‘The Last of Us’ Episode 3 Review: ‘Long Long Time’ Baffles – Spoilers

Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett star in an hour of TV that immediately sets the bar for the rest of 2023.

[Editor’s Note: The following review contains spoilers for “The Last of Us” Episode 3, “Long, Long Time.”]

One of the best things a show can do is break the illusion that it’s all a foregone conclusion. Sometimes you’re lucky enough to tell stories where every choice feels like one of many possibilities. Watching Episode 3 of “The Last of Us” for the second time, it’s hard not to be impressed by that first meeting of Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett) when one decision sets the events of the next 16 years definitely on the move. After Frank falls into a makeshift trap Bill set to catch would-be intruders, the gruff libertarian self-proclaimed “survivor” decides to let in his first houseguest since at least the end of the world. That split-second decision turns out to be what changes her life.

In television time, approximately 48 minutes elapse between Bill’s preparation for breakout day and his goodbye sleep with his new husband. What “Long, Long Time” can show in all the years between moments between moments is a pair of lives that aren’t necessarily built on milestones or highest heights, but rather a series of choices made to shape life (and to face death) together. It’s an episode – written by co-creator Craig Mazin and directed by Peter Hoar, of recent It’s a Sin fame – that explores both survival and love as a process.

For the third week in a row, The Last of Us is establishing itself as big TV by virtue of restraint. Just as efficiently as Bill sets up his tripwires and generators, Mazin and Hoar paint the picture of a man used to isolation and most likely content with it. It’s what makes Bill and Frank’s first rabbit-and-Beaujolais dinner such an effective first date, especially since Offerman plays the realization that by letting Frank in the fence, he’s effectively already let him into his life.

Bill’s perimeter is successful because it’s perfectly maintained. His and Frank’s partnership survives because she isn’t. This disorder is present from their first song, with the two each trying their hand at “Long, Long Time”. Frank takes a hectic, almost lounge-like approach, groping his way through the keys. Whatever the song wakes up in Bill, he insists on playing it closer to the original Linda Ronstadt version. It’s slower, less powerful. The heart is there. At this moment, the two men are allowed to meet in the middle. Frank settles into life with the comforts a collapsing QZ in Baltimore could never have dreamed of. In return, Bill allows himself to be close to someone.

Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett will be there "The last of us"

Nick Offerman and Murray Bartlett in The Last of Us

Liane Hentscher/HBO

The song is a microcosm of what works in both Bill and Frank’s story and the show as a whole. The strings and harpsichord are really on the knife edge of that specific early 70’s between syrupy and genuine yearning. In the end, it hits the same sweet spot as every part of the couple’s final day, a sequence that never lapses into saccharine depiction despite the fact that it would be so easy for her to do so. And you don’t get a decades-long, stable, lasting partnership without a subtle dose of humor and also some sadness. Gary White’s lyrics “Somebody told me that, but I don’t know what it means” does just as much to turn something reserved and confident into something somber, just as Bill’s comment about Joel in his suicide note does the same.

Frank’s explanation that we show love by paying attention fits right in with Lincoln’s overall approach. When we first see the whole town empty, production designer John Paino and the series’ design team make it feel like a New England backyard, a template for a carefully controlled show with only Bill’s hand on the lever. When Bill and Frank argue outside the house one day in 2010, signs indicate that an entire block might be visually too much for two people. It’s an intimate story, set against a larger backdrop than you might expect, and presented with the care that makes the passing of those years seem deserved, even in such a compressed time frame. Lincoln’s general condition parallels her own fragility. It can be seen in the rust and peeling paint, but also in the tiny glimpses of the huge stack of limousines that double as extra fence security, things that show an incredible amount of work, but once finished they become matter of course. fact parts of the framework of their lives.

This diligence extends to Offerman and Bartlett’s performances as well. Bill doesn’t shed all his shifts after Frank – even at the end, he still has the faint aura of a man with a Gadsden flag fastened in his bunker. He’s also a man who could be brought to tears and giggles at the mere taste of a strawberry, or tenderly doling out a string of pills with cute nicknames. Credit Offerman for being able to show Bill’s softer side just as easily as he follows in the footsteps of a no-nonsense grumbler releasing instant classics like “This is not an Arby’s” and “THE GOVERNMENT”. ARE ALL NAZIS!”

Meanwhile, Bartlett’s superpower is his zeal, something that shines through in his best work on “Looking,” is molded to a more unruly purpose on “The White Lotus,” and finally is the redeeming part of “Welcome to Chippendales.” Here’s Frank’s brawny Man appearance coupled with an enthusiasm that is present whether one or three people are having dinner together. Bartlett’s transmission of Frank’s itinerary for his final day is steady and knowing, allowing for the knowledge that a chance meeting led to a good life with a good man. What both actors, Mazin and Hoar, can bring to this final day without making it explicit is the kind of work that will fill in any emotional voids of 16 years that we don’t get to see.

Murray Bartlett in "The last of us"

Murray Bartlett in The Last of Us

Liane Hentscher/HBO

“Long, Long Time” is also not a story built solely on emotion and aesthetics. Bill and Frank’s relationship is one of space and movement. Part of this is the physicality of Offerman and Bartlett, who play older men who move more slowly through the world and comment on how much their bodies have changed. Hoar is also clever at placing her in key positions from start to finish, beginning with the first date that begins with a distant table and grows ever closer, as the two men do themselves. On the couple’s last morning, we’re as far from Frank’s wheelchair as their bedroom will allow, making Frank’s journey from bed to his chair truly feel like an act of farewell. Bill pulling out a final bottle of Beaujolais is the thoughtful, tearful note that brings her story full circle in a beautiful moment. It is also underscored by the fact that, whether out of necessity or affection, the two men are so much closer now than they were on opposite sides of the table when they first lunched.

You can almost imagine Bill talking in the same tones about having someone to love as Ellie talks about being given a chance to fly on an airplane: something others need to do but would be impossible right now . “Long, Long Time” deliberately includes Joel and Ellie as bookends to this story, showing that Bill and Frank had more to offer than a fridge full of battery parts and a few spare washcloths. Bill and Frank and Joel and Ellie have very different relationships, but Bill’s suicide note underscores the larger purpose the episode serves, apart from showing a glimmer of hope and peace and camaraderie in a lonely world.

It outlines a question that all apocalyptic stories raise: When everything falls apart, what do you reach for? Bill’s answer is to find people worth protecting. It’s hard news for Joel, a man we just saw lose the most important person in his life for consecutive weeks. His method of preservation is not having to associate his heart and fortune with people who could disappear at any moment. It doesn’t have the security of a high-strength fence.

But in a completely different context, Joel’s decision to herd Ellie West is another of those time-altering decisions. Whether they like it or not, their destinies are now intertwined. They’re unlikely traveling companions who vow never to share their pasts, but now they’ve got a car, a map, and a destination. And when they’re stuck with a single tape from the Chevy’s glove compartment, Linda makes a pretty good companion over the speakers.

Class: A

The Last of Us airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO and is available to stream on HBO Max.

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https://www.indiewire.com/2023/01/the-last-of-us-episode-3-review-long-long-time-1234803755/ ‘The Last of Us’ Episode 3 Review: ‘Long Long Time’ Baffles – Spoilers

Lindsay Lowe

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