Caution before reading: you are heading into spoiler territory
Out of all the foxhole traps in the world, you had to fall into mine. Often in these apocalyptic/zombie-style shows, characters either meet their untimely end by succumbing to the virus, getting mauled by the infected, or just from the unruly nature of other humans. Rarely do we get to see many people reach old age and expire through life’s natural course. “Long Long Time” flips that notion on its head while proving the strengths of how this show can deviate from the game's story into something substantial.
If you’re a doomsday prepper, the world of The Last of Us is your super bowl. You’ve been preparing for this moment for much of your adult life, and that’s precisely what Bill (Nick Offerman) has been waiting for. About ten miles outside of Boston, he makes an all-expenses-paid apocalyptic resort. For a person with his demeanor, that is all well and fine. This is until Frank (Murray Bartlett) falls into a foxhole in his backyard and messes with his plan of riding out the apocalypse on his lonesome. One of the best things “Long Long Time” does is tell this story throughout a sequence of year chucks – they both feel too short and just right at the same time. Although Bill is hesitant, his tough exterior breaks down as he sings the Linda Ronstadt classic on piano.
While the game didn’t have time to flesh these characters out, the show provides a pathway that allows the audience to see a beautiful, queer love story when the world is under the thumb of devastation. Offerman and Bartlett’s performances perfectly bounce off of each other. Even when he’s staunchly reserved in his ways, Bill lets Frank's optimism seep inside of him. With Frank, he can see the beauty around him even as the broken houses and streets tell another story.
You have to think – who has time to love someone when you constantly fight for survival? Well, the show at least gives Bill and Nick the time to progress through this naturally – even with a touching, bittersweet last day they spent together. At least they went out the way they wanted. As a bookend to this storyline, we find out they had a trading relationship with Joel and Tess. This concept of love and devotion to being a protector starts to pick up in this episode with Joel and Ellie.
When we spend time with them, Ellie’s witty and playfully sarcastic tone makes Joel more talkative. With that, we get more exposition about the beginnings of the pandemic and how the food supply got tainted. The spores from the game have been written out, but the past three episodes have shown how dire the situation is and how fast this could have taken the world. One of the last emotional beats in the episode comes from Ellie reading Bill’s letter to Joel. It’s a sore spot for him because it’s a reminder of losing Tess. Thus, also a reminder of how he lost Sarah. Bill’s big point was that people like him and Joel should be protectors.
When Frank was alive, Bill did all he could to do so. While outside factors didn’t get to Frank, father time and disease did. Even in his last days, Bill still had hope. However, you cannot prep for the breakdown of the human body – especially when there is a lack of medical personnel. It’s a sad realization when Bill surrenders to Frank’s dying wishes. Given Joel’s longing and grief, his only vestiges are to save his brother and ensure Ellie gets to the Firefly destination. He has to somehow, in his mind, attest for who he’s lost.
Maybe happy endings can prevail even in the most hellish of consequences. “Long Long Time” makes an emotional detour to show us the different places The Last of Us story can stretch itself without waning.