The Last of Us, episode 3 recap: Plot detours for a moving love story 

The focus temporarily shifts from Ellie and Joel for a tale of true love forged to a Linda Ronstadt soundtrack
The Last of Us, episode 3 recap: Plot detours for a moving love story 

Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett in episode three of The Last of Us. 

To quote noted zombie apocalypse authority Lloyd Cole: are you ready to be heartbroken? Long Long Time – named after a 1970s Linda Ronstadt ballad – marked the most radical departure yet for The Last Of Us from its video game source material. The results will have shredded the emotions of viewers. If you weren’t in bits by the end, it’s possible your mind has been taken over by an undead fungus.

Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) are heading to Bill and Frank. Joel had promised Tess that he would take Ellie this far – and is determined to keep his word.

But who is Bill? In the game, he’s a catastrophist and conspiracy theorist who turns his home into a fortress in preparation for the downfall of mankind. He has a strained relationship with someone called Frank – whom we never meet but who Bill describes as his “partner”.

The show fills in the blanks – and then adds a haunting final reveal. As Joel and Ellie stumble upon the site of old massacre by Fedra, there’s a flashback to the early days of the apocalypse. Bill is prepared for what is coming: one benefit of constantly expecting civilisation to collapse is that, when it does, you’re good and ready.

More than ready, in fact. As the rest of mankind runs screaming from the infected, Bill (Nick Offerman) sets up his own private paradise. He fences off the town where he had made his home and helps himself to its resources. He has everything he needs.

Pedro Pascal and Nick Offerman in episode three of The Last of Us. 
Pedro Pascal and Nick Offerman in episode three of The Last of Us. 

Then, one day, a wayfarer named Frank (Murray Bartlett, possibly familiar from season one of The White Lotus) falls into one of his perimeter traps. Bill helps him out – but is eager to see the back of him. “If I feed you then every bum you talk to about it is going to show up here looking for a free lunch. And this is not an Arby’s.” 

Frank already has his measure. “Arby’s didn’t have free lunch. It was a restaurant.” We see them fall in love – bonding over their mutual loneliness and their love for Linda Ronstadt. The episode reaches its first twist. Bill isn’t afraid of fungoid zombies. What terrifies him is intimacy.

The flashback then flashes forwards. We see Bill and Frank host Joel and – sob – Tess. Joel tells Bill his fortress isn’t as impregnable as he thinks. The point is reinforced when raiders later try to break through – repulsed by flame traps and also by Bill standing in the middle of the street shooting anything that moves.

Bill and Frank have found happiness at the end of the world. But the Last Of Us doesn’t believe in upbeat endings. And so, as we approach “present day”, it is revealed that Frank is seriously ill. Even under favourable circumstances, the odds are against him. And marooned in the ashes of civilisation, these are not favourable circumstances.

Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us. 
Bella Ramsey in The Last of Us. 

He finally decides to take his own life by consuming poison after a last meal. Bill joins him.

This is where Joel and Ellie re-enter the equation. They called upon Bill and Frank only to find their house seemingly deserted. They discover a note, addressed to Joel and explaining what happened. As they process the news, Joel fixes Bill’s old car while Ellie swipes a gun (having killed a “clicker” zombie on the QT earlier on).

Then Joel explains that he is going to take Ellie to his brother Tommy, a former Firefly who may be able to help her reach her destination. They drive into the sunset. Linda Ronstadt swells on the stereo. There is a devastating shot of Bill and Frank’s open window, looking out from the room where their bodies lie.

 And with that, the credits roll – giving showrunners Craig Mazin and Neil Druckmann time to clear their mantelpieces for all those Emmys Awards surely headed their way.

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