The Last of Us Episode 3 review: Bill and Frank conquer the apocalypse

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /
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We’re back for another review of HBO’s The Last of Us! After escaping the ruins of Boston, Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey) set out to meet Joel’s smuggling contact Bill in hopes of procuring a car for their journey west. But this episode is really about the decades-long relationship between Bill and his partner Frank.

“Long, Long Time” took some big swings and is sure to inspire a ton of discourse. There’s a lot to talk about, so let’s get right into it. As always, there will be SPOILERS for the episode below.

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /

The Last of Us Episode 3 review: “Long, Long Time”

So far, HBO’s The Last of Us has hewn surprisingly close to the 2013 video game on which it’s based, but if there’s one thing that “Long, Long Time” really drives home, it’s that the show isn’t afraid to make big changes. Whether the changes in “Long, Long Time” were worthwhile is a question that I’m sure will be hotly debated. After taking some time to digest it, I think there were ways “Long, Long Time” succeeded and ways it stumbled.

We spend the first 15 minutes of the episode with Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsey), who are hiking through the wilds of Massachusetts. (No cold open this week, which I missed a bit.) Following Tess’ (Anna Torv) last wishes, Joel hopes to bring Ellie to their friends Bill and Frank, believing they might be able to figure out where to take her next.

This entire opening section had my rapt attention. The wide wilderness shots are gorgeous, the music from Gustavo Santaolalla (who also scored the game) and David Fleming is entrancing, and the development between Joel and Ellie is captivating. This is the episode where the two first start to bond, burying the hatchet over Tess’ death and scavenging for supplies together.

The sequence where they enter an abandoned Cumberland Farms (slightly weird product placement, but okay) was a highlight, especially when Ellie climbed under the floorboards and came face-to-face with a partially buried Stalker (an infected halfway to becoming a Clicker). The Last of Us has been doing a really incredible job with its fungal zombie prosthetic effects. This scene also hints at Ellie’s capacity for violence as she cuts open the Stalker, seemingly just to see what will happen.

Joel also gives us our first real explanation of how the cordyceps outbreak happened. There is no definitive story, but humanity’s best guess is that the cordyceps spread through baking ingredients like flour and pancake mix (which Joel hesitates while saying, since it makes him think of his daughter Sarah and her final pancake breakfast). From there it spread rapidly, and humanity collapsed in one day as the virulent fungus took over. This is something the game never really explained. It’s a solid bit of lore that continues to set The Last of Us apart from your average zombie show.

The show continues in that vein as Joel and Ellie discover a mass grave and Joel explains how, a week after Outbreak Day (September 23, 2003), the military evacuated people to the Quarantine Zones. And if there wasn’t room in the QZ, then people were murdered by the score to keep them from becoming infected. Brutal.

The Last of Us Episode 3
The Last of Us Episode 3 /

September 30, 2003: “Not today, you new world order jackboot f**ks”

We then flash bak to that very day and meet Bill (Nick Offerman), a survivalist who gives the pre-FEDRA military the slip when they were rounding people up to send them to the Quarantine Zone. Bill is a surly, isolated man we understand may actually have welcomed the apocalypse. Fewer people around.

Bill’s introduction is easily one of the funnest things that’s happened on the show so far. The minute the military leaves, he sets out into the abandoned town of Lincoln, Massachusetts to loot all the (useful) stores, round up supplies, fix the power grid, and generally have the time of his life. And of course, he stocked up on wine, because this apocalypse could go on for awhile.

Bill cooks himself a gourmet dinner and sits down to watch surveillance footage of infected running into traps he’s set up around his property, chuckling to himself about how good life is. I loved this scene. It also clues us into the fact that this was going to be a radically different version of Bill from the video game, where he’s a foulmouthed, slightly crazy survivor. The idea of that Bill being a gourmet chef is hilarious.

From here on out, “Long, Long Time” moves firmly away from the 2013 video game and forges its own path.