It’s official: The Last of Us it is noticeably better the further away from the original game, or when he trusts enough in the strength of his universe and his characters to allow himself to explore his own expressive paths, instead of repeating patterns. We have seen it in prologues to the first two episodesinterested in offering an apocalyptic context that the original work almost completely dispensed with, and we see it again this week in Long Long Timewhose 75 minutes of great television are called to do by Linda Ronstadt what the most recent season of stranger things did for Kate Bush, if there is any justice in this world that the mushrooms are going to inherit. The theory of Craig Mazin, writer of the episode and co-creator of the series, is simple: consider the narrative background of a secondary character as a small vantage point from which to narrate both the evolution of a devastating pandemic and its human cost. Bill goes, therefore, from accompanying the player at a key moment of the action to expanding the emotional dimension of The Last of Us at a key moment in the season, in both cases underscoring the impact that his story, and Frank’s, has on the path Joel is taking with Ellie.
In a casting masterstroke, the show’s Bill is played by nickofferman. What begins as a hyper-realistic version of his most popular character, the Ron Swanson of parks and recreationit will not take long for him to reveal a series of layers that will end up distancing him from the preparatory parody, since Mazin is not interested in playing with archetypes. It is rather the opposite: we think we know what is about to happen when gunshots and fire wake up Murray Bartlett’s character in the middle of the night, also excellent in his incarnation of someone who in the video game was defined by his absence, but we were wrong. Even after playing this very story, even after Joel’s comment about that damn fence, The Last of Us he finds a way to tell his own story above any commonplace. “This is not the tragic suicide at the end of the play,” says Frank, paraphrasing Mart Crowley. Likewise, this is not the tragic romance that was advancing that flashback from the common grave, but the empirical demonstration that love can and will emerge even in the most desperate of all environments.
The final plan of Long Long Time alludes to one of the most iconic images of the video game, showing its fans that their legacy is in the best hands, but it also does something else: give that window open to the outside world additional meaning. Within the framework of the episode, it is the last thing we expected to find: a happy ending. Bill and Frank had each other for as long as they were given, overcoming the most terrible odds and leaving together on their own terms, no tyrannical government, raiding gang, or deadly plague having the right to decide otherwise. They tried to enjoy, like all of us, their little island of happiness surrounded by death, discovering that just surviving, like Bill did before Frank came along, doesn’t make sense. Not facing the possibility of living your days, however few they may be, together with someone you love. And, deep down, The Last of Us it’s always been about that. Upon how inclined people are towards love… and the decisions that this manufacturing defect leads us to make.