The Spool / Recap
The Last of Us heals and breaks hearts in a low-key and wrenching episode
A fan-favorite game character makes a surprising appearance as Joel and Ellie make their way to a possible safe haven. Nick Offerman shines in a guest role.

A fan-favorite game character makes a surprising appearance as Joel and Ellie make their way to a possible safe haven. Nick Offerman shines in a guest role.

Hello friends, and welcome back to another recap of HBO’s freshly renewed The Last of Us! This week’s entry, “Long Long Time” (written by Neil Druckmann and Craig Mazin and directed by Peter Hoar), features the most significant deviation from the game’s plot thus far, which will doubtlessly lend itself to a lot of chatter in the usual circles. Still, it’s a heartwrenching hour of television that I can only hope that viewers come to with an open mind. This one’s a tearjerker, folks.  

In a forest ten miles west of Boston, Joel (Pedro Pascal) uses river rocks to build a cairn for Tess. Rejoining Ellie (Bella Ramsey), Joel begrudgingly shares his food with her. Tired of Joel’s attitude, Ellie tells him that no one made Tess and him take her west, so he needs to stop blaming Ellie for something that isn’t her fault. Joel agrees. Hey, progress! Continuing their trek (they’re five hours out from their next destination), Joel has them stop at an old gas station where he had previously hidden some supplies. Joel looks for his stuff (he’s forgotten exactly where he hid it) while Ellie wanders around the station, hesitating before going into a dark office. “Anything bad in here?” she asks. “Just you,” Joel replies. Ellie is less than impressed by his recurring joke.  

The Last of Us
Ellie (Bella Ramsey) and Joel (Pedro Pascal) take in the aftermath of a desperate purge in The Last of Us on HBO.

In the office, Ellie finds a trapdoor to a storage cellar where she finds a dusty but intact box of tampons. Now that’s a find! She’s startled by the sound of an Infected and turns to see one (a Stalker, by the looks of him) half buried under cement and other rubble. Ellie approaches it and slowly uses her knife to cut a line into its head. She watches the blood and fungus (mostly fungus) that emerge, then kills it.  

Joel, meanwhile, has found his stuff, and the pair set off, coming across the wreckage of an airplane spread out across the countryside. Joel doesn’t have fond memories of air travel, but Ellie still can’t believe that people actually used to go up in the sky. She asks Joel how the outbreak started (FEDRA school not being keen on the truth); she sort of hopes it was a monkey. Joel shoots that theory down, explaining that the infection probably started in flour, things that were sold across the world and in many products. People ate the infected flour on Thursday, got sick on Friday, and by Monday…everything was gone. 

Realizing where they are, Joel tries to take a path through the woods, eventually admitting to Ellie that he doesn’t want her to see what’s up ahead. Telling Ellie “no” means that now she has to see what it is, so the two walk further up the road to a pit full of skeletons and the remnants of luggage. Joel explains that about a week after Outbreak Day, soldiers began evacuating small towns, telling the people they were heading to a QZ. If there was room. And if there wasn’t, they killed them. 

Nick Offerman is astonishing as Bill…

The camera closes in on two skeletons, a woman and a baby, before we begin a flashback to 2003, with the living mother and child waiting to get on a FEDRA truck. Security cameras cover a nearby house. In a dark room, Bill (Nick Offerman) watches the feeds. Bill hears footsteps upstairs and grabs a gun, but the soldiers report that the house is empty. The FEDRA vehicles, including the one with the mother and baby, leave, clearing the town. Bill leaves his bunker of monitors and weapons and heads outside to have a little montage. He fills up on gas, treats himself to a spree at Home Depot, and barricades the town. The latter extends to setting traps along the town’s perimeter, and he even gets to see one of them take out a random Infected. Bill’s living the life. 

In 2007, Bill hears one of his pit traps go off and approaches it armed before he hears a human voice call out from the hole. It’s a man (Frank, played by Murray Barlett) who explains that he was with a group out of the Baltimore QZ, but both it and his group are gone now. Bill helps Frank out of the pit and is (eventually) persuaded to let him come in for a shower and a meal. Bill leaves Frank some clean clothes while the latter is in the shower and finds himself overwhelmed—either by male company or just company in general or both. (It’s definitely both) The two dine (it’s probably been four years since Frank saw a fresh vegetable), and afterward, Frank makes a delighted dash for Bill’s piano. Digging through the songbooks, Frank chooses a Linda Ronstadt tune—which he then proceeds to butcher. Bill can handle a lot, but not that, so he steps in to play and sing. His performance moves Frank, and the two kiss. They move upstairs, where Frank and a noticeably anxious Bill have sex.  

The Last of Us
Much to Bill (Nick Offerman)’s surprise, the apocalypse leads directly to his meeting the love of his life in Frank (Murray Barlett), in The Last of Us on HBO.

Three years later, the two are arguing in the street. Frank wants to use their stockpiles to clean up their house and more of the town, but Bill doesn’t see the point. “You live in a psycho bunker where 9/11 was an inside job and the government are all Nazis!” Frank yells. “The government are all Nazis,” retorts Bill, leaving an exasperated Frank to point out, “Well, yes now, but not then!” Frank wants to have people over; in fact, he’s met a lovely woman on the radio whom he’d like to invite.  

