Given the loss of Tess and her sacrifice in the Quarantine Zone, Joel and Ellie are left to make their way towards one of Joel’s associates who might be able to offer transport or news of Joel’s brother Tommy. Bill was a brusque, no-time-for-anyone prepper in the days before and immediately after the virus hit and was initially content to keep to himself, only encountering others when he defended his homestead.
But, as we see in flashback, the ‘end of the world’ has a profound effect on him he could never expect… which starts the day a fellow survivor comes to town and falls into one of Bill’s trap. Is Frank a friend or foe? And how will a series of decisions ultimately affect Joel and Ellie’s mission?
“Wait for the day, you’ll go away.
Knowing that you warned me of the price I’d have to pay…”
- Linda Ronstadt (Long, Long Time…)
You might understandably think that the third episode of a brand new show is far too early to have an almost-standalone entry that sidelines its main cast, concentrates on one-off guest characters and features very little of its core threat and remit. And yet Long, Long Time places Joel and Ellie in what amounts to book-ending roles, introduces us to a couple of other survivors whom we follow through their encounters and eschews the writhing fungal army of the previous week to feature a truly powerful tale of all-too-human mutual support that somehow bolsters the series commitment to exploring love, loss and the human condition.
Nick Offerman is best known as one of the stars of Parks and Recreation, bearded uber-master of the acerbic line and arched eyebrow and obviously a talented comedic actor…but, frankly this stunningly effective performance (and quite inspired casting) is one that will make sure you never see his man-bear frame in quite the same way and almost guarantees him an emmy nomination. As Bill, he plays a gruff prepper/survivalist who avoids the enforced (and, poignantly, from debris we see before the flashback, doomed) evacuation by the military and actually begins to thrive in the kind of isolation he probably always wanted. His social skills might be lacking, but his ongoing and largely successful defense of his rural, suburban homestead is first-class, keeping him safe from anyone or anything that might try to pass its boundaries. He’s a man who’s alone but has not really considered himself lonely. The visitor who ultimately breaches his defenses, caught in one of his trap-pits, is Frank (Murray Bartlett, also gunning for awards here) and unless you’re a die-hard fan of the game you’re likely to be twitching, wondering if Frank’s self-deprecating and gentle exterior is too-good-to-be-true and he’s a subversive threat. Frank talks his way into staying at Bill’s home overnight, simply to get a decent meal and be on his way to the remains of Boston the next day. Yet the episode itself is subversive… we see the unkempt, ‘don’t tread on me..‘ Bill’s unexpected love for the arts and finer things in life (good food, fine wine, classical music) is something that both men share and with a little help from Linda Rondstadt it becomes clear that they are forming a special bond. It’s a relationship that will become a full-blown love affair for the ages.
Bursting various preconceptions and stereotypes, Offerman and Bartlett’s top-notch quietly-beautiful acting, combined with subtle, knowing writing, makes the extra-length episode fly by all too quickly, consistently zigging when you expect it to zag and often wrong-footing you as to its direction and intent. Bill was seen in the original game and Frank was mentioned, but Long, Long Time spends this powerful entry turning a cursory footnote in the game into a touching lament and it’s worth every single minute…
Bursting various preconceptions and stereotypes, Offerman and Bartlett’s top-notch quietly-beautiful acting, combined with subtle, knowing writing, makes the extra-length episode fly by all too quickly, consistently zigging when you expect it to zag and often wrong-footing you as to its direction and intent. Bill was seen in the original game and his partner Frank was mentioned in passing having previously died, but Long, Long Time spends this powerful entry turning a cursory footnote in the game into a touching lament and it’s worth every single minute.
The Last of Us is a confident show, already willing to pivot to and still able to deliver. But there’s still a chance that Long, Long Time won’t be to everyone’s tastes (if you’re tuning in merely for a monster-mash, this isn’t your week and if same-sex relationships offend you for some reason, then hurry off to something from the 20th Century and conveniently forget that the Bill/Frank relationship was mentioned all the way back in the 2013 game, and here it isn’t reinvented or part of some ‘woke’ agenda, but simply given more space to breathe as the series continues to explore every legitimate permutation of love and loss ). Technically – you could skip the episode if you felt desperately inclined to do so… but if you did you’d miss some great connective tissue, an acting masterclass from all concerned and some pitch-perfect moments that demonstrate just how The Last of Us is setting a benchmark and setting records…
- Production Design / VFX10