Sunday, January 29, 2023

REVIEW: 'The Last of Us' - Human Connection Thrives Despite the Destruction and Isolation of the Apocalypse in 'Long Long Time'

HBO's The Last of Us - Episode 1.03 "Long Long Time"

When a stranger approaches his compound, survivalist Bill forges an unlikely connection. Later, Joel and Ellie seek Bill's guidance.

"Long Long Time" was written by Craig Mazin and directed by Peter Hoar

A stop at Bill and Frank's compound was the next phase of Joel's journey to get Ellie to her final destination. As such, it's inherently tragic when they arrive to find his friends have died. It's not meant to be a reason to buy into the nihilism of what the world has become. In fact, it's the opposite frankly. This story highlights the power of humanity in spite of the apocalypse. Bill wasn't distraught or horrified when the world ended. He was always critical of the government. He didn't trust the officials who came to round everyone up and kill them so the remaining resources wouldn't be depleted. He knew exactly what to do to create an entire community for himself. He has the requisite skills to keep this neighborhood running. It's an overall expression of love. It depicts how he sees the world. He arms himself with many guns and traps to keep out any possible intruder. He has a blast as he roams around town collecting the supplies he needs. It's still a lonely existence. When Frank stumbles upon him, it's obvious Bill has no clue how to interact with someone again. He may not have been good at it before the world ended either. Bill decided to offer protection to this man. He saw Frank as vulnerable and needing help. He doesn't want his home to become a source for every weary traveler along the road to Boston. Frank isn't even a convincing liar. However, Bill invites him in. Their connection burns brightly right away. They have the possibility to connect despite how awkward every single interaction is. Bill is accustomed to his lonely life. Frank was on the road to something better. They weren't expecting to find each other. They did. It all builds around the piano and the Linda Ronstadt song that gives the episode its title. Frank is drawn to it because he's excited and sees who Bill truly is beyond his protective exterior. Meanwhile, Bill sits down to perform in a way that truly bears his soul. It's a way for him to finally communicate in a way he never has before. He spent his entire life in the closet. Being away from people for years may have given him the courage to be his true self. It's still a scary prospect opening up to Frank. Bill doesn't know how he will react. Frank is so tender. He wants to guide Bill through this expression of love. He's gentle while acknowledging how genuine this attraction is. It's not a ploy simply to gain more resources. It's an entrance into a whole new world. Frank and Bill build a life together. That alters their perspectives in a crucial and life-changing way.

This is all detailed in the note Bill leaves behind for Joel. He articulates how he found his purpose after the world end. He was charged with protecting Frank. He loved the time they had together. Joel always understood Bill and why he operates this way. He too closed himself off and only saw potential threats. They accepted each other as allies who could provide resources the other needed. Bill thrived in the apocalypse. Joel was destroyed by it. That weekend in September 2003 was the day his daughter was killed. He has never moved past it. He has never allowed himself to open up to anyone. He forged a bond with Tess. That was a business partnership. Everyone tries to inspire Joel with hope. He may finally receive a glimmer of that. He accepts that he now has to protect Ellie. That's his new purpose. The details in Bill's note perfectly translate to Joel's current condition. Tess is gone. Bill and Frank are as well. Joel shouldn't be discouraged. He can still make a difference in someone's life. Ellie is amazed by the world around her. She never knew what the world was like before the infection. She doesn't understand how the government failed so massively. She's amazed by the ability to fly in an airplane or drive in a car. Those are experiences that largely bring back memories for Joel. He knows what life was like with those resources. He now has to think in a new way. That doesn't mean he should turn his back on humanity. This episode features very little of the infected. Instead, it's much scarier to see what humans do to each other when the absolute worst happens. People want to trust their government. Bill never did. And so, he survived. He found Frank. Their love was strong. They grew over time. Frank saw the purpose of making friendships. He wanted to share this little slice of happiness with people. Bill was inherently distrustful of everyone. He would fight to protect what's his. He does that too. He plans for the eventuality that Frank will have to survive without him. That's a daunting prospect. When the time comes though, Frank is the one dying from a disease that can no longer be treated. Bill doesn't succumb to his gunshot injuries. Instead, he cares for the one person he invited in and loved completely. Frank wants one final perfect day with Bill. It features a private wedding to celebrate their love. It's also about the every day things that affirm their love. It's all about the actions and what they are willing to do. That's what makes this bond so powerful. It's so fundamentally human. This world is only worth enjoying when surrounded by people you love. Bill could hold strong for awhile. That wasn't a meaningful life. Frank made it so much richer. Joel and Tess did too. It reaches its natural end. It's not sad or tragic. It's not ironic since Joel and Ellie are on their way. Instead, it's all meant to be peaceful. Bill and Frank are content with the choices they've made. They never have to live in a world where they are aimless ever again. They had something real. That's special. It had to be cherished. They overcame so much together. They provide just one piece to the overall narrative. However, they pass along so much wisdom to those who must continue forward in the quest to fulfill their own destinies. Even that will likely be complicated by the cruel twists of fate. It all comes full circle though because Joel and Ellie appreciate Linda Ronstadt's "Long Long Time" as a way to fill the silence of what life could otherwise be.