It’s Tess (Anna Torv) and Joel! The quartet eats lunch out on the front lawn, and while Tess and Frank are having a fine old time, Bill and Joel are (unsurprisingly) not. Tess and Frank go inside to see the house while Bill and Joel have a conversation about the possibility of them all working together. Before Joel and Tess leave, she and Frank develop the musical radio code, and Joel feeds into Bill’s paranoia by warning him that raiders will surely show up and they’ll need help when they do.  

Cut to 2013. Making Bill jog with him, Frank shows him a patch of strawberries he’s grown from seeds he obtained by trading with Tess. The couple indulges in the fruit and shares a sweet moment. But, late one night, gunfire from outside wakes Frank. Just as Joel warned, it’s raiders who Bill’s shooting through the fence. His marksmanship and traps make swift work of the raiders, but not before he takes a hit himself. Frank gets him home and tries to patch his wound, but a blacking-out Bill begs Frank to call Joel so that he’ll have someone there for him.

The Last of Us
Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Bill make tense palaver while Tess (Anna Torv) and Frank (Murray Barlett) take in the compound in The Last of Us on HBO.

Frank calling to an unconscious Bill fades into 2023, where a now wheelchair-using Frank is calling Bill to help bring him in from the porch—Frank’s had a stroke in the intervening years. One morning, Bill wakes up to find Frank already up and out of bed; he’d stayed up all night to finish a portrait of Bill that he was painting. Frank has made a decision: today will be his last day. He’s planned a perfect day, at the end of which he will take the pain pills he’s been hiding away and die in Bill’s arms. Bill protests, but Frank points out that even before the Outbreak, there wasn’t a cure for his condition; he’s finished. Their day goes as Frank planned—they spend time together, go to the town boutique, dress up, and perform their wedding ceremony. For dinner, Bill makes the meal that he first made for Frank all those years ago, and when they’re done, he mixes Frank’s pills into his wine. Frank drinks but is taken aback when Bill likewise downs his own glass—before realizing that his husband has opted to join him in death. Bill says that he’s satisfied with how his life went, and the pair go to bed. 

At some point later, Joel and Ellie finally arrive at Bill and Frank’s. Entering the house, Joel goes looking for the couple, and Ellie finds a note on the dining room table addressed to Joel and Tess. Joel has her read it aloud: Bill explains that he and Frank are dead. They’ve barred the bedroom door and opened the windows so that no one will see them and the house won’t smell. Take what’s needed, Bill continues, I don’t like you, Joel, but I do respect you. Bill used to hate the world, but he found one person worth saving, and so that’s what he did. Use the supplies to keep Tess safe. 

That’s too much emotion for Joel, who needs a moment outside, where he also finds Bill’s truck (complete with an actual battery!). Returning to Ellie, Joel tells her that his brother is in Wyoming and might have information about who can get Ellie where she needs to be. They head down to Bill’s bunker (it turns out if he didn’t input a code at certain intervals, the computer would send ‘80s music to Joel’s radio endlessly, hence the Depeche Mode). They both get showers and new clothes, AKA their in-game outfits. While she’s waiting for Joel, Ellie finds a gun inside a front room table and sneaks it into her backpack.  

“Long Long Time,” as stated up top, is the biggest shift from the game’s storyline thus far.

Loaded up, the pair gets into Bill’s truck, which a delighted Ellie compares to a spaceship since she’s never been in a car before. She doesn’t even know what a seatbelt is. As they drive, Ellie finds a tape in the truck and Joel notes that it’s Linda Ronstadt. He puts the cassette in the player and as they leave town, the camera pans backward through Bill and Frank’s window. The curtains blow as “Long Long Time” plays.  

“Long Long Time,” as stated up top, is the biggest shift from the game’s storyline thus far. This isn’t a game recap so let’s not go too far into it, but suffice it to say most people weren’t left in tears by the end of this chapter in the game. If The Last of Us’ last two episodes have been about what people will do to save themselves, “Long Long Time” is about what happens when someone decides to save another person. Nick Offerman is astonishing as Bill, taking the character in a completely different direction than I’m sure most people are anticipating. He and Murray Barlett embody a relationship that’s not without its troubles (Bill’s paranoia, Frank’s maybe too-generous nature) but which thrives and sweetens as the years go by. It’s both exciting and daunting to see where The Last of Us will go from here. 

Joel and Ellie’s relationship remains prickly this week, with Joel giving her a list of rules that start with “Never ever mention Tess” and end with “Do what I say, when I say it,” but there are hints that Ellie is starting to be a little bit more than cargo to Joel. Bill told Joel to take what he needed to protect Tess; while that opportunity is gone, Joel ]has someone else to protect now.  

Airborne Spores:  

  • Can Ellie have a gun this week? Joel once again says no, but Ellie swipes one anyway. 
  • “Long Long Time” better sweep TikTok and the charts like “Running Up That Hill” did.  
  • Even in 2010, Joel couldn’t bring himself to call Tess his girlfriend. 
CategoriesRecap TV