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There’s no way to skirt around it: HBO’s The Last of Us is a smash hit.
In Episode 3, the plot went boom or bust with its focus, and the opinions on the show could radically shift either way as a result.
After starting with a flashback-heavy, action-filled Pilot to the ‘side-questy’ Episode 2 that ends in a literal bang, Episode 3 dramatically slows the narrative and pivots to a decades-long love story centered on Nick Offerman’s character, Bill.
Bill, in the video game, is a character you spend considerable time with.
Rather than simply being the grumpy side character from the source material with amusing banter shared with Joel and Ellie, Offerman plays a wary survivalist that falls in love with Frank, a scraggly journeyman that arrives at Bill’s community-like refuge only to fall into a homemade trap.
The Criticisms Behind ‘The Last Of Us’ Episode 3
First, let’s address the main point that most people are discussing: the gay romance between Bill and Frank, which some consider another act of video game creator Neil Druckmann going all out with the gay themes because he’s known for that; but c’mon people, it’s an HBO show.
Where people also got upset was the episode’s decision to cut back Joel and Ellie’s screen time: allowing the duo to guide us to Bill’s plot line with a mere mention and tying it all together when they arrive at the community to wrap up the episode.
We’ll get to how that screen time will be made up later.
If viewers are able to get past the Call Me By Your Name element of Episode 3, the set-up created by this episode for the rest of this series could be an impressive payoff.
For those who can’t connect to Bill and Frank’s relationship in 40 minutes or less, it will feel like time wasted in an already skinny nine-episode Season 1.
Why Episode 3, ‘Long, Long Time,’ Is Worth All The Praise
For those still willing to finish the season after Episode 3, this could be the type of cog in the series to set up ultimate emotional and character payoffs.
Sprinkled throughout Episode 3 were heartfelt moments meant to give Joel and Ellie more depth and context as they prepare to encounter trouble in Episodes 4 and beyond.
Having set up a community to make the post-apocalyptic world feel like the days of normalcy, Bill presented Joel with a safe haven to retreat to, with Tess, amid all the smuggle jobs and having to watch people around him die at the hands of FEDRA or the teeth of the infected. We get a brief flashback where Bill has his gun pointed at Joel during an outdoor lunch with Tess and Frank. Bill eventually softens up as he ponders on Frank’s excitement and grace in meeting new people.
In this moment we see how Frank offsets Bill’s concern about opening up his refuge and eventually learning that friends can indeed be made in a hellish world.
It was made abundantly clear that Bill’s smug view on life didn’t give him much of a liking for Joel, but in the end, there was mutual respect.
So later on, after Bill agrees to a double suicide with Frank once the latter accepts his fate with a terminal illness, Bill leaves Joel with a cache of guns and ammo, as well as a car battery how-to, a truck and a note to send him off on a dangerous assignment.
RELATED: IS ‘THE LAST OF US’ ANY GOOD? WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH HBO’S ADAPTATION (NON-SPOILER)
A major positive from this episode stems from a note left behind by Bill, which gave us our first scene of raw emotion from post-apocalyptic Joel.
Up until Episode 3, Tess was the linchpin to Ellie’s safety. After Tess sacrificed herself, Joel found himself without a reason to get Ellie to the Firefly’s encampment. You could see it early on in Episode 3, where he seemingly blames Ellie for setting them on a mission that got Tess killed.
Bill’s last words in Episode 3 come from a note, where the words “keep Tess safe” take center focus.
It’s a gut punch for Joel as he reflects on Tess’ final request: keep Ellie safe, which is the only way he’ll be able to follow through on his departed friend Bill’s last words.
If Bill’s death succeeds as set up for a major payoff in these characters’ arcs throughout the series, Season 1 of The Last of Us could be all-time TV. Really.
Most of TV’s all-time shows included a significant character death early on meant to haunt our main characters into action. Whether we’re talking “Big Pussy” Bonpensiero from The Sopranos or Krazy 8 in Breaking Bad. The list goes on.
Big Things Coming For ‘The Last of Us’
If Bill’s death can serve as an emotional power-up for these characters, it could lead to thrilling moments yet to be seen in this show.
Plus, that lack of time with Joel and Ellie will likely pay off with an action-packed Episode 4 as the two embark on finding Joel’s brother Tommy and getting Ellie to safety.
As of now, Joel has replenished ammo, an operating vehicle, emotional adrenaline, a Linda Ronstadt cassette and a journey down a road that is sure to have its fair share of shady hitchhikers.
And if video-game fanatics can attest, Joel doesn’t mind killing strangers to arrive at his checkpoint.
Follow Alejandro Avila on Twitter: @AlejandroAveela
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