As a post-apocalyptic show, The Last of Us, created by Neil Druckmann (writer, director) and Craig Manzin (writer, director) knows how to inspire terror in a cold, calculated and sombre manner. In fact, the show is at its most horrifying when the zombies are not on screen. Its dread shines brightest when humans contemplate their utter and sheer defeat in the face of nature. Sure, it doesn’t shy away from the standard tropes – authoritarianism as a survival mechanism, humans as their own worst enemy, mankind’s innate cruelty – but it takes those tropes and reflects them off a prism of existentialism and nihilism, and onto a canvas of humour, hope and whatever beauty may remain in a cruel, cruel world.
Pedro Pascal as Joel is outstanding, and after The Mandalorian, must get his own plaque as Hollywood’s official ‘Favourite Adoptive Dad’. Bella Ramsey nails it as Ellie – a rebellious teenager with a secret, surviving in a post-disaster world. Of course, to see Anna Torv (as Tessa) back onto the streets of Boston (however devastated) is a special treat for longtime Fringe fans like me.
However, I must stop here with the series review – and refocus on the Last of Us episode 3. Long, Long Time shifts the audience’s gaze from Joel and Ellie to Bill (Nick Offerman) and Frank (Murray Bartlett). Bill is an expert survivalist who holes out in his small town in the wake of a forced evacuation. He leads a content, safe life away from people like he always wanted, until his routine is upended by Frank, another survivor who moves in. What follows in the next hour is Offerman and Bartlett in the roles of a lifetime – in a story of love, hope, joy and a well…a lifetime. From the first laugh it draws from audiences with a well-executed Nazi joke, to the lingering sense despair it creates as the camera pans from Frank’s initial canvas art to the one he’s been trying desperately to draw now, to the gut-wrenching dinner that marks the episode’s highest point – Long, Long Time is a sombre, fulfilling and emotional roller coaster ride.