Romance in the Darkness: Episode Three of “The Last of Us” Recap

Image Courtesy of HBO

By Luke Weidenkopf 

Spoilers Ahead and Content Warning 

Boom. That is where episode two of “The Last of Us” ends. Tess sacrifices herself for Joel and Ellie, by blowing up herself and a hoard of Infected. Both Joel and Ellie are distraught, but they must continue their journey forward. They are 10 miles outside of Boston, hiking to meet with friends of Joel and Tess. While on the road, Joel tries to get Ellie off of the path, but she pushes forward, ignoring him, and ends up stumbling upon a mass grave. Joel then explains that the Army evacuated small towns and would murder those who couldn’t fit in the Quarantine Zone (QZ), leaving mass graves everywhere. 

Joel also then explains the supposed origin of the cordyceps and the cause of the apocalypse that followed. The fungus somehow infected simple foods (cereal, bread, oats) and then the food was shipped across the world, hitting shelves on Thursday. Then people began to feel sick on Friday and everything fell apart soon after.

The story transitions to Bill (portrayed by Nick Offerman), a doomsday prepper, who waited for his town to evacuate, then turned on his generator, set up an electric fence with defenses, and lived his life as normally as he could. He was alone but content for 4 years until a straggler from the Baltimore QZ, Frank (played by Murray Bartlett), showed up in Bill’s town. Bill is hesitant to offer him hospitality but is eventually convinced to let him in, offering him a hot shower and an amazing dinner.

Shortly before Frank is about to leave to go to the Boston QZ, he makes his way over to Bill’s 1948 piano and hastily begins to play “Long Long Time,” by Linda Ronstadt. Bill stops him, takes over, and delivers the song beautifully. Frank asks who the girl is, and Bill says there isn’t one. They slowly embrace and then kiss, which is the beginning of a relationship that lasts the rest of their lives.

There is another time jump, the audience seeing that Frank and Bill have now been together for a few years. They have many disagreements because Frank wants to try to live as normal a life as possible, keeping the town nice and well managed and wanting to make new friends. So he invites Joel and Tess to their home, whom he had met over the radio. Tess and Frank get along great and seem to have a budding friendship, but Joel and Bill absolutely despise one another. Joel works out a deal with Bill, Joel, and Bill will trade certain goods, mutually benefiting each other.

The story then moves another 10 years later. Frank has developed Parkinson’s and has ended up in a wheelchair, but their love for each other has grown as Bill has become Frank’s primary caretaker. Frank tells Bill that this will be his last day, as he wants to commit suicide. He cannot bear the pain anymore and would rather die on his own terms rather than keep on living. Bill is very against this and pushes back but Frank will hear none of it. After a “perfect” day and meal, Bill secretly crushes sleeping pills and pours them into the wine bottle, which will kill both of them. Frank finds out that Bill did this but is not angry.

 “It is extremely romantic,” Frank says. Then Bill writes a note, takes him and Frank to bed and they die together, in one another’s arms.

Joel and Ellie stumble upon the note after entering the town. Bill left the key to his car and access to all of his guns and supplies. Ellie, while looking around the house, finds a gun and secretly stashes it in her bag. Since Joel doesn’t know where to take Ellie, he decides to have her follow him up to Wyoming, to go visit his brother who is in trouble. His brother was a former Firefly and could help Ellie find the doctors to create a cure.

The episode concludes with Ellie and Joel heading into the sunset with the same song that captured the love between Frank and Bill, “Long Long Time” playing wistfully in the background.

This installment in the Last of Us is what is known as “a bottle episode.” The episode does not serve the purpose of advancing the plot but instead delivers a beautiful love story showing that even in the darkest of times, love finds a way. Bill and Frank, complete strangers, learned to love each other through all obstacles and made something worth living for. Both Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett deliver outstanding performances, with Offerman edging out Bartlett. Offerman, of Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) fame, plays a soulful, tough, and endearing man, struggling to find his way through this strange new world he found himself in.

This slow episode, unloved by some fans, was hailed by critics. Next week, however, seems to certainly be a change of pace, as the teaser shows that even more death, carnage, and scares are on their way.  

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