The Last Of Us Episode Three is one of the greatest hours of TV ever made
This episode deserves to be studied for years to come.
Spoilers for the events of Episode Three as well as previous episodes of The Last Of Us TV show, and relevant plot points within The Last Of Us game.
If you made it through this episode without crying, then you're a stronger person than I. From that first proper post-dinner interaction between Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett), I was ruined. Earlier still, from the announcement of Offerman as playing the role of Bill, I think my heart already broke a little bit. Earlier still, from playing the game way back in 2013, the story of Bill and Frank was one of the most emotional touchstones within the world of The Last Of Us, but for a completely different reason.
Within the world of the game, how the story of Bill and Frank ends proves that some love can't survive a world like that. Within the show, it has changed to how the right love can persevere through just about anything. If you find the right person to love, it can withstand literally the worst thing that existence can throw at you. In a genius bit of rewriting, what was already an incredible and unforgettable story has actually been improved upon.
Episode Three - titled "Long Long Time" - is directed by Peter Hoar, who has previously broken our collective hearts with queer love stories when he directed all five episodes of It's A Sin. Hoar applies a very gentle touch to proceedings here, allowing the absolutely stellar chemistry between Offerman and Bartlett to ignite the screen.
It was so easy for Bill to survive on his own for so long, as he was already doing exactly that long before the apocalypse arrived. He had so effectively walled himself off emotionally from the rest of humanity by never revealing who he truly was, that turning his little town into a fortified compound was relatively easy.
And from that first interaction with Frank, it was clear where all of this was going. That first dinner is so tense with promise, that first kiss is so overwhelming with tenderness, and Offerman and Bartlett absolutely kill it in every single scene. The show cleverly fakes us out, jumping forward in time to a point when Bill and Frank seem to be on the verge of falling out forever, the isolation of the compound doing nothing to stop magnifying their inherent differences.
In the game, we never actually meet Frank. Not alive, anyway. We manage to break into Bill's highly-defended town and he reveals that Frank had left days ago after a bad fight; Bill pretends not to care, but we know he is quietly devastated. After leaving Bill and searching through a cluster of abandoned homes, we discover Frank's body; he has committed suicide, and left a note blaming his decision entirely on Bill and his increasing paranoia and the impossibility of living with him.
In the show, we're taken on a different path. One filled with mutual caring, doing up boutiques, growing strawberries, and Frank convincing Bill to open himself up to others, which is how we get some great flashback scenes with Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Tess (Anna Torv). Seeing Anna again so soon after her death in the previous episode is another gut punch, especially seeing her fun interactions with Frank here.
And then we go years on further, and Bill and Frank are still together. Frank is quite ill, and made the decision to end his life, no longer wanting to be a burden on his life partner. Not wanting to spend a single day without him, Bill secretly decides to do the exact same thing, but it doesn't take long for Frank to needle that out of him.
Perfectly mirroring their first interaction, they have dinner, and they go to bed together, this time for the final time. It is a beautiful ode to the uniquely enduring resilience of love, headed by a duo of incredible performances, and laced with some captured moments of pure, unfiltered joy set against a world of horror. Truly, one of the greatest hours of TV ever made.
Episode Four will be available to watch on Sky Atlantic and stream with a NOW Entertainment Membership from 2am on Monday, 6 February.