‘The Last of Us’ Episode 3 Review: Offerman and Bartlett Shine in Delicate Two-Hander

Peter Hoar directs an episode centered on two middle-aged men who find unexpected romance in the years following the outbreak.

The following article contains spoilers for the first three episodes of The Last of Us.

In the show’s companion podcast, The Last of Us showrunner Craig Mazin speaks about the duality of the show’s central theme: love.

“We will continue to come back to the notion that love conquers all and that’s problematic, that we think of love as this solely positive thing…it can lead to the most intense fear, and the most intense fear can lead to the most intense behavior, including violence…love is not always good, and when we talk about the show and as we go episode-by-episode, we’re gonna meet people that love each other over and over and over and we’re gonna see this dynamic play out over and over and over.”

If we are to treat each episode as a cog in this thematic machine, “Long Long Time” expertly keeps the wheels turning. Aside from a prologue and epilogue with Joel and Ellie (Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey), this week’s installment centers on Bill (Nick Offerman, Parks and Recreation) and Frank (Murray Bartlett, hot off of an Emmy win for The White Lotus), two middle-aged men who find unexpected romance in the years following the outbreak. In the series’ most stark deviation from the source material yet, showrunners Mazin and Druckmann use an extended vignette to further explore the complexities of unconditional love, particularly with two starkly different individuals who provided it to each other in different ways.

To call it a post-apocalyptic meet-cute would be putting it gently; Bill, a social isolationist, catches Frank in one of his traps laid outside the deserted neighborhood of Lincoln, Massachusetts. There is an immediate attraction between them, which leads Bill to begrudgingly let him inside for a shower, fresh clothes, and a home-cooked meal. We, like Frank, are struck by Bill’s duality; he’s a gruff survivalist as well as a sensitive soul; he totes a shotgun as well as he plays Linda Ronstadt on the piano. Little is given about his backstory, but it’s an archetype we immediately understand, in part thanks to the brilliant meta-casting of Offerman, television’s favorite man’s man.


With very few words, their connection feels honest. Bill, struggling to process true intimacy, is well-juxtaposed to Frank, who Bartlett imbues with an instant charm. However, even he is overwhelmed by how powerful even one kiss can feel amidst the wasteland. The two become physically intimate––Bill for the first time with another man––in a light but tender scene that feels microcosmic of the entire episode’s portrayal of their relationship: sensitive but never overwrought, intimate but never intrusive. Director Peter Hoar (It’s a Sin), who is also gay, captures their most vulnerable interactions with a delicacy that only a queer storyteller could provide.

Bill and Frank present a beautiful yin and yang on what it means to express love. Bill provides protection and the means to protect, but Frank provides connection, even if it is at the expense of that protection. Bill is visibly frustrated when Joel and Tess (Anna Torv) are invited by Frank to dinner after communicating over radio, but all of it is an extension of Frank’s compassion. Even in an intense action sequence, where raiders attempt to break through Bill’s defenses, the focus is primarily on an act of love. After Bill is shot, Frank brings him inside and tends to his wound. Bill is ready to accept that his life is over now that he has been compromised, but Frank is fully prepared to save him, much like how Bill saved Frank in their first encounter.

The episode’s most resonant moment comes at the end. Frank, now an older man in need of a wheelchair, wishes to end his own life with pills. Bill is heartbroken at the idea but cannot argue with Frank’s request: “Love me the way I want you to.” However, Bill can’t live without Frank either, so Bill doses his own wine as well. The two die in each other’s arms, though we never see the bodies; when Joel and Ellie finally approach their home in Lincoln, Bill leaves them a letter requesting they not enter the bedroom. Their story begins and ends on their own terms.

It’s a stunningly effective inverse of the characters’ fate in the original game (Frank hangs himself while a hardened Bill carries on) that not only avoids tropes of trauma porn but also speaks to Mazin and Druckmann’s themes in a new way; Bill and Frank ending their own lives out of unconditional love is both devastating and, in Frank’s own words, “incredibly romantic.” Some may see it as sad, some may see it as loving, but it is yet another act of love driven by immensely strong emotions. In that sense, it wholly justifies a detour in the show’s main narrative because it serves to reflect it.


When they first meet, Bill and Joel are presented as reflections of each other, so it’s no surprise that Bill’s final message to Joel is one that binds them all too closely. “I saved [Frank]. Then I protected him. That’s why men like you and me are here. We have a job to do. And god help any motherfuckers who stand in our way.” This is Joel’s official crossing of the narrative threshold. There was a lingering feeling that Joel, still apathetic toward Ellie following Tess’ death, would relinquish responsibility to Bill. Now, Joel has officially taken Ellie as a travel companion and daughter figure as the two venture to Wyoming to find Joel’s brother, Tommy.

It feels like our emotionally destructive adventure has only just begun…

New episodes of The Last of Us air Sunday nights at 9 PM ET on Crave, HBO, and HBOMax.