preservation is to avoid tying his heart and fortune to people who can disappear at a moment’s notice. It does not have the security of a high tensile fence.

Yet, in a completely different context, Joel’s decision to lead Ellie westward is another one of those timeline-altering decisions. Like it or not, their fates are now intertwined. They are unlikely travel companions who vow never to share their pasts, but now have a car, a map, and a destination. And if you’re stuck with a single tape from your Chevy’s glove box, Linda is a great companion over the speakers.

grade: A

“The Last of Us” airs Sunday nights at 9:00 PM on HBO and can be streamed on HBO Max.

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